There was much in favour of 'Billa 2' right from when it went on floors. First of all it was touted as a prequel to 'Billa' the remake of Rajinikanth's original classic - the stylish film that worked wonders for the star at the box office. He then topped up the hype with his 2011 release 'Mankatha' directed by Venkat Prabhu. Despite his two films in between 'Aegan' and 'Aasal' having done miserably at the box office, 'Mankatha' easily became arguably the highest grosser at the box office.
Billa 2 was adequately well-promoted. And even though Ajith chose not to make any public appearances or promotions for the film - it opened to packed houses across the world. But what's it that fans want from a 'Thala' film and does 'Billa 2' really measure up to the hype?
The film opens with a wounded Billa secured firmly by a band of goons, with a gun pointed at him. And there comes the same punch dialogue that’s featured in the first promo that was released of the film "En vaazhkkaile..ovvoru naalum". And that is the intro scene. And here is the bait — for you immediately get a sense that this is the present and this is where the story will lead us up to somewhere down the narrative.
If you liked 'Billa' and 'Mankatha', and expected as much from the prequel, 'Billa 2' falls well short.
Much of David Billa's childhood is told through still slides during the opening credits. And as the film opens, along comes a David Billa who walks into a refugee camp - rugged and weary - but attitude intact. He stands up for his fellow refugees and soon becomes a favourite — not without making some enemies along the way.
David Billa makes use of the opportunities that come his way — he’s not lured but trapped into smuggling diamonds — he outsmarts his foes and delivers the goods to the destination. Billa's naive, but also brave and ambitious enough to take on everything. He wins the favour of a powerful don and becomes his trusted assistant.
Much of the film from now on follows the same pattern - Billa takes up risk after risk — the stakes for each correspondingly higher. And as the backdrop change from the refugee settlement to Chennai to Goa and to Georgia and Ajith's looks too undergo transformation. Soon rifts develop within the gang - Billa betrays and is betrayed in return and a series of murders follow. The rest of the film is all about settling scores and avenging his betrayers and in the end of it all, he comes out unscathed as is expected of David Billa.
The few personal moments that Billa shares with his Mariam played by Janaki Sabesh are hardly moving enough. Parvathi Omanakuttan or Bruna Abdullah in miniscule roles add no worth to the story line if any and their equations with David Billa are never revealed clearly enough throughout the film.
The biggest strength of Billa 2 is undoubtedly its hero. He does his part of looking good whenever he's allowed to, wields his gun in style and delivers the dialogues in his signature style. The film in general lacks pace and drama. The experimental style editing hampers the narrative than improve it. Though the film’s not longer than a quarter and two hours Billa's story until his transition takes its own sweet time to unveil itself.
And yet you wish there was more to it than you saw, perhaps a bit more of drama. You comes out feeling his past somehow isn’t as gruesome as to make him as dreaded a don as he later becomes, or his circumstances are not as cruel as to win our instant sympathy. Nor are his moves to eliminate his rivals as clever, calculating or cunning as we’d have liked them to be.
David Billa hardly has any fun in life except for that one dance instance. His intimacy with anyone, for that matter even his partner Ranjith played by Yog Jappee, who remains faithful to him throughout, is hardly ever explored.
We've forgiven many a films for their lack of story lines or defective screenplays if only they make the best of our heroes. And that might just be what fans will wish for once they comes out watching Billa 2. There're hardly any interesting song sequences in the film—and we get to watch Thala dance just about a bit in 'Bounce...bounce...'. Ajith looks cool and at ease with his role, but we'd have liked more of those flashy suits, stylish accessories and some nicely choreographed stunt sequences. And these are lapses that we can hardly even forgive in a gangster flick.
If you liked 'Billa' and 'Mankatha', and expected as much from the prequel, it falls well short of expectations. As a film I'd hardly have stayed put through its entire length if it were not for Ajith alone. And if you must watch that'll be advise too - watch it only for Thala.