Sadly Nanjupuram doesn’t actually feature a man with raised blue veins waist deep in snakes, which is rather disappointing since I did originally pick up the film on the basis of the cover.  But what it lacks in blue-veined men, it does make up for in snakes.  Bucket-loads of snakes in fact.  There are snakes everywhere in the village where the story is set, and it’s also surrounded by a snake-infested forest which ensures that no-one ever leaves.  Or at least I think that’s the reason since this was another ‘adventure without subtitles’ and personally I’d think twice before venturing anywhere near the place!


The story starts out with some long explanation, presumably about why the neighbourhood is such a snake haven, but does manage to convey that the locals revere the snakes and worship them rather than just moving to a more congenial neighbourhood.  Despite all the snake worship, it seems to be acceptable to kill them, just as long as they get a proper burial afterwards.  However, the big bad is to injure a snake and then let it escape.  Snakes are apparently not known for their forgiving nature and (judging by the opening scenes where a snake rips out an eye in graphic detail – awesome!) they’re pretty good at the whole eye for an eye revenge scenario.


Our hero Velu (Raaghav) doesn’t seem too bothered by the ever-present snakes and even battles through the forest to get some classic witch-doctor style attention for one of the village girls when she is bitten.  There’s no real explanation as to why he takes such a different view from his father and the rest of the village, but then again logic has no place in a snake movie anyway!


Velu is in love with Malar but since she is lower caste their romance is frowned upon by both Velu’s father (Nareyn) and Malar’s mother.  Malar’s mother sells goat meat and their skins for a living but also moonlights as the mistress of the local headman (Thambi Ramayya).  There is general tension between the upper and lower castes in the village and while the headman is happy to have a mistress from a lower caste, in public he abuses both her and her daughter.  Velu’s father has a more charitable approach but still doesn’t want his son to have anything to do with a lower caste girl.

The first half of the film sets up the romance between Velu and Malar although the threat of the local snake population is never far away.  Raghaav is good as the young and somewhat reckless man in love, although his terrible hair makes him look more sleazy than romantic when he is chasing after Malar.  In fact I was prepared to hate Raghaav after the first dreadful song where he tries much too hard to be cool and raps his way through a number that has absolutely nothing to do with the story.  But as the film went on he actually won me over – terrible hair and all – so he seems to be a better actor than his choice of film would suggest.  Monica is also excellent as the somewhat naive Malar, and her role gives her a character with plenty to get her teeth into.


The second half of the film changes pace from romance to suspense when Velu injures a snake, and has to face the consequences of letting it escape.  Despite his apparent disbelief in such things, Velu is sent by his family to live in a hut set on top of some long poles surrounded by a deep trench, since the local pundits have decreed that if he can stay out of reach of the snake for forty days he will be safe.  The whole village is involved with some enterprising souls even selling snacks to the crowd as Velu ascends to his temporary haven.


The hut is an interesting concept but seems doomed to failure since Velu keeps popping back to ground level to meet up with Malar and the ever-present snake stalking the couple seems to ensure that we’re not heading for a happy ending.  One of the more entertaining aspects of the film is to spot the lurking snake which is nearly always there somewhere!

Spying Snake

Velu starts to hallucinate snakes everywhere which to be honest probably wasn’t really necessary since we’ve already seen that there actually are snakes absolutely everywhere in the village.  However Raghaav is impressive and believable as a man slowly starting to mentally disintegrate although the reason for his breakdown isn’t at all clear.  I’m assuming that the impetus was the strain of his prohibited relationship with Malar and the threat of snaky revenge which only hit when he lost his protective talisman but it seemed to be completely opposite to all the character development in the first half of the film.

Real or hallucinations?Nanjupuram

vlcsnap-2012-08-14-00h30m59s123NanjupuramNot content with acting in the film Raghaav was also the music director and composed some of the music.  Apart from the first song which doesn’t fit the film at all, the rest suit the village flavour and are generally well placed in the narrative, although none are particularly memorable.  The film tries to mix social commentary with psychological thriller but ultimately fails to connect with either genre, despite the best efforts of director Charles and good performances from all the cast.  The physical threat of the snakes which started off so well loses impact when they become more illusionary and conversely all the tension that builds up with the hallucinations is lost when real snakes start attacking again. It’s never particularly thrilling despite the presence of an apparently unending supply of snakes and by the end I was hoping that the injured snake would finally catch up to Velu and exact some spectacular revenge.  Sadly that wasn’t the case, but I do think that a few good snake bites and Velu turning blue-veined and snakey would have improved the climax immensely.


The caste issue probably would have worked better if I had been able to understand the dialogue, but it seemed to be the standard rich boy, poor girl and parental opposition.  There were a few new twists, particularly in the development of Velu and Malar’s relationship that did make the romance more realistic and in particular made Malar’s character appear more natural, but the story still seems clichéd and predictable.   Even with the addition of snakes!


Overall a film worth watching if you like your snake movies with a dash of realism (but only a small dash) and prefer to see plenty of snakes au naturel rather than morphing into human avatars to seek their revenge.  It’s not terrible, and the performances are good, but a bit more attention to the story development would have helped.  I give this film 2 ½ stars but will add an extra star just for the sheer number of snakes and the fact that writer/director Charles managed to get a snake into almost every scene! 3 ½ stars.



I first saw Aadukalam when it released in the cinema and despite the lack of subtitles was so completely drawn into the story that I didn’t want the film to end. I was very surprised that I enjoyed it so much since the film centres around cockfighting, which is something I abhor and wasn’t keen to watch on-screen. It was really only the Vetrimaran and Dhanush connection that got me through the door, but I’m so glad that it did. While the film didn’t change my views on the subject it was a lot more watchable than I anticipated, helped considerably by this statement in the opening credits and the fact that the cockfighting scenes were quite clearly CGI.

The film focuses on the relationships between the main characters and how these change as their circumstances alter. Alliances are made and broken, and pride and prestige are the driving forces behind the actions of Pettaikaran (V. I. S. Jayabalan) and his chief rival in the cockfighting scene, police inspector Rathinasamy (Nareyn).

The film is set near Madurai in a small town where Pettaikaran breeds and trains roosters for cockfighting. He is aided in this venture by three men; Ayub (Periyakaruppu Thevar) who stitches the roosters back together after the fights, Durai (Kishore) who provides financial support and Karuppu (Dhanush)who sets the roosters for fighting. Karuppu seems to look upon Pettaikaran as his father, while Pettaikaran is grooming Karuppu as his successor, so the two appear to have a close relationship, making later events all the more shocking.

The first half of the film deals with Rathinasamy’s attempts to force Pettaikaran to take part in a cockfighting tournament so that he can finally win over his main opponent. Pettaikaran however knows that Rathinasamy will stop at nothing to win and refuses to take part in any further matches despite major provocation.  However Rathinasamy is as corrupt as he is determined and he finally manages to set up the final showdown. The stakes are high – apart from all the money to be won, the loser will have to shave his head and moustache and, almost as a secondary consideration, they will also have to give up cockfighting for good.

The prize money isn’t important to either of these two men, but is rather more important for Karuppu. He lives with his widowed mother who has dreams of buying back the mortgage to their house, while Karuppu has dreams of a different kind involving an Anglo-Indian girl he has met. He falls in love with Irene (Taapsee) and his love takes the usual form of stalking until he finally manages to work up the courage to speak to her. Irene is horrified by his declaration and her initial reaction is very natural and honest. Sadly it’s also the only scene where Taapsee manages to convince in her acting. The romance feels clunky and awkward, and the actors seem to feel uncomfortable with each other as well. Taapsee is very wooden and lifeless, and there is never any good reason why a well-educated girl from a good family would fall in love with a scruffy uneducated villager like Karuppu.

While Dhanush is more convincing in his obsession with Irene, he’s a little too arrogant for me to fully believe in his love. His passion is much more for his idea of Irene, and once having made his decision that she is the right girl, he is determined to marry her more to flatter his ego rather than because of any genuine feelings for her.

Partly to pay back money he owes Irene, Karuppu takes his rooster along to the tournament despite the fact that Pettaikaran had earlier told him to put the bird down. As a result, Pettaikaran distances himself from Karuppu and tells everyone who will listen that his rooster will not win. So when it does in fact win all 3 fights and Karuppu takes home the grand prize, Pettaikaran is humiliated by this loss of his reputation and sets out for revenge.

While the first part of the film deals with the rivalry between Pettaikaran and Rathinasamy, the second half deals with the machinations of Pettaikaran as he seeks his revenge on Karuppu. Jayabalan is amazing as the aging champion and his character is beautifully etched in shades of grey. The change from his initial, more moral stance where he refuses to fight Rathinasamy knowing that he is risking the lives of his assistants by doing so, is beautifully contrasted with his change in ideals as he starts to plot and plan against Karuppu. His manipulations of the faithful Durai and the treatment he metes out to his young wife grow ever more disturbing, but still quite believable as he is determined to ruin Karuppu in every way that he can to soothe his battered ego.

Dhanush is also excellent as the rather naïve Karuppu. His relationship with his mother is well depicted and the love and frustration between the two is very evident. His scenes with Pettaikaran are among the best in the film, although Karuppu’s relationship with Durai is also well portrayed and the two actors have a great rapport. Dhanush has done a number of these village type roles but here he totally becomes the character of Karuppu and I think deserves the National Award he won for his performance. His final realisation of just how he has been betrayed by the man he considered as his father is brilliant and throughout he effortlessly conveys his emotions without going to extremes. Vetrimaran has come up with characters that are essentially very ordinary with normal human emotions of petty jealousy and pride and made a story that works so well because it deals with them in such a realistic way.

The other actors in supporting roles are all excellent with some very good characterisations. Meenal as Pettaikaran’s wife is fantastic and while Periyakaruppu Thevar doesn’t have a large role he is very effective and paints his character fully in just a few short scenes. Nareyn is suitably immoral and villainous as Rathinasamy and it’s a shame that he vanishes from the story in the second half. I can’t find out who played the role of Karuppu’s friend but I though he was great and will keep a watch out for him in other films.

While most of the action involves roosters fighting there are a few human fight scenes which are more of the push and shove variety rather than the carefully choreographed and highly fictionalised fight scenes more usually seen. They also rely on the use of various stones, buildings and tree stumps to do any actual damage to the various opponents until the last few scenes, which are choreographed to imitate the cockfights from earlier. Cinematographer Velraj does an excellent job with the many night scenes, often involving fights, and it’s quite easy to make out what is going on.

The music by G. V. Prakash Kumar works well in the film but apart from Yathe Yathe it’s not particularly memorable and doesn’t stand out. This is probably all to the good as the songs don’t detract from the story and are used more to further develop the characters.

Aadukalam is certainly not a pretty story and there is no happy ending for anyone. It deals with the darker emotions of pride and jealousy and shows just how easily these can run out of control with deadly consequences. It’s a well made film with a great story and outstanding performances and despite the rather iffy romance, I thoroughly recommend it . 4 ½ stars