Thiruttu Payale is one of the victims of Tamil cinema’s unwritten rule that every film must be a masala film. Because of this rule, what should have been a lean and mean noir crime thriller is transformed into an uneven film whose main story is routinely interrupted by comedy and songs. It is still darker than your average Tamil film and so provides a different viewing experience but overall, is just another addition to the list of movies that could have been so much better.
When Manikam(Jeevan) becomes too much for his parents to handle, they pack him off to live with his uncle in the city. There he stumbles upon a couple(Abbas, Malavika) having an affair and realizes that they are his ticket to a rich life. He begins to blackmail them and the couple, who both have families of their own, give Manikam what he wants. On a trip to Australia, courtesy the couple, Manikam meets Rosie(Sonia Agarwal), a rich but lonely girl and falls in love. That’s when he begins to realize that there are things more important than money in life.
Thiruttu Payale’s biggest asset is its protagonist. After seeing movies where heroes have squeaky clean images and behave in predictable ways, it’s a relief seeing a protagonist with broad shades of gray. Sure he is true to his heart when it comes to romance but that is his only redeeming attribute. He doesn’t hesitate to blackmail, steal and even kill to achieve his dreams. It may not make him likeable but it does make him interesting and that’s something that cannot be said about too many Tamil cinema heroes lately.
But having shaped such a protagonist, the director fails to place him in a movie that does justice to such a character. The basic story is not at fault but is padded with so much extraneous stuff that the movie as a whole drags at many places and comes to a complete stop at others. The protagonist is made to dance, ogle at girls and indulge in silly comedy. There is also a separate comedy track, which is not really funny to begin with and then becomes irritating as it becomes an unconnected track. The song sequences, which include a belly dance item number, fare worse. The comedy segments and songs simply serve as speedbumps to the movie’s flow.
The movie’s basic plot, while different from run-of-the-mill Tamil cinema stories, isn’t completely airtight either. It has some nice surprises but the plot point that the movie hinges on(which happens just before the intermission) is too weak and raises too many questions. The development would’ve been believable only if the romance between Jeevan and Sonia had been developed correctly. But the romance is developed half-heartedly and lacks passion or intensity. So the actions of both Jeevan and Malavika seem dumb at that point though they both show flashes of intelligence before and after.
The movie finally realizes the kind of film it is only towards the end. It develops the pace that a movie of this type needs, throws in some unexpected plot developments and reveals the unseen side of some characters. The director also adopts a technique where he shows a scene(which we think has concluded) but then doubles back in time to show us that it ended in a manner very different from what we assumed. In a way he’s double-crossing us but it leads to some nice surprises.
The movie contains quite an ensemble of bad actors. Almost everyone seems stiff and goes through the motions rather than really getting into the skin of the character. Jeevan suits the role quite well but is still wooden in many places. Sonia looks almost disinterested and as always, is quite dull. Malavika gets a meaty role but doesn’t add anything special to it. She is clearly a director's actress and hams it up in quite a few places. Director Susi Ganesan, like many with other recent directors, has been bitten by the acting bug too and shows up in the role of a private detective. But he’s not even close to being as irritating as Perarasu was in Tirupathi.