This post contains some spoilers about certain films like Knives Out, Vikram Vedha, Petta, Dhoom, etc.
Back in July 2020, I had written about brands’ attempt to control how their products are showcased in movies, TV shows, and pop culture, in general.
One specific reference was to Apple’s formal contracts with filmmakers in ensuring that ‘bad’ characters don’t end up using an Apple product! The director of Knives Out, Rian Johnson revealed this in an interview with Vanity Fair.
While this may be applicable largely to large Hollywood films where Apple could officially tie-up with the producers and enforce such rules as per the contract, there are way too many films being made around the world where Apple’s products (particularly the iPhone) may be used by some character that may be ‘bad’.
But still, let me use Rian Johnson’s revelation in context to an upcoming Tamil film and extrapolate a plot point!
Tamil star Vijay’s upcoming movie ‘Master’ was supposed to have released in 2020, but the pandemic intervened. The film is finally slated for release in theaters for Pongal 2021 – just a fortnight from now.
The film’s teaser was launched in November 2020.
The film also stars Vijay Sethupathi, another Tamil actor with a substantial commercial pull. While double-hero films are generally rare in Tamil cinema (owing to multiple reasons; ego, budgetary constraints, constraints with regard to commercial viability, etc.), Vijay Sethupathi has been surprisingly adept in fitting himself in double-hero projects and getting the best out of them too.
He has also surprisingly been flexible enough to play negative roles in some such films where traditional leading men in Tamil cinema avoid being associated with on-screen negativity after playing positive leading roles.
But even in films where Vijay Sethupathi plays a negative role, they seem less like outright negative characters, and more like the so-called anti-hero, with some redeeming features that the audience can root for. A great example of this is Vikram Vedha, which starred Vijay Sethupathi and Madhavan, and the former started as a crowd-pleasing villain and eventually progressed into an anti-hero.
Another example would be the Rajinikanth-starrer, Petta that also has Vijay Sethupathi playing a villain, but turning into a character who helps Rajinikanth eventually in the end!
These are the kind of negative roles where the character does not die in the end or get punished by the law for their negative deeds. These are the kind of morally grey roles where the audience would be rooting for the character and the character generally stays alive and beyond legal repercussions (or, morally-right, legally-wrong contrivances).
In Master, the teaser clearly establishes Vijay as the hero and Vijay Sethupathi on the opposite spectrum, annoyed by Vijay.
And, in a shot in the teaser, Vijay Sethupathi, the antagonist, is clearly seen using an iPhone (Hat-tip to Praveen who pointed it out to me on Twitter), also demonstrating the phone’s impressive water-resistant/waterproof quality! You cannot miss the iPhone, given the way the shot is framed – dark all around and the phone is the only shiny object.
Now, if you used Rian Johnson’s revelation in context (regardless of the fact that Master’s producers may not have signed any official contract with Apple), what are the chances that Vijay Sethupathi may not be an outright villain in Master, and may eventually turn into a friend/reformed character who perhaps helps Vijay in nailing another, outright villain?
This did happen in Vikram Vedha, and in many other Hindi films too where a star was roped in to play villain, like Dhoom 2 that had Hrithik Roshan play a villain, and the last scene showed him to be alive, and away from the action. Dhoom 3 was an exception, of course, with Aamir Khan playing villain, and taking up almost 2 minutes to fall into the abyss in slow-motion among soaring, sentimental music to his (their – twins) death.
Does the iPhone toting Vijay Sethupathi in Master indicate that his character would not be an outright despicable villain who would die a gruesome death in Vijay’s hands (or be punished by the law)? Or, would Vijay Sethupathi continue to surprise us by playing a totally despicable villain with no redeeming qualities (except the choice of iPhone, if that could be considered a redeemable quality) whatsoever and paying a price for that too?
I guess we would know in 2 weeks 🙂