Horror comedies have, ironically, become a dying breed in Tamil cinema. Given the atrocious content we were given ever since successful films in the genre like Yaamirukka Bayamey(2014) and Darling (2015) made the genre a mainstay, it’s not something the audience would dearly miss either. But certain franchises, like Kanchana and Aranmanai, have held on to them dearly; despite their limitations, they’ve worked among the masses. Another contender in that list has to be Dhilluku Dhuddu, which is inarguably the funniest franchise in the genre. The latest film, DD Returns, is yet another decent addition to it.
Director: S Prem Anand
Cast: Santhanam, Surbhi, Masoom Sankar, Pradeep Rawat, Maran, Kingsley, FEFSI Vijayan, Rajendran, Munishkanth
Storyline: A gang of folks are stuck in a haunted mansion and the only way out is to win a game with the ghosts haunting the place
For starters, it’s unclear if the new film is actually a part of the franchise, considering the film is neither titled Dhilluku Dhuddu 3 nor made by director Rambhala who made the first two entries. In fact, the ‘DD’ in the title is the abbreviation of ‘Dare Demons’ that’s inconspicuously added to it. Nevertheless, it follows the same old trope of Santhanam and co getting stuck in a haunted bungalow and they’ll have to escape it unscathed. But unlike the previous two films where the ghosts exist just to terrorise the inhabitants of the building, in DD Returns, they’re given a purpose of sorts.
In DD Returns, we are introduced to a plethora of characters, each with a name card akin to those from Vikram. Even for a franchise that has a lot of secondary characters, the latest film feels like overkill. Despite their character names not registering, actors like Maran, Kingsley, Rajendran, Thangadurai and Munishkanth act exactly the way you’d expect them to. Even FEFSI Vijayan, whose portions from the director and actor’s previous collaboration, Inimey Ippadithan, scores big with his delivery. This kind of self-awareness is DD Returns’ biggest strength. So much so that the theatre erupted when Sathish (Santhanam) goes meta and says to another character that he tried his best to refrain from indulging in body-shaming humour… but can’t help it.
The first two iterations did a better job with what transpires before they get to the haunted mansion; except for a few chuckles, the first half of DD Returns is a tiresome watch and it’s only when they land up in the house when the film shifts gears. Director S Prem Anand turns this property into a world of its own with set rules, punishments and rewards, as the mansion is haunted by a family who hosts a gaming session with its inhabitants. The premise makes way for a barrage of jokes that are slapstick in nature. Lollu Sabha excelled at using the limited set of properties they had, and all that practise comes handly here given that the filmmaker and most of the cast used to be a part of the legendary comedy show. Right from a humble piece of clothing to a maze within the bungalow, all of them are turned into props for jokes that predominately work.
The plot reminds us of a deluge of Hollywood films such as Ready or Not (2019), and the smaller ideas to make us laugh take us back to older titles; in fact, the one involving Rajendran and a life-sized Rhinocerous doll is lifted straight from Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls.
Despite this being a tried and tested trope for Santhanam, he surprisingly takes the back seat and lets his able cast carry the film forward. It’s nice to see him return to his roots after his experiments with films like Sabhaapathy, Gulu Gulu and Agent Kannayiramdidn’t work in his favour. While the film has its limitations, especially in the first half, the third act makes up for it, resulting in an entertaining package that Santhanam has been aiming for a while now. If the horror-comedy genre still has the ability to make the audience laugh out loud, resurrecting it doesn’t seem like a bad idea.
DD Returns is currently running in theatres