Review of 2012 Tamil Movie Pizza directed by Karthik Subbharaj and starring Vijay Sethupathi

NOTE: C/ 30%

It is ‘Pizza’ that should be accused of misleading its audience with an overloaded use of ‘deus ex machina’. Before I go any further, let me explain what the term ‘deus ex machina’ means the same way film critic Roger Ebert did while reviewing Spike Jonze’s delightful ‘Adaptation’, quoting from Wikipedia; the term is used for “a plot device by which a seemingly intractable problem is suddenly and abruptly resolved, with the contrived and unexpected intervention of some new event, character, ability, or object.” While Adaptation is inventively, cleverly, and effectively able to fit this device into its plot structure, Pizza leaves its baffled audience searching for answers only to reveal after important pieces were kept hidden the entire time. The sole purpose of his deus ex machina is for his writer-director Karthik Subbaraj to show how ‘incredible’ his turn is; the problem is that the audience doesn’t say ‘Oh, how could I miss this!’ on Pizza because the plot of the movie never allowed them to catch it in the first place. The twist takes the movie on a whole new tangent that we couldn’t have guessed at all, and we’re left cold: I want my money back!

Pizza begins with a group of ghost hunters looking for paranormal activity in a supposedly haunted house, which ends on a cliffhanger the moment your device detects a presence. That’s when our lead actor turns off the TV the ‘movie’ was running on and we’re taken to the actual set where our lead couple is huddled together, talking about ghosts. We learn that lady Anu is a writer of horror stories and is doing research by watching a series of movies and books, while hers boy Michael is a pizza delivery guy who has her reservations about anything supernatural. While delivering a file to his boss’s house, Michael discovers that her boss’s daughter is possibly possessed by a spirit and her father is desperately trying to cure her. This incident haunts him especially because the girl looks directly at him while she is possessed and calls out the name ‘Nithya!’ demonically. The other incident that haunts him is Anu’s announcement that she is pregnant, but they reconcile and get married in private. One night, the owner finds him in the pizzeria covered in blood along with his colleagues, who are also badly bruised. He then tells the others about his nightmarish experience at a house where he had gone to deliver pizzas. After this incident, Anu goes missing and attempts to locate her also fail.

The movie gave me nothing to look for, and Subbaraj left a lot missing that might have made my attempts to make sense of the movie easier. You should be able to tease your audience so that when they are cheated, they don’t feel cheated. In a big movie like M. Night Shyamalan’s ‘Sixth Sense,’ the twist didn’t need much clarification because we knew it sold us, and then we could sit back and think about all the subtle clues we missed throughout the movie. In Pizza, the twist fails miserably, and the most explicit proof of its failure is the fact that it required five to ten minutes of clarification in resolution to show us how it actually worked. This time is dedicated to revealing things that have not been shown to us before and that could have simplified our confusion without losing the effectiveness of the intended twist.

While I commend Karthik Subbaraj’s attempt to blend the horror, thriller, comedy, suspense and mystery genres, his film Pizza fails to whet our appetite. We left the theater with a bad taste in our mouths. (note: I watched two Vijay Sethupathi movies in two days, Soodhu Kavvum yesterday and Pizza today, not realizing until I checked his Wikipedia page that it was the same actor. That’s quite a performance!)

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