Disclaimer: I am a Sci-Fi lover and this review will have that tone and colour but at the same time I am not a scientist to understand every aspect related to time travel. And the review is with spoilers.
Tamil audiences are one of the unluckiest with respect to Sci-Fi movies although we had a movie as early as 1963 that had an alien invasion of a different form. The problem with our directors is that they trade off screenplay and scientific accuracy to give us grandeur. However, last year, we had Indru Netru Naalai and I was mind blown the way time travel was handled by a debutant – R.Ravikumar. I even said that Sujatha would have smiled finally in my annual Kollywood round-up (I couldn’t post a review as I was out of country that time)
When 24 was announced with Vikram Kumar, I thought it would be interesting to see how a seasoned director would treat time travel (I really loved his nuances in Manam). Nonetheless, he flattered to deceive.
24 is the movie of twin brothers born within 3 minutes of each other. Sethuraman (Surya), a scientist and an entrepreneur who researches on time travel while Athreya (another Surya – we are not revealed what he does) is an intelligent villain (he calls himself so). Athreya finds out his brother’s research, kills him and his wife Priya (played by Nithya Menen) in order to abduct a time travel watch. Before dying, Sethuraman leaves his child along with a small box that contains the watch with Satyabama (Saranya) and Athreya goes in to coma after a freak accident during the altercation. Saranya raises the child as Mani (another Surya) who owns a watch repairing shop. After 26 years, the key to the box magically lands on his table (read it as chaos theory) and also Athreya wakes up from his coma. The rest of the story forms the struggle between Athreya and Mani for the watch.
The biggest objection that I have with 24 is the fact that it’s scientifically flawed. People can contend that it’s a sci-fi movie and it can defy rules. The difference between a sci-fi fantasy and a mythical fantasy is that the former sits inside the theories of science. 24 uses time travel based on an erroneous theory of time. As humans, we think that time is a single straight line and it is based on a belief that a thing/human being occupies only single place at any point of time. So, if you are sitting currently inside a bus and reading my review on your phone, you believe that there is only one version of you. Imagine that your phone is a time travel device and you want to use it to go back in time and not read this review as you are a Surya fan, the common belief is that you will physically reverse your time. This idea is built on physical theories of time. But this is a flawed and age-old concept that has been thrown out of scientific discourse and also Hollywood because time doesn’t travel in a straight line.
In simple words, if you have watched “Indru Netru Naalai”, at one point in time there will be multiple versions of Vishnu and Karunakaran fighting to save themselves (I actually went crazy at the climax because of the brilliance). It uses a “multiverse theory” to explain time travel in that movie. Multiverse theory takes a position that there can be different versions of a person who time travels and each can co-exist without interfering in to each other. So, when Karunakaran interferes with that dog, it changes everything in their life. In the example, that I have used, you can travel back in time and somehow create a sequence to break your own mobile so that you don’t read this review. However, that action will have various repercussions in your future. You might miss a call from your girl friend and she might break up with you or you may miss an important job interview call… The possibilities are endless. In 24, he travels back and changes a lot of things with no outcomes. This what makes the movie cringe worthy. The problem with the screenplay is the selective usage of chaos theory for director’s convenience. For instance, the live wire that helps Sethuraman to recharge the watch. In a sci-fi movie, the actions of people in accordance to the scientific rules dictate the movie and as a writer, it is important to have this in mind in order to write an interesting movie.
So what’s the problem in using an erroneous theory? The famous “Grandfather Paradox” comes in to the picture. For example, if you go back in time and kill your own grandfather, you would actually stop being in existence. If so, how will you murder your grandfather. In this case, the key to the box is held by Athreya and when he returns to consciousness, he loses the key. It magically reaches Mani and then he finds the time travel watch. However, if Athreya is killed when he goes back in time, how does Mani get the key that allows him to go back and alert his father. So it becomes an insolvable loop. The same thing could have happened at various instances in the movie like Sethuraman giving his child to Satyabama in the train.
The grandfather paradox happens only because it is based on the physical theory of time and it was theoretically disproved recently (too much high funda science that can’t be explained here). But over the years, scientists have argued that paradoxes cannot occur in a multiverse based on the Navikov Self-Consistency principles and that’s why you see a lot of Hollywood time travel movies using multiverse theory. They might be flawed in parts but not entirely flawed like 24. But even smaller budget movies in Hollywood explore time travel brilliantly. Don’t get me started at the time freezing ability. There are some super heroes/villains who can do that not a time machine. I couldn’t even sit through those scenes.
But there are going to be criticisms on me that I am trying to debauch a movie which makes sci-fi palatable for a common audience. The reason why I am criticising this movie is that it teaches wrong science and it is dangerous. The other criticism that might be levied on me would be to watch the movie like a movie – the cinematic aspect of it.
Let’s go through that drill too. There are a few wonderful moments in the movie especially the intermission sequence. It does evoke a curiosity but it dies immediately after the break. Smart symbolisms of Vikram Kumar is spread throughout the movie and his Athreya is amazingly characterised. After a very long time, you can see the acting skills of Surya in their full glory. His version of Athreya is menacing and the body language is absolutely brilliant. And there ends the good part of the movie.
The romance portion between Samantha and Surya is unimaginative and boring. I almost wanted to tear the screen when Surya utters that “I am a watch mechanic. Enakku idhellam Sarva Sadaranam”. The movie has the usual mother sentiment scenes and except for Mei Nigara nothing sticks in your mind in AR Rahman’s music. The Harry Potterish sets of Sethuraman’s house and Disney style train were really funny. It was suprising to realise that it was meant to be 1990. Above all, the funniest moment is when a watch mechanic adds a date component overnight to a time machine that was built after years of research by his father. He is a watch mechanic, ivarakku adhellam sarva Sadaranam. When the idea for the script is inherently flawed, it’s not right to expect a good movie.
24 is all what a science fiction movie should not be. It’s painful to find that our directors are using age-old concepts in our movies. It also shows how bad our science writing is. I wish this budget was used by people like R.Ravikumar who could have made a better sci-fi movie.
Whatever I write here, you are going to watch this scientifically and logically flawed 24 because of the star power. Nevertheless, I am going for big thumbs down for 24 and will watch “Indru Netru Naalai” to wade off the after taste. 24 is another attempt to Tamil movie audiences are stupid. It’s more dangerous than a masala movie with gravity defying stunts and illogical sequences. The bigger problem is the glorification of wrong movies such as this. In PS Veerappa style, “Indha Tamil Cinemavum Tamil Cinema Raasigargalum Naasamai Pogatum”.
- I wish I could go back in time and not book the ticket for this movie. I sacrificed a nice lunch for this one. Also Vikram Kumar can go back and realise his folly.
- I would be happy if I am disproved in the scientific aspects that I have explained – if you can send me the proof or articles, I will post an alternate review in an alternate timeline.