Jan 27 2011
After Pollaadhavan, Dhanush and director Vetri Maaran have moved away from the city to the village for their next film Aadukalam. But the memorable characters, engrossing screenplay, attention to detail and meticulous research that went into their first film are all raised a few notches here, resulting in a film that is thoroughly entertaining and consistently gripping.
The rivalry in rooster fighting between Pettaikkaaran(Jayabalan) and Rathnasamy(Naren) has been going on for several years with the results always in favor of Pettaikkaaran so far. Key to Pettaikkaaran maintaining his winning record are Karuppu(Dhanush) and Durai(Kishore). When Karuppu enters his rooster in a competition against Pettaikkaaran’s advice, the latter feels slighted. Meanwhile Karuppu falls for Irene(Taapsee), an Anglo-Indian girl but she has no such feelings towards him.
The movie starts off with a war between two veterans. Though it is not an outright ‘good vs evil’ fight, the battle lines are clearly drawn and its obvious who we are supposed to root for. But from this familiar position, the screenplay is developed in a way that is consistently surprising. By making us cast doubts on various characters and creating conflicts where one isn’t sure who is right and who is wrong, the screenplay keeps us in a constant state of suspense about where things are going to go.
Even after the path is evident and the key players are identified, the film maintains it intensity because of the persons involved. The history between the people on either side and the emotions involved – jealousy on one side and blind trust on the other – make the proceedings engrossing. As relationships fall apart and friendships are put under test, the way things are developed from a small difference of opinion to a full-blown war with treachery and double-crosses is marvelously drawn out.
Taapsee being an Anglo-Indian allows for a little variation from the familiar rich girl-poor boy scenario but its just a small variation since the opposition comes from the usual source – her parents. Still Dhanush’s innocence and bravado make the progress of their romance a pleasure. From their first meeting(Taapsee’s expression and Dhanush’s revolted expression as he throws away his hammer is a small gem) to the night she spends experiencing his world and his life, the arc their relationship takes is natural and convincing inspite of the difference in their lives. And when it is time to prove her love, it is nice that Taapsee chooses the same method that Dhanush used to show his love to her.
The film unfurls against the backdrop of rooster fighting and the business has been brought on screen with realism, thanks no doubt to the painstaking research. From the participants’ pride to the pre-fight preparation the roosters go through to the bustling atmosphere at the fights themselves, the industry has been brought alive with all its color and excitement (the computer graphics used to create the fights are nicely done and actually work instead of being a distraction since we are able to enjoy the fights without thinking about what the real roosters went through during the shooting). And the moments during the fight between Dhanush and Kishore, when the words spoken during the opening(about rooster fights extending beyond the sport to the men playing it) come true is truly exhilarating.
After the intensity in the final portions, the climax is a little bit of a letdown. It is certainly logical and in line with the way the characters and the relationships between them have been developed but viscerally, it doesn’t serve as a fitting punchline to the intense goings-on preceding it.
Dhanush slips effortlessly into his role as the rooster ‘jockey’ in a terrific performance as his tenderness when tending to the roosters and his excitement when sending them to fight are completely natural. The mix of innocence and playfulness he exhibits with Taapsee is endearing and comes as easily as the fierce loyalty he shows towards Jayabalan. Taapsee looks ravishing without seeming to try but isn’t exerted much as far as the romance goes. Jayabalan is impressive as he transforms from a proud mentor to a jealous enemy and Kishore is solid as always. The supporting cast, like the actors playing Dhanush’s friend and Jayabalan’s wife, has been carefully picked and does a fantastic job also.
Yathe Yathe… is instantly catchy and perfectly captures Dhanush’s elation. Dhanush’s few seconds of uninhibited dancing during that song leave us wanting more and he fulfills that in the heady dance he performs for Otha Sollaala…. Aiyo Aiyo… is melodious and soothing and provides the perfect background for the special time Dhanush and Taapsee spend together. The cinematography helps the realism the film strives for and even the fights are realistic and never look staged.
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