Sunday, April 05, 2009


The 80s and 90s were the glory years for the masala movie in Tamil cinema. But with the cliched, crass films from the likes of Vijay, Simbhu and Arjun, the term 'masala film' has understandably become a rather derogatory term these days, referring to films targeted only at the front-benchers. Ayan, the second film by K.V.Anand, who is back in the director's chair after Kanaa Kanden, restores some respect to the genre. It serves up its masala with style and smarts and shows us, especially in the first half, that a good masala film can work for everybody.

Das(Prabhu) smuggles everything from pirated VCDs to diamonds and Deva(Surya) is his right-hand man who does the legwork for their missions. Kamlesh(Akashdeep Saigal) is their main rival. Eyeing a bigger slice of the pie, he is willing to entice Das' longtime customers as well as transport drugs, something that Das refuses to do. Chittibabu(Jagan) is the latest addition to Das' group. Deva and Chitti's sister Yamuna(Tamannah) fall for each other but the subsequent happenings complicate things quite a bit.

Ayan's first half offers further proof that its not what a movie offers but rather how it is presented that is important. The film has all the familiar afflictions of masala movies like poor logic, weak characterization and an unconvincing romance. But its easy to overlook these because the proceedings are just so darn entertaining. The Surya-Tamannaah romance is too quick to earn any emotional investment but their funny first meeting and subsequent sweetness make sure we don't miss the emotional aspect. Similarly, Jagan and Tamannaah don't make a very convincing brother and sister but Jagan's string of comments(like the ones when Tamannaah arrives to buy a cellphone) are so hilarious that its easy to look past that.

Ayan has enough minor twists and plot developments to keep going beyond the initial game of one-upmanship between Prabhu-Surya and Akashdeep. The twists - including the key one - are rather weak but they keep the momentum from flagging too much since they add some new dynamics to existing relationships and introduce some interesting scenarios. The film also offers some interesting behind-the-scenes look at some of the smuggling operations and though they don't feel as meticulous or gritty as the bike stealing operation in Padikkaadhavan, they do add some realism to the proceedings.

But the film begins to slow down soon after. The twists keep coming and the film employs the old adage "It has takes a thief to know a thief" in an interesting manner but it seems to start spinning its wheels. Both the plot points and the way Anand presents them - surprising us first and then rewinding to show us what really happened - are no longer surprising since they start to feel repetitive.

Anand's first film as director, Kanaa Kanden, was an intelligent thriller that relied more on brains than brawn. Brawn takes the upper hand in Ayan, which is a much more overt masala offering than the earlier film, but that doesn't turn out to be such a bad thing since Anand turns out to be equally adept at picturizing action. With quick editing, judicious use of stunt doubles and an athletic Surya, he gives us one of the best foot-chases we've seen in Tamil cinema. A car chase in Malaysia is terrific too. The hand-to-hand fights are energetic and when they are not, the locations(like the spectacular mountains in South Africa) keep us hooked anyway.

Surya has developed the swagger and confidence that comes with stardom(and we know he's a bona fide star when the sight of him in the getups of some of his previous roles makes us wanna cheer). The initial negative shades of his character don't come as much of a surprise but it does irk when he apparently takes a video of an innocent girl being molested(to get her dad to change teams) instead of saving her. Tamannaah looks pretty but has little to do. Jagan is the life of the movie and shows perfect comic timing. He makes almost all his jokes work. Akashdeep is a new face but doesn't bring anything new to his role. PaLa PaLakkura... and Vizhi Moodi... are picturized well with some good laughs as they give us a peek into the lives of Surya and Tamannaah. Thoovum Poomazhai... and Nenje Nenje... are more old-fashioned duets with the locations in the latter being particularly breathtaking.


At 12:16 AM, Anonymous RDX said...

Hi Balaji,Pls see the link below...Vijay loses his cool in press meet....

At 1:59 AM, Blogger Raju said...

Agree with you on most points... the second half was quite boring, to say the least. That is an anti-thesis for a good masala movie. Now, after watching the movie, what would you say of Surya and Anand's claim of the movie touching upon a theme 'never seen before in Indian cinema'? Also, what about meeting the expectations that you mentioned in the preview?

BTW, it is 'Pollathavan' in which the bike was stolen.

At 2:56 AM, Blogger seshasai said...


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At 10:44 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just found out that Nandha by Bala, acting by surya was copied from an old mallu movie. Here is the ending

At 11:09 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Awesome movie.. I really loved Prabhu's acting. He's still got it

At 3:04 AM, Anonymous pratheep said...

Hi Mr. Balaji

I am coming to California in the end of may and will be studying there for 3 weeks. I wish I could visit you and your familiy once and have meal together. I am regular visitor of your blog and find it great.

best wishes

At 7:52 AM, Anonymous Sivajini said...

Balaji, so how many stars and is this movie worth and seeing at the theatre?

At 5:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


I am frequent reader of your blog and I check your reviews before heading to the theater. I would appreciate if you could incorporate the number of 'stars' in the main blog itself so that it would help to determine which movie to watch and which to avoid. Thanks.

At 6:13 PM, Anonymous Prakash said...

Anon, that's the thing about bb's reviews. He gives the broad outline of the movie, and what he liked/disliked. Best of all, he doesn't give away any key plot points or twists. So you can read the entire review safely, and make your own decision. The number of stars doesn't really matter.

If it's a movie I am going to watch or am on the fence, I usually avoid reading any other reviews (in case they give too much away), and go by number of stars.

In this case, the 1st para decided it for me:
"... restores some respect to the genre. It serves up its masala with style and smarts and shows us, especially in the first half, that a good masala film can work for everybody." It has indeed been a while since I watched a good masala movie. So I'm going.


I'm guessing 2.5 or 3 stars, btw.

At 8:23 PM, Blogger Balaji said...

RDX, thanx. did see it b4 :)

raju, some of the points like being the conduit for smuggling and the technical aspects were new. but there was no real theme overall for it to have been seen before. Personally, the 1st half met my expectations fully but not the second :)
yes, it was 'pollaadhavan'. will fix it :)

komala, really?! but i did think he was better here than some of his other movies. he did look even fatter though :)

sivajini, 2.5 *. yes, I'd say its worth a theater trip :)

anon, problem with posting the stars is that most readers get hung up on it. i'd feel better if u get my opinion of the movie from the actual review :)

prakash, thanks! yes, its 2.5 stars :)

At 8:08 AM, Blogger Ram Pranavan said...

I would have to say I was a bit disappointed with the film. The second half needed some tightness. Instead it lagged.

I have to agree with BB about the villain. If they had a conventional hero playing the villain character (like Prasanna in Anjathey) it would have made a big difference. This villain could not act - there I've said it.

Surya was great and Prabhu was good. I was expecting something in the lines of Kanaa Kanden (quoting BB - "more brains than brawn") so I was disappointed.

Btw, the first chase reminded me of Bourne Ultimatum...

At 2:04 PM, Anonymous glass said...

Balaji...I see that while you have replied to everyone's message you have intentionally not replied to Mr.Pratheep's message...with what meaning did you decide to ignore/ not reply back to his message? I mean I do agree it is very weird and abnormal to have lunch with a blog visiter you haven't even had a formal conversation with but in the meanwhile you could atleast reply to his message and say NO THANKS or provide a reason not to instead of just ignoring the poor person.

At 11:48 PM, Blogger Balaji said...

ram, yes many of our directors drop the ball in the 2nd half which is when they should take things a level higher. the trailer promised an action flick and so i wasn't too disappointed with the "more brawn than brains". and yes the chase, esp. the jump through the window, was defly inspired by 'Bourne Ultimatum' :)

glass, actually I didn't reply to sesashai since it is an automated comment. I have recd the exact same comment from Pratheep on a couple of other posts. So I'm not sure if its spam too. If it is indeed a genuine request, he can always email me and then I would definitely respond to him :)

At 2:10 PM, Anonymous pratheep said...

No Mr. Balaji

I posted that comment only once and u didnt answer it. No problem. I just wanted to meet you and discuss about some things because i am a big admirer of your blog. But instead you are telling lies about couple of other posts and stuff like that...
If u dont have time or interest in meeting me just be honest and tell me that. I dont have a problem with it.

best wishes

At 8:44 PM, Blogger Balaji said...

pratheep, only once? I'm sure I saw the same comment in the 'The Older Child' post also. as I said to glass, these kinds of unrelated/personal comments in posts confuse me since I'm not sure if they're real or spam :)

At 11:14 AM, Blogger Shanmuga said...

Nice review. I saw the movie yesterday. It is far better than last 3 Vijay movies. Good acting and story are important even in Masala movies, Ayan proves that via terrific acting of Suriya and good direction by Anand.

At 10:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

pratheep, if i were balaji, i would definitely not meet with you and that too with the entire family! you need to know where to draw the line! however, it is not my business, and it is balaji's.

At 5:29 AM, Anonymous Mukund Ragunathan said...

I think that tamil cinema is going forward gradually (with the exception of movies made by directors like perarasu), the main aspect i liked about this movie was the first foot chase in africa, seriously, it was a sequence which could have made a bourne or Mission impossible movie proud, absolutely fantastic, just for that action sequence i liked the movie!

At 11:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tamannas belly is good...good belly button...though when she runs the belly appears 2 be a bit fluffy...still its a sexy belly...


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