Writer-director Suseenthiran made his entry into Tamil cinema with a bang in the form of Vennila Kabadi Kuzhu (2009), his 1st independent assignment after having been an A.D for long with filmmakers like S.D.Sabha and Ezhil. While there have been many sports based films in India, most of them have revolved around cricket with films like Chak De India being exceptions. Hence it was nice to see Suseenthiran focus on a team sport like Kabaddi, a desi sport which certainly deserves all the mileage it can get. Suseenthiran followed his impressive debut with back to back successful films like Naan Mahaan Alla (2010) and Azhagarsamiyin Kudhirai (2011), films which received critical acclaim and yet remained within the commercial format largely. The law of averages caught up with Suseenthiran as he then tried making a hard core larger than life masala film, something that he had not done so far. The result was the disastrous Rajapattai (2011) which neither did anything good for him or the leading man of the film, Vikram.
To add to the misery the announcement of his next two films i.e Aadhalal Kadhal Seiveer and Pandiya Naadu also gave me the wrong signals initially. While the former looked like a very poor college romantic flick (going by the trailer), the latter looked doubtful to me as the leading man Vishal hasn’t been having a good run of late. However with Aadhalal Kadhal, Seiveer Suseenthiran proved that he still had it in him to surprise the audience. The film while looking like a routine college romance for most part of it ends with a punch and leaves you thinking for a long time. Somewhere around the time the film released I happened to see the trailer of Pandiya Naadu and I somehow felt comfortable.
It didn’t look like a typical Vishal film at least. Pitted against biggies like Arrambam and All In All Azhagu Raja for Diwali, it was a brave move by Vishal who is also the producer of the film and I was wondering it was a good decision with regards to release date. But with the songs turning out to be popular I had this strange feeling that maybe Pandiya Naadu might just about emerge as the dark horse among the Tamil Diwali releases. At the very outset it’s important to mention that the plot is basically nothing but another revenge story, so what’s special about it you may ask. Well there’s plenty and I’ll certainly list them out soon. But here’s a quick look at what the film is all about.
Another Madurai tale, Sivakumar (Vishal) runs a mobile telecom sales & service centre along with his friend (Soori). He lives a
happy life along with his parents and brother who is married and has a daughter. Sivakumar’s father (Bharathiraja) is very proud of his elder son (Guru Somasundaram), a sincere Government official. At the same time the father is a little worried about his second son Sivakumar as he is a slightly timid guy. Around the same time the underworld kingpin of Madurai and surroundings passes away and there’s a bloody fight for succession among 2 of his former trusted aides, which eventually sees one of them, Simmakkal Ravi (Sharath Lohitashwa) winning the battle for supremacy. Lakshmi Menon is Malar, a school teacher and a neighbour for whom Sivakumar falls for and ultimately Malar too likes him. Siva’s brother runs into the bad books of Simmakkal Ravi as he objects to the latter’s illegal stone quarrying, causing deaths of many people. Needless to say Siva’s brother gets bumped off by Simmakkal Ravi’s henchmen. Both Sivakumar, the meek brother and the helpless father are distraught and think of avenging the death of their brother/son in their own ways.
Vishal has always been known for his action films where he is usually seen as the angry young man, bashing up scores of men in typical fashion. So imagine the entry scene of him in Pandiya Naadu where he is shown as a timid guy who stammers when under pressure and even gets slapped by some random unknown chap. Yes it’s unbelievable but true and when you wonder if this is just a façade which will be blown away exposing his angry young man image, well you are very wrong and way off the mark with your prediction. Suseenthiran’s leading man in the film Sivakumar remains a simple guy who is happy to be with his friends and family and runs away from violence. In fact it is his brother who is the more heroic among the two and Vishal as Siva is restrained all through the film, something that Suseenthiran has done very right with this film.
The film also sees the novelty of the old, retired and hurt father also wanting to avenge the death of his elder son and who would go all the way to achieve the same. The scene towards the end where the father and his younger son communicate silently is lovely to watch. Now if these aren’t something new, then what is? Even in the 2nd half when we see Vishal desperate for revenge and as we wonder if he will undergo any sudden transformation and turn violent all of a sudden, nothing like that happens. In fact there’s a moment in the film where we hear him telling his friend that he has spent a year just observing the villain and done nothing but been able to identify likely areas to attack him. That shows the kind of patience the character has. Anal Arasu’s stunts deserve special mention as here the brief is to keep it as realistic as possible and ensure that Vishal as Sivakumar remains to be seen as the underdog almost till the very end. R.Madhi’s cinematography is excellent and the night shots in particular stand out. Anthony’s editing is razor sharp and we never see the pace dip throughout the duration of the film.
D.Imman for whom this is his first collaboration with Suseenthiran and Vishal has put in a significant contribution to the film with some really good songs and an apt BGM to go along with it. ‘Yele Yele Marudhu’ (sung by Suraj Santosh) is a nice soothing number as Vishal sets eyes on Lakshmi Menon for the 1st time. The popular ‘Othakada Machan’ (Suraj Santosh and Hariharasudan) is a nice playful song where Vishal is egged on by his friends. Ramya Nambeesan infuses a lot of energy with ‘Fy Fy Fy Kalachify’, though the song’s placement is a little off key. It’s good to see veteran Vairamuthu brimming with energy as seen by his youthful lyrics for all the songs.
The casting has also been good and the choice of actors seems to have been taken up after some careful thought. It’s nice to see Vikranth in a cameo here and he does justice to it. Sharath Lohitashwa as the baddie Simmakal Ravi who was recently seen in Ethirneechal is wonderful and looks menacing as needed. Guru Somasundaram who left a mark in Aaranya Kaandam and was also recently seen in the Malayalam movie Anchu Sundarikal is effective in a relatively shorter role. Soori not only brings in comic relief but also plays good foil to Vishal almost till the very end of the film. Bhrathiraja as the helpless father wanting to avenge the death of his elder son is superb and he brings in the desired pain on screen so naturally that you wonder why he doesn’t act more often. Lakshmi Menon doesn’t have much to do in the film but her playful banter with Vishal looks nice.
Eventually it’s a Vishal vehicle which has been steered to safety with the help of Suseenthiran. It’s great to see Vishal going ahead with a film where he is forced to play against type and remain restrained right till the end. Needless to say he doesn’t look out of place at all and is very convincing as Sivakumar, the timid guy who loves his family and would go to any length for their happiness. As a producer of the film it’s good to see him support a film like this which though commercial is still a little risky in its own way. With films like Aadhalal Kadhal Seiveer and now Pandiya Naadu Suseenthiran can certainly forget the misadventure that Rajapattai was and look forward strongly. After a slightly disappointing start to the year with Samar, the failure of Pattathu Yaanai and with Madha Gaja Raja yet to release, it’s nice to see Vishal bounce back with a film that’s tried to be different despite the regular revenge theme.
Ultimately Pandiya Naadu definitely has turned out to be the dark horse for sure among this year’s Diwali releases.