Joshua Imai Pol Kaka Movie Review: Gautham Vasudev Menon’s ‘Joshua’ is an underwhelming affair, an action B-movie with no pulp thrills

Gautham Vasudev Menon
The film stars Varun and Raahei. The slickly staged action sequences aren’t bad, but the movie wants to be more and that’s the problem.
Joshua Imai Pol Kaka Movie Review

Joshua Imai Pol Kaka Movie Cast & Crew

Production : Vels Film International
Music Director : Karthik

Imai Pol Kaakha” is the tagline for Gautham Vasudev Menon’s new movie, titled Joshua. The tagline sounds so poetic, something right out of the Maruvaarthai song from one of this director’s own earlier movies. “Imai pol naan kaakka, kanavaai nee maaridu…” went that lyric, as Dhanush cradled and comforted a distraught Megha Akash. There’s a similar dynamic in this movie. Varun (as Joshua) is the Dhanush equivalent, the protector. Raahei (as Kundhavi) is the woman in distress. Sadly, this time, the poetry is missing. So okay, you say: “This is an action movie. Who needs poetry?” But we do. Because the entire emotional hook of the narrative is based on these two characters falling in love, and the more we feel their poetry, the more we’d want them to be together. There is an interesting, well-staged, no-fuss stretch at the beginning, where Joshua and Kundhavi meet and talk and fall into bed. And then he begins to speak about his past, and things rapidly go south.

This is not a knock on Varun. There are great action B-movies made with the likes of Steven Seagal and Jean-Claude Van Damme and Chuck Norris – and none of them could act to save their life. Varun is tall, athletic. The action scenes have a nice economy of movement to them, and Varun carries them off well. But when it comes to the romantic portions, he shows you why Steven Seagal and Jean-Claude Van Damme and Chuck Norris were not usually saddled with love scenes. Or a lot of backstory. Varun is a contract killer, and he narrates a flashback about his mother. It does not register at all. There is another flashback about a childhood friend. That does not register, either. The villain – unmasked at the end – says something about why he is doing what he is doing. And that, too, does not register.

Joshua is filled with ideas that could have gone somewhere. DD Neelakantan (in a weakly written part) plays Joshua’s handler, and like everyone else in the film who lives abroad, she lands up in Chennai… just because! The apparent reason is that the US-based Kundhavi’s life is in danger from a Mexican drug lord, and they decide the best way to protect her is to send her to Chennai. And what happens when Kundhavi meets Joshua after rejecting him because he is a contract killer and now discovering that he has become a bodyguard – her bodyguard? Nothing! Not a word about what happened, what she went through, what her feelings are about being protected by a former killer… even if he is a killer she loved! Mansoor Ali Khan and Vichitra show up for some reason, and so does Krishna. We keep asking the question over and over: Why, Gautham, why!

The great pleasures of the action B-movie are the pulp thrills – but though the action stretches here aren’t bad, they don’t give you that pulp high. Everything plays out like they shot the rehearsals, even the dramatic bits! The same premise could have worked with pulpy lines, pulpy plot twists, pulpy attitude. But Gautham treats this material seriously. He treats the romance seriously, like in a trademark Gautham Vasudev Menon movie. He treats the hasty climax seriously. I am not saying he shouldn't – but if he wanted to go that way, he needed a much better cast, and much better plotting and writing. After an attack, Joshua tells Kundhavi, “Don't let me die.” It’s painful to watch Varun and Raahei try and bring some poignancy into this scenario. Joshua, like Vendhu Thanindhadhu Kaadu, shows Gautham breaking away from the trademarks that defined him. But this film needed more clarity. It needed a lot of other things as well, but the lack of clarity about what it wants to be (what it can be, with this cast) is what hampers it the most.

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Baradwaj Rangan

National Award-winning film critic Baradwaj Rangan, former deputy editor of The Hindu and senior editor of Film Companion, has carved a niche for himself over the years as a powerful voice in cinema, especially the Tamil film industry, with his reviews of films. While he was pursuing his chemical engineering degree, he was fascinated with the writing and analysis of world cinema by American critics. Baradwaj completed his Master’s degree in Advertising and Public Relations through scholarship. His first review was for the Hindi film Dum, published on January 30, 2003, in the Madras Plus supplement of The Economic Times. He then started critiquing Tamil films in 2014 and did a review on the film Subramaniapuram, while also debuting as a writer in the unreleased rom-com Kadhal 2 Kalyanam. Furthermore, Baradwaj has authored two books - Conversations with Mani Ratnam, 2012, and A Journey Through Indian Cinema, 2014. In 2017, he joined Film Companion South and continued to show his prowess in critiquing for the next five years garnering a wide viewership and a fan following of his own before announcing to be a part of Galatta Media in March 2022.