Penguin, the Tamil film directed by debutant Eashvar Karthic, is the third film I’ve seen following Ponmagal Vandhal and Gulabo Sitabo, which has opted for a direct release to an OTT platform. All three are streaming on Prime Video and the producers of all three should thank their lucky stars that thanks to the Covid-19 lockdown, they probably got much better deals and will also get far more eyeballs than they might have dreamed of. Because all three films are disappointing to say the least and would have struggled at the box-office had they got a conventional theatrical release. Penguin, among the three, is particularly bad.
The film looks at mother-to-be, Rhythm (Keerthy Suresh), who is having her second child and first with her second husband, Goutham (Madhampatty Rangaraj). Settled in scenic and misty Kodaikanal, Rhythm is beset with nightmares, which have a connection to her life six years earlier. Her first child, Ajay, was kidnapped from a picnic by a character wearing a Charlie Chaplin mask, carrying an umbrella and wielding an axe. Four other children are similarly kidnapped and disappear over the years. With Ajay suspected of no longer being alive, his disappearance tells on her marriage with Raghu (Lingaa) and the two separate. However, out of the blue, Rhythm finds Ajay (Master Advaith) six years later. The boy, full of bruises all over his body, is traumatized and refuses to talk as to what happened to him. And then news comes in that another little girl has been kidnapped and possibly by Ajay’s kidnapper. Rhythm takes matters into her own hands to figure out the truth…
Penguin is a poor thriller and far from an edge-of-the-seat riveting experience. It is let down by some extremely weak writing, lazy and illogical plotting and unconvincing characterizations. The plot twists – especially the denouement – are sloppy and desperately trying to be clever. In fact, barring a few genuinely exciting moments, the film has very little going for it.
Though it is supposed to be a ‘woman oriented’ film, Penguin is clearly made by someone with little understanding of the female gender beyond the standard and shallow patriarchal gaze. So while it touts to be modern in that Rhythm is ‘allowed’ to be divorced and remarried to get on with her life, it is still the two men who take the two major decisions in her life. Her first husband is the one who decides they should split and her second husband-to-be tells her they should get married for he is ‘accepting’ her for what she is. What a benevolent favor! It also doesn’t help that Keerthy Suresh’s character, rather than being driven by inner strength, conviction and maternal love, appears rather stupid, putting not just herself, but even her unborn baby in all sorts of danger; often due to her own foolishness. She goes to the lake when she is told not to, and even after Ajay comes back, she keeps leaving him alone as and when something connected to the mystery catches her attention and she goes to investigate. Clearly, she’s learnt nothing. Suresh struggles to make something of her poorly conceived role but is finally defeated by the tepid writing. As is the supporting cast.
When the screenplay and narrative is this wobbly, the technicalities can do little to lift the film. Oh, a couple of thoughts here for our filmmakers. Mist does not necessary equal mysterious. And the way the iconic Chaplin tramp has been used in the narrative, let’s just say it is bound to ruffle quite a few feathers.
Penguin is a mediocre film that can safely be avoided.
Tamil, Thriller, Color