A little bit of research informs us that Aayutha Ezhuthu was supposed to be a call to the youth of the nation to take up politics and generally to encourage political awareness. We really don’t know if this was true, since this film seems to show that life in politics is apt to be short, violent and fraught with danger. In addition, the wily politician who sets up the main characters seems to be thriving through his various corrupt dealings, so perhaps the film serves more to show what the problems are within the system. Aayutha Ezhuthu uses the converging storylines of three characters to set the scene and their subsequent interactions form the rest of the story. As the story unfolds the film becomes more of a straight ‘good guys’ vs. ‘bad guys’ although it’s not totally clear who exactly are the ‘good guys’ here.
The film opens with three main characters following their own storylines in traffic on a bridge. The same scene is shown from the viewpoint of each of these three and, after each vignette, we are shown that same character’s life in the few months prior.
First we meet Inba, played by Madhavan in an uncharacteristically brutal role for him. He is a thug, who works for his brother mainly ensuring a local politicians campaign runs smoothly. Inba beats his wife and almost casually chooses violence over any other form of social interaction. Inba’s current employer, Selvanayagam the local politician played by Bharathiraja, is the spider in the centre of the web. He employs Inba to police his rallies, and is in direct conflict with the second character in the drama, Michael. Through their involvement with each other, the third, Arjun is drawn into the fray.
Suriya plays Michael Vasanth, a student, apparently a mathematical genius and also a political activist. Not for him the more normal student methods of agitation such as demonstrations or debates, he prefers to be more direct in his approach and encourages retaliatory action. This brings him into direct conflict with Selvanayagam and thus ultimately with Inba. Suriya also seems out of place in his role. He is muscular and obviously powerful, which doesn’t fit the image of a serious scholarship winning student. His solution to problems faced by local villagers seems to be almost as confrontational as Inba’s violent tactics. He appears belligerent and selfish as we see him brush off his mother’s concerns and treat his girlfriend badly. Although it is quite conceivable that students will use such extreme tactics, as has frequently been seen in many countries of the world, this approach just felt wrong with these characters. Perhaps this was partly an issue with the subtitles which may not have conveyed the dialogues accurately, but Michael came across as a very unpleasant character and his political aspirations felt more self-serving and less for the public good than perhaps was intended.
The final character in the drama is Arjun, played by Siddharth. A playboy who has just finished his studies and plans to head to the US, Sid at least seems to fit the role he has been given. His approach to life seems much more in keeping with his character and his pursuit of Meera, while typically filmi does feel much more genuine than Michael’s relationship. By a series of coincidences all three are on the same bridge at the same time. Inba uses this opportunity to get rid of Michael by shooting him, which sends him falling into the river past Arjun’s shocked gaze.
The storylines all converge at this point, and the aftermath of the confrontation is played out to its bloody and somewhat inevitable conclusion given the arrogance and brutality of the main characters.
What are much more interesting about this film are the female characters. Although she is regularly abused by Inba, his wife Sasi is a very strong personality who is determined to wean him away from his brother’s influence and stop his forays into crime. Their relationship is very realistically portrayed by Meera Jasmine who is fantastic as the battered wife. Despite her family’s objections to her husband, Sasi enlists them to help get Inba a job, so she obviously has great powers of persuasion. Madhavan’s scenes with her are the best in the film and she was very compelling in her performance. Trisha in her role as Meera is less of a driving character, but she is part of the reason why Arjun changes his playboy ways as he slowly falls in love with her. She is convincing and effective in the initial scenes, but towards the end of the film she appears to be sidelined. Esha Deol plays Geetha, who is involved with Michael. There is a lot of potential in their relationship as he doesn’t want to get married and asks Geetha to move in with him instead. This opportunity to look at the issues surrounding marriage and commitment is squandered as the theme is never really developed further. Geetha lies to her parents and to Michael’s mother and never really becomes anything other than the woman in Michael’s life.
However these three women, as well as the various female characters that stand for election in the story, seem to be at least an attempt to show women as other than just the pretty wife, girlfriend or daughter. There is more meat to their roles here, although it’s not sustained and ultimately only Sasi makes a lasting impact.
Because of the belligerence behind Michael’s actions it’s hard to see him as one of the good guys. The virtual worship of him by the other students contributes to the impression of arrogance and he imposes his will on everyone around him without any seeming thought to the consequence. Despite his thuggish ways, Inba appears as the more sympathetic character as he is genuinely trying to change his ways, but cannot get out of the cycle of violence he has lived with all his life. The supporting characters all seem to have their own agendas as well, keeping the whole feel of the film as one of corruption and deceit. The only genuine people seem to be the villagers caught up in the struggle for their village. While the film tries to be a statement on youth and politics, the end result seems to disregard Michael’s supposed motivation and political ambition and highlight the futility of anything other than corruption and violence as a means to achieve and hold on to power. The secondary plot line of Inba’s attempts to escape his violent lifestyle is much better handled. While Meera Jasmine is the standout performance, both Trisha and Esha Deol ultimately aren’t given enough screen time to be effective. A special mention for Sriman who played the character of Dilli, and was excellent in his role as Inba’s conscience.
Heather says: I really didn’t like this film. For me it may have worked better if the casting of Madhavan and Suriya had been the other way round. I found that Suriya didn’t fit the image of a student at all. He is too old and not convincing, while Madhavan in his role switches between mayhem and maniacally happy. This didn’t seem to fit either the characters lifestyle or generally bleak prospects. As a man recently released from prison, with a pregnant wife and no real job aspirations other than working for his brother, the ‘crazy happy’ was difficult to swallow. Some of this was to show the reason why his wife stayed with him, and indeed some of these scenes were much less overdone. This may have been a directorial decision as Abhishek Bachchan appears very similar in his characterisation of Beera in Raavan. I stuck with the film mainly because of the relationship between Inba and Sasi which was very well portrayed. Siddarth’s character was also quite watchable, and overall the story was interesting, but I was very tempted to fast forward every time Suriya was on screen. I have liked him in the other films I have seen him in and was horrified by him in this. I really wanted his character to die as quickly as possible, just so that I did have to suffer through his flexing and belligerence. I wish I had liked this film more but thought it was a potentially good story that for me was ruined by bad choices in the cast and poor directorial decisions. 2 1/2 stars from me.
Temple says: This is another film that, like Leader, is well made but not likeable. I have issues with the character of Michael and his immunity from consequences. Everyone around him is made to pay for his activism but he escapes with a few flesh wounds. Surya was unappealing as he seemed to show only the arrogance of Michael and gave me nothing to respect in that character. Unlike Heather, I really liked Madhavan’s performance in this. I thought he really made sense of Inba and Sasi’s relationship, and showed the complexity of his character. He was boyishly impulsive, and casually brutal in turns. He showed the pressure Inba felt to be a man’s man and ignore his wife unless they were behind closed doors. Their relationship was compelling as Meera Jasmine showed the gamut of attraction and repulsion depending on which side of her husband’s nature was dominating. I didn’t get the impression he was ‘crazy happy’, he was just a thoughtless guy who wanted what he wanted, and was happy so long as things ran his way. I thought the whole cast, with the exception of Surya, did a good job and made the most of their roles. I did have to laugh (a lot) at the idea of Esha Deol teaching French though! So, while I don’t like the inherent message that corruption is OK as long as you say you mean well, I do think this film was compelling and well made. The only disappointment was the lack of follow through on what seemed to be interesting roles for women. 4 stars from me.
Oh man, if you guys had issues with Surya in this role, you should see Ajay Devgan as Michael in the Hindi version, Yuva. 😀 Now THAT’s a casting fail!… I was actually looking forward to seeing the Tamil one at some point as it’s presumably better than the Hindi one (which I didn’t care for), but I did have some of the same issues with the plot and of course, those won’t change in this version. 😦
Funny you should mention Abhishek’s Beera because he plays Inba in the Hindi version and I found his performance quite impressive (and I am one of the people that didn’t care much for his portrayal of Beera).
Overall, this one is definitely at the bottom of my list of favourites and possibly my least fav Mani Ratnam film. Whenever he chooses to pound his message like a piece of old meat, it ends up irritating me… 😦
But always a pleasure to read one of your write-ups, even if it’s for a movie you didn’t love (actually, I think *especially* if it’s for a movie you didn’t love ;)).
OMG. No to Ajay Devgan in almost anything!!!!!!!! I hated Aamir’s character in 3 Idiots for the same reason I had problems with Surya/Michael – That whole Teflon Hero thing, where they just glide through life and never have to bear the consequences of their actions. Maybe it’s supposed to be inspirational, but it just gives me hives. Apart from that, I really thought this was a well constructed story – just that it was about some horrible people. Temple
Thanks for your comment – I really found this film hard to watch to the end. I felt that Mani Ratnam had given the same directions to Abhishek for Raavan as he did to Madhavan in this film, as they both had that manic switch from happy to crazy which just didn’t work for me. And as for Surya – aagh! I like Surya, and this was just dreadful!
But even allowing for the casting and performances I just didn’t like this film. The story didn’t appeal to me at all, and I think would have worked much better if it had concentrated on Inba and Sashi (without the mania!).
There aren’t very many films that I flat out don’t like, but this is one of them!
this is another great movie.
one of Mani Ratnam’s best.