When the Karthi wave is at its peak and you have a lackluster film like Saguni turning out to be a huge success I’m kind of wondering what’s happening. This also made me ponder about Karthi who started off his career with a Paruthiveeran and who also did an Aayirathil Oruvan as well before Paiyaa and Siruthai made him change his whole course of action. In between he also did a movie called Naan Mahaan Alla which was quite a violent film but made with a lot of sensibility, not seen usually in films of this genre. So here is an attempt to revisit my memories of Naan Mahaan Alla.
When Naan Mahaan Alla ( from hereon referred to as NMA ) released along with the track record of Karthi ( in his 1st 3 films he had proved he could handle both realistic and “mass” oriented films ) I was also happy to note that it was directed by Suseenthiran who had already delivered a wonderful semi-rural based sports centric film- ‘Vennila Kabadi Kuzhu’ earlier.From a semi-rural background, Suseenthiran this time shifted the base to Chennai Metro & looks at trying to provide yet another new dimension to the city.
NMA begins on a startling note as we get to see a group of scrawny looking youngsters who play football, consume drugs & even molest a girl on a secluded beach. The focus then shifts to Jeeva (Karthi) who is shown making his entry with his friend’s during a New Year’s Eve. Jeeva is shown to be a carefree youngster living with his parents & sister. Jeeva is someone who doesn’t really feel the urge to take up a job & is happy that his parents are taking care of his expenses.
Once during his college-mate’s wedding Jeeva and his friends run out of money to buy liquor and Jeeva even smartly tries to convince his friend, the bride to fund their booze. That’s where Jeeva meets Priya ( Kajal Aggarwal ) and it is then love at first sight for Jeeva. Then we see Jeeva wooing Priya in his own characteristic style and yes very soon Priya also falls in love with Jeeva. Their romance is taken forward against the strains of Yuvan Shankar Raja‘s melodious ‘ Iragai Pole’ ( lyrics by Yugabharathy and sung by Yuvan Shankar Raja and Tanvi Shah )and all of a sudden Jeeva springs a surprise on Priya by landing up at her place and meeting her father to express his interest in marrying her.
But Priya’s father isn’t too keen on the alliance as he feels that Jeeva comes from a lower middle class background and also since Jeeva himself is unemployed. That’s when Jeeva himself decides to take up a job and becomes a collection agent for a bank. What follows are a bunch of hilarious sequences with Jeeva finding it difficult to make any collection. He ends up sympathising with the people ( watches a cricket match in one home, buys sweets for a girl in another home etc ) from whom he is supposed to collect payments and instead loses his job.
Amidst all this fun and frolic we are reminded of the guys who were introduced in the beginning of the film. Though college students the guys are shown to have a psychotic streak as they end up murdering a girl after outraging her modesty. The police unearth the body of the girl that has been cut into parts and when the news is made public, Karthi’s father (Jayaprakash) who is a call taxi driver comes forward to identify the guys before the cops as he had taken them around in his taxi just before the scene of the crime.
When the gang comes to know that their identity has been blown away they swear revenge on Jeeva’s father. Right at the time when there is a feeling of celebration at home (due to Jeeva’s sister’s wedding ) disaster strikes the family. The story leads on from there in a not so unconventional fashion and it is to Suseenthiran’s credit that he doesn’t allow the narrative to appear stale or cliched.There is a delicate balance in the tone of the movie and while the 1st half of the film is filled more with light hearted feel good moments, the 2nd half gets into the realistic world of crime that seems to be penetrating even such youngsters these days.
Talking about performances Karthi not surprisingly is the life of the film. It’s very evident that he seems to have thoroughly enjoyed his role as he comes across as someone extremely comfortable & completely in control. Be it in the scenes where he is trying to woo Kajal, or when he is making the collection calls at various homes, or during the scenes with his Jayaprakash who portrays his father, Karthi is completely relaxed and in full form. And even when life forces Karthi to turn serious in life he looks quite convincing both while trying to take care of his family and also when he goes behind the ruthless group of guys.
Kajal Aggarwal makes a confident return to Tamil Cinema and looks extremely pretty as ever. She shares an excellent chemistry with Karthi and it’s pretty evident in the scenes where they share the frame. Unfortunately towards the latter half of the film her character is not shown at all and hence she doesn’t get too much scope beyond a point. Jayaprakash is perfect as Karthi’s father and is extremely composed. He is improving with every film and is becoming a fine character artiste. Watch out for the chemistry between him and Karthi and his wife ( Lakshmy Ramakrishnan ) which is crackling. The guys who play the villains are pretty effective and among Karthi’s friends, Soori ( from Vennila Kabadi Kuzhu ) stands out. The role of the don Kutty Natesan is played effectively by cinematographer Aruldas.
Art Director Rajeevan deserves a lot of credit for portraying the middle class surrounding of Karthi’s family and contrasting it with the upper class surrounding in case of Kajal and also the dingy interiors of places that the villains keep visiting. Of course R.Madhi’s cinematography also plays its part in ensuring that the art director’s work gets noticed. Some people might have a problem with the way the movie progresses to the climax and also the way it ends abruptly. But all said and done I found the climax to be chilling and thoroughly enjoyable. As to why the film probably ends the way it appears, well Suseenthiran would be the right person to answer that .
The movie in a nutshell has something for most audiences. While the 1st half would certainly appeal even to families and those who like feel good films, the 2nd half would probably not go down well with the same audience. While for those who like their films to have a bit of realism woven within the commercial format, NMA is a reasonably good watch. It’s a film on the lines of Polladhavan (Dhanush starrer) which also would fit into the same category of films.
Suseenthiran’s followed NAM with a wonderful film- Azhagarsamiyin Kuthirai but faltered majorly when he tried to go the mass route with Rajapattai recently. Here’s hoping that we get to see Suseenthiran making films more rooted to real life, which he’s more comfortable with. I would also wish to see Karthi balancing his outright commercial entertainers with films like NAM once in a while.
Note- This post was originally written after the release of NMA in 2010 but now re-edited and published after the release and success of Saguni.