Laabam Movie Review
S. P. Jananathan wrote and directed the 2021 Indian Tamil-language action drama film Laabam (transl. Profit). It stars Vijay Sethupathi and Jagapathi Babu, as well as Shruti Haasan, Dhansika, and Kalaiyarasan. Ramji was hired as cameraman, and D. Imman composed the music. Laabam's principal photography began on April 22, 2019. The film was released in theatres on September 9, 2021. Critics and audiences gave it mixed to poor reviews, and movie became a box-office flop. This was Jananathan's final film as a filmmaker, and it was released posthumously.
The film is directed by S. P. Jananathan, who made a brief return to directing after working on Purampokku Engira Podhuvudamai in 2015. Laabam's principal photography began on April 22, 2019. Vijay Sethupathi was cast in the lead male role of a social activist. Jananathan died during the post-production stage on 14 March 2021, making Laabam his final film as a filmmaker.
SP Jhananathan, the late director, saw films as a tool to spread his beliefs. Naturally, there was a strong undercurrent of preachiness in his films. Laabam is no different. The film is an anti-capitalist protest about how the desire for wealth leads to decisions that appear to be good in the short term but are long-term disasters for both people and the planet.
Pakkiri (Vijay Sethupathi), Peruvayal's farmers' association president, wants landlords to return Panchami land to the common person and use it for a communal farming plan that will benefit all of the village's farmers. But the place's top shot, Vanangamudi (Jagapathi Babu, playing a selfish capitalist for the hundredth time), has other intentions. He intends to launch a biodiesel venture that will net him billions of dollars. Vanangamudi would go to any length to assure the success of his strategy, with the police and politicians in his pocket.
Laabam is a film with excellent intentions, but are good intentions enough to pique our interest in a film? It all depends on how much lecturing you can stand. This is the type of film in which the protagonist is portrayed as someone who appears to know everything and is literally referred to as a God by his people.
Here, Vijay Sethupathi explains the concept of profit using a loaf of bread (similar to how Vijay explained communism for dummies using an idli), details how sugarcane is converted into so many products and laments how the sugarcane farmer remains poor, narrates the history and politics of land ownership, and so on and so forth. Yes, they are informative moments, but they can only be classified as information dumps in terms of storytelling.
The plot of the picture could be more cohesive. Rather than progressing from one occurrence to the next, it goes quickly from one issue to the next, giving us a false impression of momentum. The characters are also painted in bold strokes. Pakkiri is considered to be a Fakir-like figure with worldly wisdom that has gone far and wide. Thus, we are to believe anything he says. He has a slew of pals, but not a single one is memorable.
Kalaiyarasan and Sai Dhanshika, for example, are squandered in minor roles. Vanangamudi, on the other hand, does all the conventional things that rich villains in films do: he has a magnificent bungalow, women who serve him at his beck and call, and a corrupt cop who is always at his side. Then there's the obligatory female lead. Clara (Shruti Haasan) is a performer. The less stated about Clara's role in the plot, the better. We even have a short romance track between her and Pakkiri, which is wisely dropped as soon as it enters the plot.
Given that Jonathan is no longer alive, it's difficult to say how much of this messy storytelling is due to his passing. The director had shot the picture but died during the editing process, leaving his helpers to finish the post-production. However, it is unfortunate that Laabam will be this filmmaker's final feature.