Formulaic films have always been the safe-bet for our filmmakers ensuring a breather for struggling stars and gateway for new entrants. Is it mainly because of the abundance of successful reference material to source from for formulaic masala film, or because of the difficulty to create formulaic structures in other genres, anything done besides action or comedy in films have always been termed novel attempt. While many feel-good films have attempted to serve a commercial potboiler, only few were able to please the audience, of which Cinematographer turned Director Jeeva’s films contributed a lot. After a long lull created by his demise, debutante Atlee, with his rom-com Raja Rani, has successfully filled the gap.
Adding himself to the list of new age filmmakers with great taste for visuals, Atlee creates pitch perfect backdrop for the film’s riches and lower-middle class portions. Moving further in, besides fleetingly touching the sensibilities of the well-off audience through the leads’ sophisticated lifestyle, he also plays to the gallery through the usual charades of Santhanam and Sathyan and through a surprisingly urbane version of Nan Kadavul-Rajendran. And yet, for someone who shows great command over every part of filmmaking, Atlee fails to understand the requirements of the content he has chosen. Instead of plotting the film around the romance in the three love stories and flavoring them with other crowd-pulling factors, the love stories seem to be excuses for the irreverence of the key artists in each segment to take the center stage. While I don’t have any issue over irreverent comedy, this movie diligently asks us to take the love stories to be heart wrenching while not giving anything substantial to make us invest in these characters. While Jai/Nayanthara and Arya/Nazariya pairs fall in love because they have to, Arya and Nayanthara have only sympathy for each other. If they are that weak at heart, I wonder why they treat their spouses inhumanly when we don’t even dare to do such things to strangers in real life. Clearly Atlee’s only intention is to entertain us in each frame by any means available. Sundar C and Rajesh who are pioneers in this kind of nonsense comedy never ask us to take the subject seriously and only ask us to enjoy the comedy. To top it, the funny lines aren't extraordinary to forget this serious flaw. Till Anniyan, even Shankar, who fills his screenplay with impractical comic reliefs to balance his serious subject, doesn't compromise the emotional undercurrent of the film for the sake of having popular entertaining elements.
Sometimes a lack of strong love can be overcome by stellar captivating performances. While it’s overwhelming to see the actors completely surrendering to the director’s vision, except for Sathyaraj and Nayanthara’s roles, Atlee has only been able to give to most of his artists roles that they have become famous for. While Arya carry forwards his happy-go-lucky guy role, Sathyan reprises his overconfident-frail guy role, Santhanam his guide/philosopher/best friend role, Jai though continues where he left-off in Engeyum Epodhum, effectively captures the attention of the audience with an innocent portrayal of Surya. Meanwhile, Nayanthara though fails miserably in her college girl portrayal, becomes the main asset of the film in her matured girl segments. It is also a pleasant surprise to see Sathyaraj look and perform well especially after abysmal back to back performances in Chennai Express and Thalaivaa (I haven’t seen Varuthapadatha Valibar Sangam).
While these were my reservations, like for any well marketed masala film, the audience with whom I saw the film seem to believe they have witnessed a masterpiece in terms of entertainment, completely moved by the ‘heart wrenching love story’. Maybe they are the people who were moved to tears on seeing the epilogue of Thuppakki. As far as my allegiance is concerned I will go back to re-watch Mouna Ragam and Rhythm, films that largely stayed true to its theme.