Let me start by giving you a scenario. X and Y are friends who have different aspirations in life. X’s most valued possession and biggest dream of his life-time is ‘inadvertently’ destroyed by Y, for which X takes revenge by taking away the only thing, Y lives for. Now, X has to face the wrath of Y’s resolve to retaliate, and fight for his own survival. Whoa!
Now, let’s try to weave a commercially viable script (tentatively titled ‘Pazhi’) out of that knot, naming X as ‘Sundar’ and Y as ‘Indran’. Since it is ‘commercial-revenge -thriller’, we cannot overlook any of the routine ‘must-haves’ – the romance, the comedy, the pre -interval action segment, the songs and the climax fight! Piece of cake, right?
- -Sundar, a middle class youth struggles a lot to come up in life and falls in love with Iniya
- -(Love song 1)
- – They marry against their parent’s wishes with the help of his friends Jegan ( for comic sarcasm) and Indran.
- – They are determined to be a successful couple and make extensive plans for setting up a business in the US
- -(Love song 2)
- – Sundar needs two crores as initial investment for that, and they are ready to go to any lengths for their happiness.
- – At this point, Indran’s intervention in his life brings up some delicate circumstances, resulting in an accident in which Iniya and another common friend (who had promised Sundar two crores) get murdered. (Fight scene)
- – Sundar having lost his wife and his dream, plots revenge
- – (Retribution song ) Sundar goes into a fit of rage, wanting Indran to realize how it really feels to lose your life- partner .
- – He targets Indran’s girlfriend Meera with the help of some henchmen, but somehow results in her getting grievously injured, instead of killing her! (Pre-interval action segment)
Intermission. Popcorn. OK, What is the job at hand? Padding out the film for a further one and a half hours
- – Okay, lets start with a song post interval mourning the hero’s loss (Pathos song)
- – Then jump-start the proceedings with Indran taking a pledge to have his vengeance at Sundar.
- – A couple of adrenaline – pumping chases highlighting Sundar’s intelligent come-backs
- – A shocking convoluted sub-plot at this juncture for Indran ( including a flashback-friendship- group song) that he is really not that evil, and only meant good for Sundar (Why? Innovation, boss, innovation!)
- – Then, one more shocker that Sundar actually knew of Indran’s innocence, but still wanted justice for himself! (There we go, blurring the lines of heroism!Innovation, yet again.).
- -Now we are ready for the climax. Sundar and Indran, accusing the either of ruining each other’s personal and professional lives and battling it out!
The question is who will you root for, now? Confused?
Interestingly, writer/director Thiru has a scenario too. X and Y are friends who have different aspirations in life. X’s most valued possession and biggest dream of his life-time is ‘inadvertently’ destroyed by Y, for which X takes revenge by taking away the only thing, Y lives for. Now, X has to face the wrath of Y’s resolve to retaliate, and fight for his own survival. Now, Thiru thought “That doesn’t sound anywhere near ‘innovative and novel’, man!” Yeah, what to do? “Its a revenge thriller/drama, right? As usual, take clues from previous innovations. Memento and Ghajini- Temporary memory loss. Aboorva Sagodharargal- Dwarfism. Paandia Nadu – Timidity. OK, make Y- ‘Indran’ the protagonist because he looks like the under-dog in the script and search for a disorder for him ! A neurological disorder, preferably. So that he could do the revenge part, battling it. Eureka! Lets keep it simple and put him to involuntary sleep at the slightest given opportunity. Google it. Yeah! ‘Narcolepsy’.WHOA!
Let’s now see Thiru’s screen-play version of a a commercially viable ‘innovative’ script ( titled ‘Naan Sigappu Manidhan’) out of the same knot. He luckily gets the dates of Vishal to play the role of ‘Indran’, who is happy to co-produce the movie. He makes an actor named ‘Sundar’ play the character X. Since it is ‘commercial-revenge -thriller’, he couldn’t do away with any of the routine ‘must-haves’ – the romance, the comedy, the pre -interval action segment, the songs and the climax fight!
- – Thiru introduces Indran suffering from Narcolepsy (which sends a patient to involuntary episodes of sleep paralysis, whenever extreme emotion is experienced) and his two friends (Sundar and Jegan), showcasing his life right from his childhood. Jegan is terrific in his sarcastic one liners.
- – The first half is dedicated to how he lives his life with this disability, and his bucket list of ten passionate things to do
- – Indran’s meeting with his girlfriend ‘Meera’ (played by Lakshmi Menon) becomes the highlight of this segment
- – (Love song 1)
- – How the relationship between Indran and Meera progresses ‘from surprise – sympathy – respect – t0 romance’ occupies the first half of the script.
- – Meera is presented as earthly. charming, confident and loving, so that the audience will root for the pair
- – (Love song 2).
- – Thiru now brings in issues which prevent them from getting married, like Meera’s dad, a rich businessman reasoning out the relationship to be impossible because of Indran’s inability to tolerate extreme emotions of any kind!
- – This makes Indran realize after twenty five years that he is not getting those sleep episodes when he is bathing and as a result, the lovers dive into a swimming pool to ‘make love’.
- – Meera gets pregnant as a result of that episode, upping the sympathy levels of the audience, when she gets raped by four henchmen in the interval action segment – while Indran is asleep and helpless beside her, in another of his ‘sleep paralysis’ episodes.
Interval. Popcorn. What is the job at hand? Padding out one and a half hours more of the film.
- -Okay, Thiru starts with a song post interval mourning the hero’s loss (Pathos song),
- – Then he jump-starts the proceedings with Indran taking a pledge to have his vengeance at those responsible for Meera’s death.
- – As a couple of chases and fights happen (The ‘not-so-tense’ moments provided by the ploy used by Indiran to guard himself from the ‘sleep episodes’) , lots of adrenalin is pumped in vain.
- – Thiru then dishes out a shocking convoluted sub-plot for the hero’s friend – Sundar, a middle class youth, who struggles a lot to come up in life and finally gets to marry the love of his life ‘Iniya’
- – (Flashback-friendship- group song)
- – Sundar and Iniya together make extensive plans for setting up a business in the US. For that, Sundar desperately needs two crores, and they are ready to go to any lengths for their happiness, including resorting to ‘adultery’ and ‘blackmailing’.
- – At this point, Indran enters the picture and creates a delicate situation for the couple, trying to save Sundar from Iniya’s backstabbing (not knowing that Sundar is part of the sick plan)
- – Indran unknowingly becomes the inciting force for an accident in which Iniya and another friend (who promised to give Sundar the two crores) get murdered.
- – Sundar having lost his wife and his dream, plots revenge. He gets the help of four henchmen. who rape and attempt to murder Indran’s pregnant girlfriend ‘Meera’
- – Here, the director sneaks in one more shocker that Indran actually knew that Sundar was the one who hired the henchmen just a few days into his investigation.
- But Indran waited patiently till he got all the four henchmen.
- Now we are ready for the climax. Sundar and Indran, accusing the either of ruining each other’s personal and professional lives and battling it out!
The biggest strength of ‘Naan Sigappu Manidhan’ is Thiru’s authentic portrayal of the protagonist – a narcoleptic, played brilliantly by the all talented Vishal. The biggest relief is that Thiru has not used ‘Narcolepsy’ just as a crowd-pulling stunt, but has incorporated it beautifully into each and every moment of the film’s first half, with as much credibility as possible. NSM’s first hour is exceptionally well written and gives the desired feel with the help of a wonderful background score by G.V Prakash, innovative frames of DOP Richard.M. Nathan and natural acting performances by Vishal and Lakshmi Menon. Vishal definitely has to be commended for his repeated choice of unconventional ‘non-heroic’ roles and the pains he has taken for coming out as a ‘natural’. All those sudden falls to the ground would have sure taken a huge toll on him. Lakshmi Menon does emote well as usual.
The pre-interval scene though gritty and well-shot, seems stretched and unwarranted after a point. The entire second half, beginning with a wrong placement of a song is a catastrophe to the main plot. The way the neurally challenged ‘Vishal’ goes about planning his vengeance is totally unconvincing. The never-ending subplot of Sundar and Iniya, is an example of a ‘disaster’ within an disaster, making the script go haywire. Another speed breaker song just before the climax, and the implausibility in ‘character development’ don’t help the proceedings much. The film’s U/A certification also appears unjustified, given the amount of violence and adult content in it.
To sum it up, ‘Naan Sigappu Manithan’ starts off promisingly with an interesting and engaging first half. but tapers down to a regular revenge tale later. You might want to give it a watch just for its portrayal of its male lead – a challenged, studious, hardworking guy, who earns his love and his job – a rarity in Tamil cinema these days!