To me, the word that best describes Majaa is 'ordinary'. It has all ingredients, like romance, comedy, sentiments and fights, that go towards making a masala movie. But none of these are done to the point of being arresting. That might work for a small movie with modest ambitions. But when you have a popular hero and a movie that is accompanied by a bit of hype, the blandness just doesn't cut it. Ofcourse, since it has all the ingredients and a capable cast that doesn't make a mess of them, Majaa is entertaining. But just barely.
Govindan(Manivannan) and his two adopted sons Aadhi(Pasupathy) and Madhi(Vikram), are now reformed thieves, determined to earn an honest living in another village. But when their lorry breaks down halfway, they are forced to stay in the house of Chidambaram(Vijayakumar), who is buried under a mountain of debts. Aadhi and Madhi go about freeing Chidambaram from the clutches of Kaalinga Raayar(Murali). Aadhi falls for Chidambaram's daughter Selvi(Anu Prabhakar) while Raayar's daughter Seetha(Asin) falls for Madhi.
The film has a hero easy to root for, a charming heroine and a good supporting cast. But inspite of this it fails to get cracking since all aspects of it are muted. Its romance is limited since Vikram is, as far I could see, never in love with Asin and she falls for him for all the wrong reasons. Its comedy is never sustained enough to result in any funny sequences of substantial length. It only raises a few chuckles because of Pasupathy, his broken English and his behavior around Anu Prabhakar. Its sentiments are light and mostly treated with a comic touch. And its fights, barring a couple at the end, are ho-hum. Put them together and you should get an idea of why the movie doesn't really rise above the ordinary as a whole.
Though quite predictable and rather simplistic, the film's story has enough meat to keep the movie moving. The comedy, sentiments and romance keep us engaged since they usually occur in quick succession. So though they are individually weak, none of them last long enough to make us bored. As a result, very few scenes seem to run on for longer than necessary and Majaa manages to keep the viewer engaged.
Majaa completely lacks what I like to call high points. These are sequences, usually in masala movies, that raise our adrenaline and get us involved a bit more in the film. So even if the rest of the movie is ordinary, the movie keeps moving forward on the energy of these scenes(the pre-intermission scene in Baasha, the subway fight in Run and the election booth sequence in Dhool would be some examples). Majaa, on the other hand, flows at a steady pace with no real highs, be it in the romance, the comedy or the fights. Watching it is like driving a car on cruise control. You can sit back and relax but there is a real danger that you might fall asleep at the wheel!
Majaa might have let go of chances of raising both the comedy and the sentiment quotient by starting too late in the lives of its characters. When we first meet Manivannan and his two sons, they are reformed and we then learn of their closeness through bits of dialog scattered throughout the film. But the few scenes of their lives as thieves during the Podhumadaa Saami... song late in the film are very funny and give a hint of what could have been. A segment on their 'pre-reformed' lives might have given the movie a funny start, apart from providing a more solid foundation for their bonding.
Vikram is rough and tough throughout, getting almost no chance for romance. Pasupathy is the surprise package and almost the life of the movie. He makes us push aside his villainous face and image and smile and root for his shy romance to be a success. His expressive face suits comedy just as well as it suited villainy and full credit goes to Kamal for first finding him and then uncovering a new facet of his talent. Asin looks very pretty in most scenes(loose hair suits her much better than a ponytail or other tied-up hairstyles) but after a fiery start(where she gets to whack Vikram on the back), is relegated to the sidelines. Inspite of trying hard, Biju Menon's face just isn't able to convey the menace required to be an effective villain. Vadivelu raises a few chuckles and Murali seems uncomfortable initially before his character changes around.
I've always felt Vikram has a very poor dress sense for song sequences and the first dress he wears for the Solli Tharavaa... sequence has to be the worst so far. The sad part is that that is the stand out part of the otherwise unimaginatively picturised duet. Chee Chee...'s clean picturization belies the sensuous nature of the song's lyrics. In fact the movie on the whole is one of the cleanest in recent times and is the first movie I remember in a while where the heroine and even the item number actress(Sindhu Tolani, who joins Vikram for Thai Maasam...) don't expose their navels! Hey Pangaali...'s picturization manages to match the high energy of the song itself.
There are quite a few fights but the standout is the fight between Vikram and Pasupathy in the mud. Both actors seem to have done most of it without stunt doubles and it shows on screen. The climactic fight is also well mounted though it seems to go on for too long.
Majaa is rather saadhaa!