Billa (2007) was a turning point in the career of Ajith, the leading man, Vishnuvardhan the director and Nayantara the heroine of the film. Billa was a remake of the Rajnikanth starrer of the same name, which in turn was a remake of Amitabh Bachchan’s Don (1978). Coming close on the heels of Farhan Akhtar’s remake of Don with SRK in the lead, the Billa remake put Vishnuvardhan in the big league and proved that he could deliver a movie with a lot of style and panache. The film portrayed Nayantara in a never before avatar and her sense of styling post that film completely changed for the better. Ajith also needed a big hit at that time and Billa happened at the right time. With Vishnuvardhan opting out of Billa 2 to focus on the Telugu movie Panjaa with Pawan Kalyan, Ajith fans felt let down. But thankfully veteran producer A.M.Rathnam managed to bring the combination of Ajith and Vishnuvardhan once again with Arrambam. The film took more than a year to get made and the title itself wasn’t revealed until recently with ‘Thala 53’ acting as the pseudo title in the interim period.
With the exception of Aegan (2008) most Ajith releases during Diwali have done well commercially (think of films like Attagasam, Villain, Varalaru etc) and hence with Arrambam being a Diwali release again the expectations were only bound to increase all the more. So does the film eventually live up to the expectations? Does it bring back the Billa magic? Would this turn out to be another blockbuster like Mankatha etc were all the questions on my mind as I set out to watch a 9 A.M show of Arrambam earlier today, the earliest possible show in my city. It has been proven time and again in recent times that with big star Tamil movies you can never predict how good or bad the output would turn out to be. Hence its all the more clear that one needs to wait till the movie is over before the actual feeling sinks in.
The film starts with 3 bomb blasts happening all over Mumbai and the architect behind the same turns out to be Ashok alias AK (Ajith), a former top cop and a bomb-disposal expert at that. Ashok and his lady love Maya (Nayantara) get Arjun (Arya) a computer whizkid and an expert hacker to execute some work for them. Arjun doesn’t want to comply but is forced to do so as he fears for the life of his girlfriend, Anita (Taapsee), a rookie T.V.journalist. At the first given opportunity Arjun tries to expose Ashok to the cops and that’s when Arjun gets to know of Ashok’s past and why all the bomb blasts and murders are happening. What happens from thereon is what the rest of the film is all about.
At the outset it’s pretty easy to understand that the plot is fairly ordinary. It doesn’t take a whizkid to predict the flow of the tale and that’s a bit of a let down from the writer duo-Subha and Vishnuvardhan. The film starts off on a reasonably engrossing note and even has some light moments thanks to the college portions featuring Arya, Nayantara and Taapsee. Arya in particular shines during this phase. In fact the 1st half sees Arya enjoying almost equal footage as that of Ajith, but of course all that changes post interval. The 2nd half turns out to be a routine revenge drama and hence you just go with the flow.
At the very beginning there is a mention of the fact that while the film is based in Mumbai the characters tend to speak in Tamil to make it more convenient for the audience (this trend is on the rise in Tamil and Telugu films of late). However this seems to be an afterthought as there is a little confusion in terms of what Vishnuvardhan actually intended to do with the Hindi dialogues. At times the characters speak in Tamil, only to break into Hindi suddenly and sometimes there is a Tamil voiceover to mask the Hindi dialogues. A little bit of care could have ensured a smoother flow of dialogues. A.Sreekar Prasad the editor has worked on all the films of Vishnu Vardhan and knows the requirement very well and doesn’t disappoint with the pace being even all through the film. With a predictable tale and at a run time of about 157 minutes this is not an easy thing to manage.
Yuvan Shankar Raja again has always collaborated with Vishnuvardhan so far on all his projects and the songs and BGM of Billa are still remembered. Unfortunately his work here in Arrambam is not in the league of Billa or a Mankatha. The best song of the lot is ‘Adadada Arrambame’, the opening song sung in his characteristic style by Shankar Mahadevan. Though the song’s inclusion looks a little forced at the point at which it starts, it’s a song that’s easy on the ears and quite colourful in terms of picturization too. Om Prakash’s cinematography shines particularly in the songs and in particular the ‘Melala Vedikuthu’ song (sung by Vijay Yesudas, K.G.Ranjith and Shweta Mohan with lyrics by Pa.Vijay) is a lovely riot of colours on the screen.
The film has a wonderful ensemble cast and most of them have been put to good use by Vishnuvardhan. Murli Sharma, the militant leader in police custody does what is expected out of him and Atul Kulkarni (dubbed by Thalaivasal Vijay?)makes his presence felt in a Tamil film after a long time. Mahesh Manjrekar as the corrupt home minister is a delight to watch and more than dialogues he speaks through his expressions. Akshara Gowda (earlier seen in Thuppakki) as Deeksha , the minister’s daughter oozes glamour in the ‘Stylish Tamizhachi’ song. Suman Ranganthan used to be a popular heroine in Tamil films once upon a time before shifting her focus completely to Hindi cinema followed by Kannada and it’s good to see her back in a Tamil film though in a slightly smaller role this time. Kishore as the honest cop is effective as always and has a good role as well. Rana Daggubati as a key member of ATS (Anti Terrorist Squad), a colleague of Ashok and Maya’s brother is effective in his cameo.
Taapsee Pannu looks cute and shares a good chemistry with Arya but tends to irritate a bit later on with her constant coochie-cooing act. Arya plays the ideal foil to Ajith and brings in the lighter moments in the film. Good to see Vishnuvardhan maintain a good balance between Ajith and Arya and ensure that Ajith continues to stay in the limelight without relegating Arya totally to the background. Nayantara is good as the anchor to Ajith and provides great support. It’s also interesting to see Vishnuvardhan not focusing on the romance between Nayantara and Ajith and instead focusing more on how they go about succeeding in their mission. In a marked departure there isn’t even a single romantic track picturized on the lead pair, something which strikes you right away. Eventually the film is watchable mainly thanks to the charm of the leading man Ajith who lends a lot of dignified presence to the proceedings. He is totally convincing as both the cop and as the man out on a mission later on. It’s also interesting to see the way Vishnuvardhan has managed to keep the fans of Ajith happy without resorting to the use of trademark jingoism and punch dialogues, something which would have actually not looked to out of place here.
Ultimately Ajith fans can rejoice as it doesn’t really turn out to be as disappointing as an Aasal or Aegan but mind you it’s no Billa or Mankatha either. Go without too much of expectations and to look at Ajith exude a lot of charm in his own charismatic way and you may just have a reasonably good time this festive season with Arrambam. After all as Ajith keeps saying repeatedly in the film “let’s make it simple” 🙂 .