Its never easy to remake a classic. Don and Billa might not have been classics according to the critics but for millions of fan across the nation (which would exclude me for I have not seen Don or recollect having seen Billa either) those two movies touched a chord and elevated the status of their lead actors from that of stars to super stars. Thus having such a big precedent to follow one should be aware nothing short of excellent cinema would satisfy the cinema goer. As already established I have not watched the earlier movies which though putting me at a disadvantage when attempting to compare the movies or the stars gives me the advantage of a perspective that most of Tamil Nadu wouldn't have.
Watching a movie on the 1st day brings with it two aspects- one positive and the other negative. The atmosphere tends to be pretty charged for you have some of the most ardent fans of the star in attendance but the price you need to be prepared to pay is that you'll not be able to hear much of the dialogues for the first few minutes or maybe more. With the fear of having to maybe miss out on a few dialogues I entered the theatre. The mad scenes that one witnessed while having to force entry to the theatre proved to be a little misleading as once inside there was little noise and whatever little there was of it was only at the start. As the movie progressed the only noise one could hear was tones of discontent.
The start of the movie pretty much set the tone the rest of the movie. Extremely stylishly shot, Ajit at his dashing best and minimal dialogues. In a way the decision to have as less dialogues as possible seems to have either been taken with some foresight or forced upon them by the utter inability to come up with good lines. The strength of any movie lies in its dialogues and more so a movie which relies quite heavily on packing a punch with minimal dialogues and that's the biggest failing of Billa. Only once in a blue moon did that really mood lifting dialogue come by and the one about Lord Subrahmanya was certainly the stand out. Another negative point is that throughout the movie one is unable to feel any emotion towards any of the characters. To portray a character as aloof in nature is one thing but it not even remotely connecting with the audience is another.
It's all fine to say that movie's do not reflect reality and therefore need not always be logical. But Vishnu Vardhan carries it too far as there is absolutely no sense in any part of the movie. Be it the way that Nayanthara, a total stranger is inducted into the group with absolutely no back ground check done (for a gang thats supposedly been chased by police in over 11 countries one would think that its a rather basic thing to do) or the way in which Velu's escape has been depicted, no sequence in the movie is completely logical. As comforting as it is to know that the Malaysian police are as inefficient as our own, as per Tamil cinema i.e, its rather stupid to think that an officer who's been carrying a pen drive with him for days wouldn't have as much sense to copy its contents on to his computer rather than fight about having it hand it over after the above said period. The director has thrown logic to the winds at all points of the movie and this is an insult to the intelligence of the viewer.
In the matter of individual performances there's very little to comment on. Prabhu as DSP Jai tries to utilize his vast acting experience but yet again fails short of delivering that one good performance that we can rightfully expect from him. Raghuman though appearing in very few scenes seems to have understood the limitaions of the role and performed as the scope provided for him has allowed. The less said about the sidekicks of Billa the better for all they seem to do is just stand next to their Don with the the same supposedly serious look on their faces. "Ranjith" is the only one who seems to have gotten a chance to display some acting skills and he doesn't quite make an impact. Santhanam who had put in good performances in a few recent movies totally disappoints.
When you have Nayanthara and Namitha for heroines one expects the competition between them to be pretty hot but at the end of the show its pretty clear who has come up trumps. Though Namitha's role isn't as much a damp squib as it was in Azhagiya Tamizh Magan she'll still be pretty disappointed at the screen time she's managed here though the screen space she occupies is another problem altogether. Nayanthara on the other hand sets the screen on fire each time she enters and its tough trying to split points between Anu Vardhan for the sexy apparel she's chosen (at times bordering on the bold) or Nayanthara who seems to have worked out overtime to fit into those. Scorching every inch of the frame she occupied she gave quite a few fans in the theatre enough reason to believe they had gotten their money's worth. As far as histrionics go both of them are pretty much on even keel with nothing much to show unlike the costumes they sported.
Ajith as Billa and Velu comes up with a credible performance but definitely not soul stirring. Displaying an icy cool that his character Billa demanded Ajit looks at his stylish best but does little more than mouth stupid dialogues and shoot at will. Complete with designer sunglasses this role does nothing to show us Ajith the actor but instead showcases Ajith at his handsome best. On the contrary Velu provides Ajith an opportunity to explore his comic timing and he seems to have got it as wrong as Dinesh Karthik against Pakistan. The line "enna koduma sir idhu" is now more or less guaranteed to invoke laughter or in the least a smile from the viewer but when Ajith utters the line to Prabhu, the man we owe all the fun to, it just falls flat and this more or less epitomises his failure at comedy. Maybe he could do with a lesson or two from the hero of the original Billa and our beloved superstar who has over the years mastered his comic timing. But of the two characters its Velu that endears at least a little to the viewer and this is perhaps the only success that the director and writer Vishnu Vardhan has managed.
The locales in the movie are simply stunning and the camera has captured them splendidly but then one gets the feeling this is more of the Malaysia- Truly Asia campaigns that we have seen so much of on tv. Its all right to pack a movie with stunning visuals but that alone doesn't make the movie. It needs a soul and in this regard Billa has nothing to bare. On the whole Billa seems more the work of a designer who has tried too hard to display all his wares. Thus, in more senses than one Billa is a fashion show gone horribly wrong.