'Billa', the third remake of Hindi hit 'Don', fails to boost Ajith's sagging career despite all the tricks in the director's bag.
Amitabh Bachchan starrer 'Don' (1978) and its Tamil remake 'Billa', featuring Ranjnikanth in 1980, were major events, thanks to the screen presence of the two superstars.
Recently, Shah Rukh Khan did his own take in Farhan Akhtar's remake of the same film titled 'Don - The Chase Begins Again'.
Director Vishnuvardhan, of course, has given Ajith top billing and the corniest lines like 'I am the original Thala (the star's popular nickname that triggers wolf whistles)', reducing other senior stars like Prabhu to caricatures, packing enough car chases to overtake motor sport channels, William Wong's great action sequences, Nirav Shah's excellent cinematography to accord the proceedings a touch of class, scantily clad females gallivanting on the screen.
One can go on and on but despite all this, 'Billa' flops because it lacks the zing that makes a film tick.
There are dozens of extras, Malaysian females of Indian origin, and thousands of bullets spent to destroy loud sets.
All of them have toiled to produce a movie that is as interesting a prospect as a snifter containing decanted ditch water laced with juice from rotten lemons plucked a year ago.
The other productions - based on the script of the Bollywood duo of Salim-Javed that gave birth to four siblings or movies based on one basic idea - had outstanding characters. But characters like the golden-hearted safe breakers - Pran, the late 'Coconut' Srinivasan and finally Arjun Rampal - are conspicuous by their absence in 'Billa'.
So, we have an unlikely tale of an evil gangster, Billa (Ajith), being bumped off by a conscientious cop Jai, played by Prabhu who seems to have lost his voice and screen presence, and a petty thief and occasional dancer, Ajith in the second role, trying to net a drug lord and gunrunner Jagdish (Rahuman) with the help of a moll high on the adrenalin to get even with the assassin of her near and dear one.
In between, there are motor stunts and plain fisticuffs enough to give anyone involved multiple fractures in the fingers and some good music by Yuvan Shankar Raja.
Editor Sreekar Prasad tries to infuse some life into the proceedings with the use of his pruning blades alright, but he too can only work with the canned shots available.
A green Malaysia looks enchanting, but it should have a better calling as a tourist resort than as the backdrop of a movie.
Attempts on the part of producers to tinker with past hits and making guinea pigs out of stars will come a cropper unless they are able to aptly evolve the themes with changing times.
And the tragedy with Ajith is that he needed a hit very badly after another failed essay to duplicate the efforts of another hit from another language in recent times.
Sadly Vishnuvardhan (and probably the actor's own overconfidence) has let 'Billa' down very badly.
If Rajnikanth's 'Billa' was a milestone in his career, its remake starring Ajith is a millstone around the neck of the actor and the producer.