‘I am Quick Gun Murugan. Mind it.’ Fast and silly, Shashanka Ghosh’s Tamil Nadu western spoof is a whole lot of fun…
London Film Festival goers were in for something of a treat this year with Shashanka Ghosh’s feature Quick Gun Murugan: a print only a few days old with the director in presence. And as Shashanka describes it, it’s just a pretty normal Western… that just happens to be set in India.
Quick Gun, played by veteran star Dr Rajendra Prasad, is a righteous cowboy in a remote area of India in the early eighties, his skills with a gun are unequalled. When he comes between a local restaurant and a gang intent on making their menu ‘non-veg’, he discovers gangster Rice Plate Reddy’s (Nasser) plans to turn all the area into meat eaters. Quick Gun heads off to sort Rice Plate and his cronies out, but falls foul of his tree climbing assassins (think Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon with coconut palms, not bamboo forests).
But death can’t hold back a man on a spiritual mission, and God is definitely on the Vegetarians side. Quick Gun comes back with his garish costume and twin pistols intact to modern day Mumbai, only to find Rice Plate Reddy’s plans are on a much bigger scale: McDosas, a chain of restaurants that will have all India and then the world eating ‘non-veg’. To complete his domination, Rice Plate has created an automated machine to produce dosas on a mass scale, only the secret ingredient, a mothers love, stands between him and the success of his plan. Can Quick Gun, and gangsters moll and general ‘blonde’ bombshell Mango Dolly (Rambha), stop Rice Plate before he finds the ‘best mum in India’ to complete his recipe?
Tongue firmly in cheek, Ghosh’s film delights in it’s own silliness, referencing not only spaghetti westerns but Hollywood action and sci-fi, and mixing that with camp OTT Tamil humour. The bullet duals of Ringo Lam’s Full Contact are particularly obvious, referenced via their use in films like The Matrix. In fact the director admits that CGI effects actually ending up, if anything, rather too slick, due in part to the involvement of Total Recall effects director Tim McGovern.
Comparisons to Wisit Sasanatieng’s Tears Of The Black Tiger are inescapable, but as Ghosh points out, he got there first. His initial reboot of this TV character of the 60s and 70s began life as a series of shorts for the launch of India’s MTV channel in 1993, proving so popular that he even managed to get investors interested in funding the film at the time.
Yet Quick Gun takes far more pleasure in sending itself and Indian culture up than Wisit’s Black Tiger. It’s an intentionally ironic take on Tamil films that Ghosh intended to appeal to young modern Indian audiences and more Western/European cinema goers. (Though he revealed test screenings had gone down well with all generations.) Indeed he had originally intended a younger, hipper actor for the lead, until his producers told him (quite rightly in this case) that he had to use an older, middle-aged actor for the lead, casting veteran Prasad with some 350 plus films under his belt. The cast also includes plenty of other Indian luminaries and renowned comedians.
Yet despite it’s madcap tone, the obvious dig at McDonalds, with their mainly meat options and very real world domination, can’t be lost in the predominately vegetarian state of Tamil Nadu. And as anyone who’s enjoyed a proper Dosa in Tamil Nadu will tell you, a burger just isn’t a match for it!
Slickly filmed, luridly coloured, and featuring a couple of fantastically oddball musical numbers too, Quick Gun Murugan has yet to be released in India, let alone the UK, but fun like this should delight audiences all over the world.
Quick Gun Murugan was shown as part of the London Film Festival, with director Shashanka Ghosh in attendance.