Fantastic Fest Review: EEGA Is The Year’s Best Love Story, Action Film & Reincarnation Revenge Movie

Phil wants a world where a film about a murder victim reincarnated as a revenge-driven housefly is embraced by everyone.

I want to tell you how much you will love Eega. I want you to be excited by the crazy premise, your mild curiosity turning to rabid enthusiasm as you hear the details of this film about a lovesick, average Joe who, murdered by a jealous, evil rival, is reincarnated as a housefly who embarks on a vendetta against the man who killed him. And there's no reason we shouldn't love it; we used to be totally on board with this stuff. Eega's cinematic ancestors - films like The Incredible Shrinking Man and The Incredible Mr. Limpet, both echoed during moments of Eega - were bona fide hits in their day. Musicals once represented a significant portion of box office earners. But tastes shifted and what was once embraced became "corny" and "cheesy" as an unimaginative public struggled to come up with dismissive labels for films that didn't adhere to reality. So in 2013, there's not much hope that you will buy into the magic of Eega. I'm afraid you just won't give this film a chance, that your prejudices will keep you from seeing what a gift this movie is. And that's a shame, because Eega is the kind of movie that gives not one shit about the arbitrary little rules you've created for yourself concerning what a film should and shouldn't be.

So yes, Eega is a life-affirming story of love that also happens to be driven by some seriously Old Testament rules of engagement. And yes, Eega expects you to be on board with its live-action protagonist taking a dirt nap 30 or so minutes in, replaced by a dodgy CGI housefly who doesn't speak. And yes, Eega is a movie where the characters will burst into song if they feel like it. (Heads up: they feel like it.) If you're going to show up and expect realism and tonal monotony (or worse, that weird "I just can't get into musicals" line), you're going to deny yourself the pleasures of Eega. And pleasure is the word for it. Joyful is another. In fact, the movie has such a grin-inducing, crowd-pleasing energy that it would be the perfect family film if it weren't for the often gruesome, Joel Silver-in-the-80s level of violence on display. But that comes with the territory, you see, because Eega also happens to be a completely kickass action film.

It sounds a little random and extreme. I won't lie, it's extreme: the characters are so in touch with their enormous, unsubtle feelings that it explodes out of them - in love, in rage, in explosions and fists and song. Even their character motivations are ridiculously out of proportion: the wealthy villain (Sudeep) is driven to murder when Bindhu (Samantha Ruth Brabhu), the gorgeous object of his desire, is distracted by our hero (Nani) whilst Sudeep was in mid-mack. Reborn as a housefly, Nani takes a while to find his legs (and wings), but before long he's developing clever ways to create mayhem. Fires are set, business meetings are sabtotaged, cars are crashed in a sequence that ends with a  "stand up and cheer" moment. And an intermission. The characters only burst into song and dance in one glorious scene, but the film is blanketed with fun music - Nani has a catchy, driving theme song with scene-specific lyrics that would make a young Paul Schrader jealous. Sudeep's leitmotif is literally just an angry scream of rage. It's amazing.

But random is something the film isn't. The neat trick of Eega is that while everything is dialed up, over-saturated and covering a wide spectrum of content - romantic comedy, musical, bloody action revenge film, superhero movie - it's all of a piece. It all feels organic and it all works. I left the theater grinning, moved, and a little melancholy, because I was as sure as I was of anything that you'd never watch this movie. And by "you", I mean the larger Western marketplace on the whole. I mean the mainstream film audience that would never see this film full of Indian people speaking in subtitles and singing and dancing and coming back to life as insects, or allow a climate where it could even exist. And I guess I also meant me, until the moment I sat down and watched it. Now I need to go find some more.