Love stories need to come from the heart to touch our hearts. The story(i.e. the romance) should take centrestage and make us care about the characters for a love story to work. That becomes almost impossible when you have a hero who doesn’t know the meaning of the word “low-key” and tries to upstage everything else in his quest to project himself as the next Rajnikanth. That’s Vallavan’s biggest problem though the weak screenplay and lackluster characterization share the credit for the film’s failure.
Its love at first sight for Valluvan(Simbhu) when he spots Swapna(Nayanthara) at the temple. Learning that she is a lecturer at his college and is 3 years older than him does nothing to dampen his feelings and he woos her. She reciprocates his feelings soon but turns out the age difference is a bigger issue for her. She breaks up with him and to make things worse, Valluvan’s past, in the form of his schoolmate Geetha(Reema), comes back to haunt him.
In Manmadhan and Thotti Jaya, Simbhu had conveyed the impression that he could cut down his mannerisms to suit the character. But here he is back in full finger-swishing, camera-mugging, philosophy-spouting, punch-dialog-mouthing mode. And it is intolerable. Particularly after Reema enters the picture, almost every sequence has him walking in slo-mo, reeling off long dialogs hyperactively or grinning condescendingly after throwing a challenge. Without another director to rein him in, he is completely over-the-top and frequently gets on our nerves. Not to mention his aping Rajnikanth at every given opportunity. From the dialog just before his introduction to morphing his face into Rajni’s, he leaves us in no doubt as to who he wants to be.
We’ve seen a number of romances run into problems because of ego, religion, caste, social status, etc. in Tamil cinema but this is one of the few times age is used as the stumbling block. That gives the romance some freshness but we soon realize that it is little more than a gimmick. Problems arise because of Nayanthara’s principles on the issue rather than any analysis of why the age difference might create problems. Simbhu also addresses the usual infatuation/love question by deglamorizing himself as he woos Nayanthara. This makes sense(and leads to the wonderful, remixed Kaadhal Vandhiruchu… song sequence) but the point when he reveals himself makes no sense considering his reason for putting on the disguise in the first place. But the above 2 touches to the romance, along with Santhanam’s one-liners and another couple’s activities, do keep us engaged.
The film then abandons the love story as Simbhu walks down memory lane to remember his romance with Reema in school. Absolutely nothing rings true in this romance and everything is extreme. Reema’s character is completely over-the-top but there is always the possibility that she is psychotic. Since this is a flashback, her behavior is acceptable as the setup for a strong female villain for Simbhu to go against. Simbhu bending over backwards to please her is what makes the whole thing unrealistic and totally unbelievable. Nobody would ever go through what Reema puts him through. And then he does a 180 and goes to the other, chauvinistic end of the scale so he can insult her.
In theory, the film’s pace should have picked up as Reema comes back from the past to clash with Simbhu. But the screenplay does not do a competent job, merely leading to a couple of weak confrontation scenes between the two. Padaiyappa and Neelambari, these two are not! The completely unnecessary and vulgar Ammaadi Aathaadi… (with T.Rajendar making an appearance at the end) too does its part to completely destroy the little tension there is.
Nayanthara looks great sometimes and a little too ordinary at other times and its her pottu that makes all the difference. Poor Reema… She initially looks pale and washed out in the attempt to look like a school girl. She makes us get over it with her performance in the flashback but then fails at that too as her acting becomes as over-the-top as her character after the flashback ends. Sandya hangs out with Simbhu a lot but barring one scene, has no impact on the story. Santhanam makes us laugh with one-liners delivered in his usual style.
Yuvan’s soundtrack supports the film well. Loosu Penne… is quite catchy and even its lyrics make sense in the context of the film. Nayanthara and Simbhu have a good time in Vallavaa…, another good duet. The Kaadhal Vandhiruchu… remix is well-placed and features some good choreography as Simbhu abandons his usual style and tries to dance clumsily. Both Hip Hip Hooray… and Podu Aattam Podu… look grand with the huge number of dancers on screen. Ammaadi Aathaadi… has some nifty visual touches but sounds and looks crass.