[ Pic Courtesy Sify]
In my review of Arindhum Ariyaamalum, director Vishnuvardhan's much-better follow-up to Kurumbu, I said "If he follows this trajectory, his next film will be something to look forward to". Fortunately, he has followed the trajectory in Pattiyal, his third film. Shifting gears from the light, commercial setting he seemed comfortable in, he gives us in this film a realistic, uncompromising look at Chennai underworld.
Pattiyal presents a side of Chennai that is rarely seen or even heard about. This is not a world where the employers are addressed as 'boss', the rowdies roam around in Tata Sumos and the biggest rowdy walks around in slo-mo with lesser rowdies behind him. The film presents an underworld that is more a loose network rather than an organized group. There are no permanent masters or servants. Loyalties are ever-shifting and its just money that decides those loyalties. In this fascinating environment, the director focuses on two people who are at the bottom of the food chain.
Kosi(Arya) and Selvam(Bharath) are orphans who have been the best of friends since childhood. They are contract killers for whom the targets are provided by Sami(Cochin Hanifa). Beyond Sami, they know nothing about who ordered those killings. Saroja(Padmapriya), who lives in the same area, pursues Kosi inspite of his complete lack of interest in her. Meanwhile Selvam develops a liking for Sandhya(Pooja), who works at a pharmacy. But their professions ensure that the two of them cannot lead normal lives.
The setting of Pattiyal is bleak - as would be expected of a film whose leads eke out their living by being contract killers. But Vishnuvardhan makes it entertaining too without much damaging the underlying realism. A big reason for this is the way he handles the romances. Arya's curt comebacks to Padmapriya's advances are very funny and make most of their scenes together entertaining. The romance between Bharath and Pooja is abrupt and too quick but makes up for it with its sweetness with Pooja's friend contributing to the laughs.
But its not just the romances that make us smile. The script throughout the film sparkles with several witty one-liners, observations, comments and retorts that find their mark because they are delivered in a very matter-of-fact manner. Many of the dialogs, like the comparison between a refrigerator and a gun and the confusion generated by Hanifa's name, would make even 'Crazy' Mohan proud.
The film lags just a little bit in the second half. Though things keep moving, some of the plot developments, especially on Arya's side, get a little clichéd. But luckily it picks up once again, aided by the unpredictability in the plot and suspense about how things are going to turn out. And the movie closes on a wonderful scene that illustrates the vicious circle of life.
Vishnuvardhan has a strong sense of style. His way of picturization and choice of locations, combined with Yuvan Shankar Raja's high-energy background score, lend a certain gloss to the film. The film's characters might be people from a lower class but the film itself is high-class. Some segments in particular, like the sequence where Arya and Bharath acquaint themselves with a newly-acquired handgun and a subsequent chase sequence, are exhilaratingly picturized.
Bharath scoops up the acting honors with a finely-tuned performance. He has a very expressive face and it comes in handy since his role demands that he speak a lot with his eyes and body language. Arya deserves courage for accepting this role at a time when he is talked about as the next pin-up boy in Tamil cinema. He looks unkempt, is perennially drunk and keeps Padmapriya at arm's length. He is good in the role but looks a little rough around the edges sometimes. Padmapriya's character is the opposite of her quiet, homely role in Thavamaai Thavamirundhu but she carries it off very well. Her dress for Namma Kaattula... isn't very complimentary to her figure though. Pooja looks cute as always and impresses when she is required to emote too.
Yuvan delivers a blockbuster soundtrack that, more importantly, gets the respect it deserves. Poga Poga... is the pick of the lot with the casual way it is picturized. Dei Namma... begs us to stand up and join Bharath and Arya as they shake their legs enthusiastically. Kannai Vittu... and Edhedho... are both catchy melodies though the circumstances are different. Stunt sequences match the realism of the rest of the movie and rarely feel like they are choreographed.