I’ve heard K.S.Ravikumar mention in more than 1 interview that Saravanaa is a remake of a Telugu film. Turns out, the film is a remake of a Tamil film too! The director has simply taken Gilli, changed the chronology of events a bit and served it to us as Saravanaa. But a stronger emphasis on comedy and KSR's experience at handling a masala film make the end product entertaining even if not original.
Saravanaa(Simbhu) attends a college in Bangalore and on seeing a video of his roommate’s sister Sadhana(Jyothika), falls for her. A few days later, we see him take Sadhana to his house in Chennai and make her stay there with no explanation to his family. Sadhana slowly begins to grow closer to the family members, who understand Saravanaa’s feelings for her. But when things come to a head regarding her unknown past, Saravanaa is forced to reveal why he was forced to bring her home. That's when the family realizes that the pair's lives are still in danger.
It is really surprising how close Saravanaa is to Gilli. I don’t understand how KSR could not have realized, even as he was directing it, how much his film resembled the Vijay-starrer. Apart from the basic storyline (hero goes on the run with the heroine and puts her up in his house), the way the romance is developed and several plot points(like the heroine wanting to leave the country and asking the hero to help her) also remind us of the story arc in Gilli. Not to mention Simbhu imitating Vijay at several places. Aside from the Gilli similarities, there’s also a track of a maid misinterpreting the relationship between Saravanaa and Krishna a la Kal Ho Na Ho. So a sense of déjà vu is unavoidable when watching the film.
KSR has always shown a good knack for comedy in his movies and that’s what helps Saravanaa too. He populates Simbhu’s family with some colorful and interesting characters who make up a lively bunch, always laughing, teasing others and having fun. The jabs they make at the expense of one another are frequently funny and make the proceedings jolly and entertaining. And with Vivek along for the ride, there is no shortage of laughs though most of them lead to chuckles rather than big laughs.
The same sense of fun pervades the romance too, making it cute and enjoyable. Simbhu gets into a self-deprecating mode and that is a lot more fun than the usual heroine-falling-for-macho-hero routine. His attempts to impress Jyothika are cute and the fact that they are frequently unsuccessful makes them funny. The comedy makes sure that we are smiling through most of the film. The segment also includes a long diatribe by Simbhu, about the actions of people who go to foreign lands, that is hilarious(and mostly accurate).
The moment we see an aruvaal on the screen, we know that some bloody violence is coming up soon and we are not disappointed. The violence is visceral and its level and intensity don’t match the light tone of the movie so far. The body count and amount of blood spilled are again way too high for a masala movie. The only relief is that the really gruesome violence is restricted to the flashback and is over pretty quickly. And the situation (in particular, a conversation Prakashraj has with Simbhu) makes the violence in that segment too seem just a little bit less gratuitous.
After a quiet, subdued turn in Thotti Jaya, Simbhu goes back into full chatterbox mode here. He is overly expressive in many scenes but does bring a lot of energy into the role. Jyothika looks old in some scenes though that might be due to bad (or no) make up. A single pottu reduces her age by atleast 10 years and she looks very cute in the right dresses. The villains are as usual an overacting, loud bunch but the actor playing Prakashraj’s right-hand man makes an impression. Prakashraj and Vivek are 2 actors who appear in all 3 Pongal releases. Prakashraj is effective as usual while Vivek has some funny lines in almost all his segments. Meghna Naidu seems to be aiming for Namitha’s slot with her choice of dresses. There are no melodies in Srikanth Deva's soundtrack and a couple of the songs seemed to have no tune at all.