Lesa Lesa Review
Chandru is in trouble. Chandru is always in trouble – and if the name of the actor playing Chandru means anything to you – Vivek – you’ll have some idea of the kind of trouble he is in. It’s not just that there are people out to kill him for the money he tricked them out of, and it’s not so much the fact that he has been filling his grandfather’s head with tales of making great returns on all the money he has invested while he is living in a shack on the estate of his friend Rakesh (Shaam), it more to do with the fact that his grandfather has decided to come and stay at this luxurious palace he has told him all about. And not only that, but he is bringing his wife, a bunch of aunts and a lot of young children. Appealing to Rakesh’s sense of charity and kindness Chandru asks to borrow his friend's land and property for a week, reminding him that he once saved his life after an accident by donating blood – the exact amount of which seems to fluctuate depending on how desperate Chandru is. And he’s very desperate here. Did I say a week? It’s more like two months that his grandfather is staying on vacation, while Rakesh has to pretend to be Chandru’s manager…
Meanwhile Chandru has a mysterious admirer, who has sent him a fluffy white dog – which causes havoc with the Rakesh’s chief (and soon to be only) servant, Pandi – along with declarations of her love. Suspecting that she is one of the five beautiful, buxom “aunties” that have arrived with his grandfather, Chandru and Rakesh initiate various daft schemes to reveal the identity of the mystery woman. Rakesh soon finds himself falling, painfully and predictably, for Bala (Trisha), but she seems to have a secret she is keeping from everyone.
Lesa Lesa is a straightforward Tamil comedy that relies very much on your tolerance of Vivek – ever present as the comedy element in many other Tamil films (Parthiban Kanavu, Thirumulai, Dhool), where he is often a welcome and colourful element in the diverse genre-hopping action-romance-musicals. But a little Vivek goes a long way and you’d really have to be a fan to enjoy a film where he is more or less equal top billing with the principal romantic leads. Lesa Lesa is little more than a light romantic comedy, and the comedy is very hit and miss – certainly as far an English language viewer is concerned, since I can’t judge this from a Tamil point of view – many of the jokes failing to translate well, while some of the routines that do work are predictable and unfunny. The routines based around the typical Vivek character and the daft schemes he gets into to make money or hide from those he owes money to are fine in small doses, but there is a lot of Vivek here, although his role is gradually reduced in favour of the traditional romantic tribulations undergone by Shaam. I say traditional, but you may find the Tamil idea of traditional romantic comedy different from Hollywood rom-coms – the can’t-stand-each-other-at-the-start element is there, but the male character in a Tamil romantic comedy is usually subjected to much more humiliation, ridicule and pain that their American counterparts (see also Nala Damayanthi and Thirumulai). The course of true love never runs smooth and that goes doubly for romances in Tamil movies, Rakesh here in Lesa Lesa finding himself dangerously impaled on a flag during one of the little “games” he and Bala play on each other.
This sense of love blossoming in violent circumstances is also covered in the flashback story that appears in the second half of the film. A typical drama of a college community under threat from rowdies, the extreme violence here sits uneasily alongside the main storyline, to such an extent that it is like a separate film within the main film. Madhavan (Kannathil Muthamittal, Alai Payuthey) is the guest star of this section and puts in an impassioned performance that is further at odds with the wetness of the rest of the main film, which is not well-acted by Trisha and the rather wooden Shaam. Although one or two sections stand out with spectacular if somewhat TV advertisement-style cinematography, most of the film is rather plainly photographed and even the musical sequences are unexceptional and lack charm. The music itself, while being extremely successful and popular when the soundtrack was released, is to my ears similarly bland, but catchy – a cheesy eighties euro-pop concoction, with funky Kajagoogoo bass, light synths and Erasure-style sequencers.
Lesa Lesa is released in the UK by Ayngaran, who specialise in Tamil cinema DVD releases. The disc, like all their titles, are in NTSC format and region-free and can be purchased directly from Ayngaran International. One violent scene during the college sequence was cut from the cinematic release in order to achieve a 12A certificate, but this has been restored for the DVD, which has a 15 certificate.
Lesa Lesa is one of the earlier releases from Ayngaran and the picture quality on the DVD is not particularly good, but it’s not particularly distracting either for a film like this. Definition is poor – the image is hazy and soft, looks occasionally grainy. Digital transfer artefacts are evident throughout in macro blocking artefacts, shimmer and jagged diagonal lines. The film looks very colourful, but the colours are dulled slightly with the picture looking a little too bright in some scenes or looking dirty through some mosquito net noise artefacts. Most of the film is free from damage, but there are one or two larger marks and scratches on a couple of frames. The Ayngaran logo is watermarked onto the image for only a few seconds during the musical numbers.
The DTS audio track is warm and lively, certainly more vibrant than the Dolby Digital 5.1 mix which is nonetheless reasonably good also. Both tracks are mixed similarly, with lots of separation for sound effects and the music score – but very much to the front with only occasional use of the rear speakers. This seems quite appropriate, not distracting unnecessarily with surround effects. There are one or two instances of echo being introduced for no apparent reason towards the latter part of the film, but in the main, the film sounds well here.
English subtitles are optional and are rather more problematic here than in other Ayngaran releases with quite a few grammatical and spelling errors. It’s often the case that Vivek comedy routines and wordplay fails to translate, but the grammar and English sentence construction are also difficult to follow elsewhere.
The only extra features are trailers for other releases. As ever there is also the option to go directly to individual songs or play them all.
Lesa Lesa is a light, fairly undemanding romantic comedy that has its share of entertaining moments, but for the most part (and it’s a long film) is predictable and bland, with none of the leads having the requisite charisma to make it all work. The direction is all over the place, with one or two spectacular sequences and a powerful flashback section, but none of it integrates well enough or consistently enough to convince.