Every movie in existence deserves some kind of credit because it is hard to make them. The director, the scriptwriter, or the cast usually get the blame for a movie being bad, but the crew comprises many people who have put their blood and sweat into their jobs without knowing what the final product is going to look like. And they don’t deserve any kind of hate. The only kind of films that should be berated are the ones that are made with malintent, heinous agendas or by filmmakers who should be in jail instead of on a set. With that out of the way, let’s talk about “The Legend” and “Cirkus,” two movies from 2022 that were deemed the worst of the worst, and find out if they deserved the harsh criticisms and if either of them is actually worth a watch.
The reason for putting “The Legend” and “Cirkus” on the same plane is pretty simple. Rohit Shetty’s film desperately wants to fall into the “so bad that it’s good” category, and “The Legend” is actually so bad that it’s good. Now, before going any further, please allow me to define what this subgenre actually means. Everyone who has watched “The Room” by Tommy Wiseau (if you haven’t, you should watch it, BTW) will know that it’s one of the worst movies ever made. It’s rated poorly on every review aggregator in existence. And the general audience has lambasted it too. But it went on to become such a massive cultural phenomenon that it had special screenings for fans and got the “how it was actually” made biopic treatment, called “The Disaster Artist,” which got nominated for and won multiple awards. Why? Because Tommy Wiseau never set out to make a bad movie, and the mixture of his technical ineptitude and unwavering sincerity is what made “The Room” one of the best and worst films of all time.
Major Spoilers Ahead
So, what’s going on in “The Legend” and “Cirkus”? Unironically speaking, “The Legend” is a competently made film. Like most Tamil films about entrepreneurs doing extraordinary stuff to help the world, directing duo J.D. and Jerry tell a story about fighting diabetes and how nefarious organizations in the medical field oppose this change to ensure that people stay dependent on medicines. There’s a revenge mission thrown into the mix. The action scenes are actually incredible, with copious amounts of slow-motion shots and mind-boggling stunts. Even the locations for each of the set pieces are different, with the unique surroundings factoring into the fight. Vairam (the late actor Vivek) and Dada (Yogi Babu) are the comedic reliefs of the film. The twists involving Thulasi (Geethika Tiwary), Madhu (Urvashi Rautela), or Saravanan’s professor (Nassar) are presented pretty seriously. The song-and-dance sequences are well-produced. Vivek’s on-set recording has been used because the actor passed away before getting to re-record his lines. And despite the overall weirdness and ego-stroking of Dr. Saravanan (that’s the character as well as the actor/producer’s name), the film never “winks at the camera” to hint that they are in on the joke.
From the first frame of “The Legend” to the last, all of us are aware of the fact that someone like Saravanan can’t knock out guys with a single punch, use the Force to extinguish candles or incapacitate goons with a whip. Yet you see him do all that. We can see that Saravanan cannot express a single emotion known to the human species. Yet, he makes women go weak in the knees with his “charisma.” We know that Saravanan knows nothing about science or science fiction. Yet, we see him lecture everyone about curing diabetes. And it is this constant contradiction that makes the viewing experience so funny. The scene that had me laughing till I started crying and gasping for air involved Saravanan turning a lewd image made by a guy to bully a girl into a sketch of Mahatma Gandhi. You would think that someone in the room is going to point out the fact that the woman’s chest area has been converted into Gandhi’s glasses. But instead of doing that, everyone starts cheering and clapping genuinely while hailing Saravanan as a genius, thereby making it one of the most hilarious moments in film history.
The situation with “Cirkus” is different. After setting up the story, which is basically about the two Ranveer Singh-s and Varun Sharma-s meeting each other, Rohit Shetty keeps illustrating the fact that he wants this movie to look and feel bad. The sets look fake. The color grading is garish and actually hurts your eyes if you look at the screen for too long. Shetty constantly stops the film so that Dr. Roy Jamnadas (Murali Sharma) can turn to the audience and explain what’s going on in the plot. The song-and-dance sequences are inconsistent because they try to evoke the ’70s, but then they throw in “Current Laga Re,” which plays out like any number from the last decade. The women hardly factor into the plot (kudos to “The Legend” for making Rautela the main villain) and are eventually forgotten. It suffers from various technical issues like shoddy VFX and CGI, an unappealing production design, and horrible pacing. And Rohit Shetty keeps hoping that the sum of all these parts is going to entertain viewers. However, it never happens because of the two big offenders: the “comedic” writing and the performances by the cast.
To be honest, there aren’t any jokes in “Cirkus.” Everyone is either trying to rhyme two sentences with each other or making loud noises in the hopes that it eventually gets funny. The central “gag” of the film is that one version of Ranveer Singh gets electrocuted when the other version touches high-voltage electric wires as a part of his circus trick. During these moments, Ranveer makes weird faces and even levitates. If somebody touches him, then they get a taste of it as well. That’s it. How is that supposed to be comedic in any way? In a scene involving Momo (Siddhartha Jadhav) and one of the Ranveer Singh-s, the two of them hit each other with whips. And although the moment lasts for over a minute, it feels like an eternity has passed because—at the cost of sounding repetitive—none of it is funny. While the makers of “The Legend” had the uphill task of making Saravanan appealing, “Cirkus” had the upper hand in that area, and yet Shetty didn’t utilize them properly. And if you are not invested in the plot, the characters, or the actors at your disposal, how can you expect the audience to do the same?
In conclusion, you’ll probably have a fun time watching “The Legend” like I did because you are watching a scrappy-looking little dude do things that Vikram, Vijay, Ajith Kumar, Suriya, Dhanush, Prithviraj, Karthi, Dulquer Salmaan, or even Vijay Sethupathi do in their respective films. The premise or the execution isn’t preposterous. It’s just that your brain has a hard time processing that someone like Saravanan, a man without any acting talent, is being presented in such an enigmatic way, thereby earning the moniker “so bad that it’s good.” “Cirkus” is not a well-made film. It’s quite literally so bad that it’s awkward. You feel like you are getting a peek into Rohit Shetty’s mind, and with every second that you spend looking at it, you are becoming increasingly stupid. If you want to watch both of these films, do so at your own risk. If you want to watch only one of these, I’ll recommend “The Legend.”