Monday, August 25, 2008


Vishal probably expected Sathyam to be his Saamy. He plays the same kind of no-nonsense cop, squares off against the same villain that Vikram clashed with and even utters a punchline that puts a small twist on Vikram's own, now-famous punchline from that film. Unfortunately, the comparisons stop there. While Saamy would figure among the better cop movies in Tamil cinema, the haphazard screenplay, the silly romance and the amateurish storyline place Sathyam squarely in the bottom half of the list.

Sathyam(Vishal) is a conscientious cop who believes in bringing criminals to book through judicial means rather than eliminating them through staged encounters. This attitude brings him to the notice of the Police Minister Kondaldasan(Kota Srinivasa Rao), a power-hungry politician who has his eyes on the indisposed Chief Minister's chair. Kondaldasan plans to eliminate his competitors to the CM's post and a skilled assassin(Upendra) is chosen for the mission. As the politicians are killed, Sathyam is assigned to the case. Meanwhile Deva(Nayanthara), an aspiring reporter who lives in Sathyam's apartment complex, clashes with him as he teams up with some naughty kids to harass her.

We've recently been used to cops who take the law into their own hands. So things start off differently here with Vishal intent on doing things by the book. As he begins to investigate the political murders, the film also shows signs of turning into an investigative thriller(even if not a very intelligent one since its primary elements are Vishal's intuition and Upendra's sloppiness). But both these starts lead to nowhere as the film eventually ends up following the exact same trajectory of most other masala cop movies. So Vishal goes up against a powerful politician, is victimized by the same system he believed in and gets increasingly frustrated at the state of affairs.

The film's screenplay is a mess with originality, continuity and tonal consistency not very high on the director's list of priorities. So we have a violent fight sequence followed by a Home Alone-style sequence of physical and slapstick comedy, the more physical parts of which are shown in Aalavandhaan-style animation. There's a sequence that recreates the scene at the RTO in Indian, even bringing back Senthil in an identical get-up as the corrupt officer while a chase sequence at the airport is lifted from Casino Royale. And as always, songs pop up at regular intervals, introduced by abrupt lead-ins. All this ensures that none of the aspects, like the romance, the action or the comedy, are convincing and we never buy into even a minute of the film.

Sathyam makes the same mistake that most other movies starring a big-name hero make - namely, treating the protagonist as a superhero rather than a hero. This is established early in the proceedings when a ball that Vishal kicks, after hitting the main bad guy, ricochets off him to hit all his buddies and then zips back to rotate furiously under Vishal's outstretched palm! Scenes like this make Vishal seem like a cartoon character rather than a flesh-and-blood character and nips any involvement we could've had with the character, right in the bud. The fight sequences, like the one in the ice factory, are mounted well but all of them have such moments that prevent them from being realistic.

Vishal looks the part with his stern looks and toned physique. Its obvious that stunts are his strength and he proves this during the fight sequences. I felt during one scene in Yaaradi Nee Mohini that Nayanthara had good comic flair that just hadn't been exploited. Not the case here though. She hams pretty badly, especially initially during her tiffs with the kids and Vishal. She looks gorgeous and every bit the heroine in the duets though. Harris Jayaraj does nothing special for his 25th movie. Chellame... reminds us of Vaseegaraa... while Aaradi Kaathe... is his now-familiar hero introduction number. Ada Gada... is staged as a fantasy number aimed at the kids but looks kinda cheap. Paal Pappaali... is the worst of the lot and pops up at the worst time also.


At 12:13 AM, Blogger D.E.V said...

" a violent fight sequence followed by a Home Alone-style sequence of physical and slapstick comedy, the more physical parts of which are shown in Aalavandhaan-style animation. There's a sequence that recreates the scene at the RTO in Indian, even bringing back Senthil in an identical get-up as the corrupt officer while a chase sequence at the airport is lifted from Casino Royale"

I have a feeling that the director might have narated these scenes to Vishal and co and everyone had gone gaga over it. waste of precious time and money. i should just sue the producers for all my efforts gone waste in watching this movie. i rather watch a rerun of vijaykanth's Perarasu which sudeenly looking like a classic compared to this thrash!!!

At 5:28 AM, Blogger Rajesh Thiagarajan said...

I guess Sathyam just reinforces your following thot.

"Its been a pretty familiar trend for most high-profile movies of late... a big launch, eye-catching stills, a lot of big talk by the cast and crew, enormous hype leading up to the release and eventually, a disappointing film"

BB, given the quality of tamil cinema (excluding Subramaniapuram) in 2008 so far, are there any tamil movies that you are looking forward to?


At 6:57 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

SATHYAMaa indha padatha theatre-la paaka maaten given your review!

just curious- how was the bgm? Harris usually does a good job with the background score in action movies...idhula epdi?

At 8:33 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You know Balaji, I was waiting for you to review this movie, had you I wouldn't have seen it.
I told my friends, Sathayam oru waste padam!

Couldn't agree with you more on the review, I kept thinking, I should just watch Kaaka Kaaka or Samy again. What really pissed me off was I had heard india glitz and other random places rant and rave about what an important role Nayanthara had as a reporter and how she had punch dialogues, etc.etc...

Now I've come to expect that female leads only come in for about 30 minutes of the film, it hasn't stopped me from watching the films, after all what else am I gonna do right? But to try to raise my hopes about a female lead being given importance was just not cool!

At 9:51 AM, Blogger Bart said...

Sathyam?!! Wat to say..
We are in very desperate need for writers. Even in Hindi we have a few doing just writing as their profession - Sriram Raghavan, Abbas Tyrewala (before JTYJN) etc. Malayalam movies in 80s and early 90s had good standards because of the same reason perhaps. In Tamil, I think Mahendran, Panju Arunachalam were just doing writing (Story, Screenplay and sometimes Dialogues) for sometime. Then there was Selvaraj for Bharathiraja's movies. Now I cannot think of any Director doing just direction (Probably no director feels complete without the other three departments under his belt). Hope things change.

At 10:01 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Not sure if you watched Satyam's review of Hasini Pesum Padam. Even Suhasini was not happy of the way Nayan was potrayed in the movie, especially her acting after Billa. She further stressed that it was unusual to see Nayan in "loosu" acts (falling trap to kids setup). Besides, she pointed out that Sudha Chandran's disability was exploited in this movie.


Did you watch Vishal's interview on Independence Day? he is too much...the interview took place in a haunted looking house.
I don't understand why Vishal likes to appear in long hair in songs (Ada Gada and Ariyan from Chellame), makes him look very unhygienic.

At 10:10 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sahana- nope never heard of it.
Balaji is my one stop spot for Tamil movie reviews:D Ofcourse if I decide I want some spoilers or unabated 'glory' reviews then I read Indiaglitz.

But yeah I too watched Vishal's interview on Independence Day on cd and frankly he looked unhygienic in that as well! Lol. his lies!

At 11:22 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bart -- you are right. The directing, cinematography, stunts, effects, makeup has improved in the last 30 years, but the writing has gone down the drain.

Saamy was pretty bad, so for this movie to be worse says something.

At 2:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Vishal's really let the success go to his head. Unlike Karthi, Jayam Ravi, Arya or Bharath, he has been fantasizing about the movie ever since the film started. It's tough to say it, but he need this critical and commercial flop (!)

Hope he gets back to down to earth roles. What was the star rating?

At 2:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Now I am looking forward for late Jeeva's Dhaam Dhoom, looks like it is releasing this weekend. I hope Jeeva who delivered great movies will not disappoint one last time, for sure it will not disappoint like Kuselan and Sathyam :-)

At 3:08 PM, Blogger mitr_bayarea said...


Being someone who likes Vishal, after reading this review, have decided to watch the movie in DVD.

At 3:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


I can't believe that you still want to watch this movie. lol

At 4:18 PM, Blogger Balaji said...

skanda, exactly what i was thinking. director narrated these things that probably looked clever and funny on paper but he had no idea how to integrate them into the movie :)

rajesh, yep, 'sathyam' is a perfect example of that. and as far as tamil cinema goes, hope springs eternal. so i'm defly looking fwd to 'saroja', 'dhaam dhoom', 'vaaranam aayiram', etc. hope atleast some of them break the trend :)

ram, i actually think HJ is pretty bad at the bgm, esp. after 'ghajini'. but didn't really stand out here :)

sivajini, even compared to other hero-oriented movies, nayan's role here was pretty bad. she was pretty much a comedianne :)

bart, well said. i think the directors just pen a screenplay that give an ego-boost to the actor and so other important aspects like story, script, etc. get sidelined. wonder when the situation's gonna change :)

sahana, yeah nayan went thro a major image change after 'billa' and her role here was just too childish and slapstick for that.
and no, didn't see the interview. doesn't look i missed much anyway :)

anon, "Saamy was pretty bad" - i thot it was pretty good as long u looked at it as a masala cop movie. but if u thot it was pretty bad, u should defly keep away from 'sathyam' :)

prin, 1.5 * :)

boopathy, i hope so too :)

mitr, good decision :)

anon, she did say she likes vishal :)

At 5:09 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Wasn't Anjathey a 2008 film? People seem to forget it when they mention this year's good movies.

At 8:59 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks again BB for your spot on review. This saves my time now (I had a glimpse of hope on the movie). Its again the eye-catching promotions that generates our interest. I remember that scene where Vishal kick the ball and what follows after that is a good idea of what we can expect (even Zizou could not have achieved it).

Anjaathey and Subramaniapuram are the 2 movies we can trust on this year (would you believe it has come from new comers??). I hope that Saroja turns out to be a hit, am eagerly awaiting for its release.

BB, whats your idea on Ayan? Will it make some impact with KV Anand wielding the magaphone?

At 10:59 PM, Blogger Balaji said...

sujay, yes it was. i guess 'subramanyapuram' pushed it out of people's memories :)

rags, thanx! i liked anand's 'kanaa kanden'. was a good thriller with nice characters. so defly have some hopes about 'ayan' :)

At 5:12 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I haven't seen this movie it does go on to prove that no amount of marketing "strategies" help when the package itself is bad. We have seen some other Vishal movies become a hit based on some fancy advertising but the fact was that those movies were not croppers by any means. I saw a few scenes on Sun TV and boy were they amateurish! Rajini could not pull off the volleyball trick... wonder how Vishal thought he could pull it off!!! The graphics were certainly better though :D. The other scene was Vishal's sermon to Nayantara when she captures him on video when he hits some villians!

I did think the story had a nice plot. Hero going against his own mentor who has lost faith in the system. I guess from all the reviews I have read though the movie has been very badly executed.

At 5:39 AM, Blogger Random Thoughts said...

Just happened to land on this blog. I never quite liked Vishal. I like Nayan and I saw the "so-called" song "chellame..".

So gonna conveniently skip this !!

At 5:19 PM, Blogger D.E.V said...

"Satyam" was completely an 80's movie but still it's highly doubtful whether it would have suceded at that time also.


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