19 Aug 2021
Attul, Kiran Dev, Stevie Sunny
A comic short film from Indian director Sarin Kumar, or should that be bonkers. A bonkers short film from Indian director Sarin Kumar. Two friends find themselves in the home of a former school acquaintance, and get involved in something a bit bloodier than they bargained for.
There are four principle characters. The two friends, Kathir (played by Attul) and Karthi (Kiran Dev), get the most screen-time, but Attul and Dev falter with shouty performances. The best thing in the film is Stevie Sunny, who goes for cock-eyed psychopathy and lands it as Rocky, so it’s a shame when he becomes the first victim in a series of increasingly farcical manslaughters and murders. And strangest of all is Radhakrishnan as a corrupt policeman billed simply as “Cop”, strange because he plays him like a disturbed sensei. His introduction provides the first real jokes of what turns out to be a comedy (honestly it could’ve been anything). Earlier on, a long still of Kathir and Karthi sitting against the kitchen cupboards while Rocky’s dead body lay propped up between them acted as a moment of realisation, a kind of oh, it’s a black comedy.
When trying to dispose of Rocky, the pair are stopped by Cop, who asks them to open their trunk. Only there’s a twist. It turns out the cop has a body in his car too, which is a funny subversion of a staple crime-genre scene. That’s followed up with a monologue that ends in a punchline about shooting a goat. A goat the pair ask? A pregnant goat. Yeah, that isn’t so funny.
There is an unfortunately inescapable hindrance to these efforts throughout however—an intrusive soundtrack by Arvind Raghunath. Every tense plot development—such as the trunk scene—is punctuated by a sledgehammer bass-bwah, and though the intended effect may actually be silliness, it’s hard to tell whether the emotionalism is deliberate. It’s not just that the music is overbearing, it’s schizophrenic too. There’s a cue that’s bluesy, there’s several that are funky, and during the climax the soundscape slips into a harsh cascade of Tenet-like electronic pulses. That would be too many musical styles for a film twice as long—everything I’ve listed takes place in less than 35-minutes.
It’s no surprise that Cop betrays the pair in the last of those minutes, leading to a stand-off, a sizeable body-count, and a very Quentin Tarantino-ish title caption—yellow block letters over a whirlpool of blood. It’s his lurid brand that Sarin Kumar attempts to emulate with What The, and not successfully as such. Truth be told though, for over two decades Tarantino hasn’t successfully illustrated his own brand either. This ambitious but over-extended short isn’t any further away from doing so.