The Hindu (Mumbai)

Gautham Menon loses the plot in this chaotic mess

- Bhuvanesh Chandar

Anbuselvan. Raghavan. Sathyadev. Karthik. Suriya, son of Krishnan. The tale of Gautham Vasudev Menon’s male heroes and the equation they share with 80s and 90s kids is already a decade old. And yet, the ‘GVM hero’ still finds a special place among audiences, as the recent rereleases of several Gautham Menon films have proved. The GVM hero is sensitive and seasoned, occasional­ly illtempere­d but with a moral fibre, and a gentle Romeo who could make Shakespear­e blush. He is usually an uppermiddl­eclass man who refuses to be a pushover, brings a certain charm to riding bikes and jeeps with aspiration­al value, and rises to the occasion despite his flaws.

And then came Joshua…

He is an emotionles­s mess, a desi John McLane who is a bit of a prick, and a man you would not wish to meet even in your dreams. And so to see a filmmaker like Gautham mount a criminally underwhelm­ing Bodyguarde­sque story on this underfed John Wick wannabe is an upsetting affair. Making matters worse is the actor playing the titular role, Varun, who seems to have been told that acting is all about eyebrow movements and nothing to do with convincing delivery.

Everything about Joshua makes it seem like an amateurish attempt; almost a spoof on Gautham’s earlier films. Joshua, a merciless contract killer, as plain as a plastic action figurine, falls in love with Kundhavi Chidambara­m (Raahei), a lawyer on track to become an assistant district attorney in New York. After realising who he is, and witnessing him plunge knives into a dozen men outside the airport, Kundhavi leaves him.

However, the time Joshua spends with Kundhavi changes something in him and he decides to mend his ways and become a Close Protection Unit bodyguard. But when Kundhavi finds herself in the crosshairs of a powerful Mexican drug lord, Madhavi (Divyadarsh­ini/ DD, as Joshua’s Nick Fury) asks Joshua if her team should go for the ₹6 crore bounty on Kundhavi’s head.

These are trained, ruthless killers, sure, but an AI robot could speak more humanly about “a woman he loves” and ChatGPT could have written a dialogue with more life and drama.

This is the biggest letdown from Gautham in the film; there seems to be no motivation to use strong, novel emotional beats to support the progressio­n of events, something his films are known for. After becoming Kundhavi’s bodyguard — and saving her by risking his own life — Joshua wins over her heart. But why is this independen­t, educated woman falling for this walking red flag of a man who lied to her about his identity, has no moral fibre, and keeps failing to come up with a solid plan to protect her?

It’s also quite infuriatin­g to see how these socalled highlyskil­led contract killerscum­protectors go about their mission. Their plan to protect Kundhavi from a farreachin­g drug mafia is to move her from one safehouse to another — only within Chennai — until the bad guys attack them!

There have been countless films in both Hollywood and the Indian context in which the drama and dialogues that glue together the action blocks fail, but at least you get a few memorable gun fights or car chases. But in Joshua, even these scenes are written and constructe­d abysmally, and the film bores you as a showreel of action setpieces too. Sequences written purely for an adrenaline­pumping experience, with little value in the plot, lack convincing emotional buildups or cathartic payoffs.

Why Varun for this role? Why choose to tell this story in 2019, after Achcham Yenbadhu Madamaiyad­a and Enai Noki Paayum Thota? Why bring in Krishna (who plays Koti, a local gangster) just to serve a lazy plot twist? There are several other spoilery questions Joshua frustrates you with and, in the end, you only wish you had hired a contract killer to shoot down such ideas in Gautham Menon’s mind. Unfortunat­ely, ideas are bulletproo­f. The bad ones as well.

Joshua: Imai Pol Kaakha is currently running in theatres

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