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Siraj Syed

Siraj Syed is the India Correspondent for and a member of FIPRESCI, the International Federation of Film Critics. He is a Film Festival Correspondent since 1976, Film-critic since 1969 and a Feature-writer since 1970. He is also an acting and dialogue coach. 



Mark Antony, Review: Mark and Tony and Telephony

Mark Antony, Review: Mark and Tony and Telephony

Inspired by the works of Shakespeare’s prodigal cousin, Shake Speer, this assault on your senses is a tribute to the Emperors Brutius and Scissor (real names Mark and Antony). Some 40 years ago, a TV series was made in Mumbai called Indradhanush. It was the first sci-fi, time-travel serial, where a remote control has the power to transport the bearer to a time centuries ago. I should know. I played the Mafia Don villain, who uses this remote to go back and try and acquire a King’s ancient treasure for himself. In Mark Antony, a man invents a rotary phone in the huge, antique mould, that can be used to talk to someone in the past, and by this means, to alert them and to avert unpalatable events, as a result. This is the only part of the film you can make sense of. And it lasts for about five minutes. Now be prepared for shifts in time lines, with the roll a drum, as the audio-visual land mines keep exploding in your cerebrum, cerebellum and infundibulum. No wonder, many of the critics present at the screening felt that we had come to bury the film, not to praise it.

In 1975, a gangster-scientist (do they exist?) named Chiranjeevi (note the name; there are references to Silk Smitha and ShahRukh Khan too) invents a telephone (how, in heaven’s name?) that enables its users to make calls to the past once a day (limited talk-time?), and thereby alter history (only of the characters in the film). Meanwhile, Antony and Jackie Pandian are best friends, and gangsters, in Chennai, who are invincible together. They have a common enemy, Ekambaram, who is also a gangster. Ekambaram decides to take revenge against Antony for killing his brother, and kills Antony in a club, and in the shootout, Chiranjeevi gets killed. Jackie soon becomes the solo kingpin, and adopts Antony’s son Mark, as his own (it’s all a sham).

In 1995, Mark is a skilled mechanic in Royapuram who berates his father, Antony, for being responsible for his mother Vedhavalli's death (some twenty years ago). One day, Mark finds Chiranjeevi's telephone and realises that he can make calls to the past and alter the whole course of history (again, of the characters in the plot only). Mark soon finds that Antony was not a bad person, as was made to believe by Jackie (the film should have been named Mark and Jackie), who is actually the mastermind behind Antony and Vedhavalli's deaths. This was because Antony refused to get involved in Jackie's condemnable activities like drug smuggling, arms trafficking and prostitution, which, he felt, were a no-no (what were the yes-yes is never shown). Mark manages to change history (only of the immediate personalities) by making calls to the past, where Jackie is killed.

Mark soon wakes up in the present, to find that he is in Jackie's place, as a gangster while Jackie's son Madhan is in Mark's place as a garage mechanic (didn’t know the phone could also swap places of characters). Madhan soon learns about the telephone and Mark's involvement in changing history, which he tells Jackie. A cat-and-mouse game ensues, where Jackie, the true villain, makes various (hilarious) attempts to kill Antony, using a horde of killers, but Antony survives all the attempts, and learns about Jackie's true intentions. Jackie and his men surround Antony at the club and he is apparently killed.

Believe it or not, this is one of the best written synopsis/plot I have read on the pedia. If only the film were to follow this synopsis in a coherent manner, it might have made some sense. Writers Adhik Ravichandran (who also directs), S. J. Arjun and R. Savari Muthu have the semblance of a narrative here. Granted there are too many characters and you are constantly wondering who is the good guy and who is the bad boy, gang and territory rivalry has lent itself to a huge number successful of films, both in Mumbai and down South, where this one comes from. What might have sounded path-breaking to the writers – blending sci-fi with gang wars and comedy – ultimately shapes into a queer kettle of fish. There is novelty value (Indradhanush notwithstanding), and little else. An unending fusillade, punctuated by an all-too-brief love story, begins soon after the phone becomes operational. First-time callers are lifted to a height of about 15 feet, which lends itself to the funny interpretation that there is a better network coverage high above. Of course, since this happens only to first-time callers, the humour is merely a token.

Though Adhik Ravichandran is credited with writing the Tamil dialogue for Dabangg 3. 32 year-old Ravichandran began his career with directing a comedy, Trisha Illana Nayanthara. Other films he has helmed are Anbanavan Asaradhavan Adangadhavan and Bagheera, which is also a 2023 release. All his films are in Tamil. We saw the dubbed, in Hindustani, version. Maybe Tamil sensibilities differ drastically from those of critics and audiences in Mumbai, but this critic was not impressed. Everything is brightly lit, like neon signs, a dozen elaborate wigs are in use, not to mention bald pates, the pace is break-neck, dialogue comes to you like a barrage, the sound is souped-up to deafening decibels, weapons are littered around like bees in a comb, bullets come cheaper by the dozen, special weapons are reserved for special occasions, like fire-throwers, missile launchers and wholesale machine guns, gory violence is presented as glory violence. Deserving special mention is a particular table in the night-club, that, when tilted to 90° becomes a deadly gun. Now, can you fault the writers or the director for such an innovative idea?

There is very little scope for acting in a film of this nature, and they have done what they were ordered to do. But let us list the credits, at least.

Vishal in a dual role as Antony and Mark (At 46, he pulled off the young man’s role quite well. How much was he assisted with CGI, nobody knows)

S. J. Suryah in a dual role as Jackie Pandian and Madhan Pandian (His comic streak was not bad. At 55, he too managed to convince as a young man)

Ritu Varma as Ramya, Mark's girlfriend (comely Ritu works in Telugu and Tamil films and has yet to make her debut in Hindustani)

Sunil as Ekambaram

Abhinaya as Vedhavalli

Selvaraghavan as Chiranjeevi

Nizhalgal Ravi as Advocate Selvam

Redin Kingsley as Maserati

Gold D.S.G. as Thangaraj/Gold Raj

Y. G. Mahendran as Gowri, Jackie Pandian's brother-in-law, Madhan's maternal uncle

Vishnu Priya Gandhi as Silk Smitha

Mohan Vaidya as Ramya’s father

Meera Krishnan as Ramya’s mother

Manikandan as Kumar

Sendrayan as Antony’s sidekick, TSR

Swetha Venkit as Swetha

Anitha Sampath as Janaki, Chiranjeevi’s wife

Experiments of all kinds have been conducted by the team of G.V. Prakash Kumar (music), Abinandhan Ramanujam (cinematography) and Vijay Velukutty (editing). The film is 151 minutes in duration. Played at ‘normal’, intelligible speed, it might have run into 302 minutes. But is there an audience out there that can decipher content at double speed? If there is, this film is for them.

Meanwhile, a certain British man-of-words, who died in 1616, just turned in his grave.

Rating: *



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About Siraj Syed

Syed Siraj
(Siraj Associates)

Siraj Syed is a film-critic since 1970 and a Former President of the Freelance Film Journalists' Combine of India.

He is the India Correspondent of and a member of FIPRESCI, the international Federation of Film Critics, Munich, Germany

Siraj Syed has contributed over 1,015 articles on cinema, international film festivals, conventions, exhibitions, etc., most recently, at IFFI (Goa), MIFF (Mumbai), MFF/MAMI (Mumbai) and CommunicAsia (Singapore). He often edits film festival daily bulletins.

He is also an actor and a dubbing artiste. Further, he has been teaching media, acting and dubbing at over 30 institutes in India and Singapore, since 1984.

Bandra West, Mumbai


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