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<div class="paragraphs"><p>Vijay Sethupathi and Shruti Haasan in a still from <em>Laabam</em>.</p></div>
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Review: 'Laabam' Serves Communism On A Fast-Food Platter

Laabam stars Vijay Sethupathi and Shruti Haasan in lead roles.

Published
Movie Reviews
4 min read

Review: 'Laabam' Serves Communism On A Fast-Food Platter

Watching Laabam is like attending a social science class. If you’re interested in the subject, you’ll obviously lend your ears. However, if you’re not in the mood for it, you’ll curse yourself for walking into a theatre instead of catching the latest OTT release.

Simply put, Laabam is not an easy-on-the-eyes film where things sparkle every now and again. It’s not a hard-hitting drama, either, where you’ll be able to dissect the plot details to the last of its bone.

There’s a scene somewhere in the latter half in which Pakkiri (Vijay Sethupathi) hilariously drives away a fellow who says that the former won’t be liked by the people of his village anymore because he’s started selling different kinds of meat. The many tissues that connect food and religion are handled perfectly in a single setting here. And that’s how the rest of the issues should have been tackled, as well.

<div class="paragraphs"><p>Vijay Sethupathi in <em>Laabam</em>.</p></div>

Vijay Sethupathi in Laabam.

(Photo Courtesy: Pinterest)

Director S. P. Jananathan gives you Wikipedia articles for every communist idea he includes in the film. Names and words, such as Marx, Engels, Red Salute, and Comrade, make cameo appearances, and though they’re just touch-and-go areas, you tend to feel that this would have worked better as a short story. On the screen, however, the dialogues merely remain bullet points. They do not, in order to lure the viewers into the world of communism, become visual poetry. Of course, this isn’t the kind of film that needs to have awe-inspiring visuals, but it is okay to expect a movie to dig deeper than the skin.

<div class="paragraphs"><p>A still from <em>Laabam</em>.</p></div>

A still from Laabam.

Pakkiri is hailed as a leader by one and all since he keeps coming up with new schemes to make the farmers happy. He wants the folks who sweat to enjoy the fruits of luxury primarily rather than the middlemen, or businessmen, who sell their farm products to consumers at higher prices. And he keeps revealing his wishes in painfully long speeches. It seems like Laabam wants to take you on a long journey just to give you a glimpse of the sunrise (on wallpaper) – it isn’t exciting enough.

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There have been many theories on the matter of profits and moneymaking and the natural villain they mostly point towards is capitalism. Here, it wears a white shirt and white dhoti and is named Vanangamudi (Jagapathi Babu) – he’s a corporate monster who plans to buy farmlands so that he can set up a factory. He’s already very rich; he doesn’t need another factory to feed his family. But he’s a greedy man at the end of the day and he can’t keep quiet when he sees an opportunity to roll in extra money.

The fight between communism and capitalism is presented as a clash between the protagonist and the antagonist and you really do not have to do mental calculations to see who wins this game.

Babu has sort of mastered the art of playing a man who doesn’t stop anywhere to get what he wants. And he’s been doing that for more than half a decade now. Most of the recent characters he’s portrayed can be housed under a single category. He’s never bad. And, in fact, he sometimes rises above the mark, but he can’t pull all the strings alone. He would need a juicy script to get his act right. The same statement holds good for Sethupathi, too.

<div class="paragraphs"><p>Vijay Sethupathi in <em>Laabam</em>.</p></div>

Vijay Sethupathi in Laabam.

The one aspect, nevertheless, I found interesting about Laabam is the way it brings in Pakkiri’s love interest (a not-so-original term, I know). Clara (Shruti Haasan) doesn’t fall in love with him at the first sight. It’s more of a meeting of the minds. Do you ever see that happening in Tamil cinema these days? Even in movies where romance is a byproduct and not the central focus of the narrative, it dedicates a ridiculous amount of time to set up this particular sub-plot. But, in this movie, Clara is given the job of spreading the importance of community farming by the committee headed by Pakkiri.

Yes, again, Haasan is not seen throughout the drama – more or less, it’s a supporting role. But this is far better than roping in a woman just for the sake of making the male lead jump for joy whenever she crosses his path. Also, Laabam doesn’t take too many detours since it knows its destination. The main problem still doesn’t get washed away due to the manner in which it unfolds.

And the most amusing thing about this red-painted drama is how Sethupathi’s facial hair keeps changing from time to time – if he sports a thick moustache in one scene, it’ll disappear in the next. Don’t worry, for his bushy moustache will make a comeback later.

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