Yennai Arindhaal

yennai-arindhaal-poster

Gautham Menon’s third and final instalment in his ‘police trilogy’ has a more complex and interesting storyline than the previous two films, although there is still plenty of action and more than a few thrills. This time Menon focuses more on relationships, using these to define top cop Sathyadev (Ajith) and his reactions to various events throughout his life. One of the most important is Sathyadev’s relationship with Victor (Arun Vijay), a thug who ends up running an illegal organ trade, and who has a significant history with Sathyadev. Gautham Menon plays with the similarities between the two men who seem polar opposites but in reality have much in common despite sitting on opposing sides of a thin line.  There is also his relationship with his step-daughter Eesha (Anikha Surendran),  Eesha’s mother Hemanika (Trisha Krishnan) and right at the start, his relationship with his father (Nasser) whose murder is the starting point for that thin line.

The film starts by introducing Thenmozhi (Anushka Shetty), a smart modern woman who works as a software engineer. On a flight back from Boston to visit her sister, Thenmozhi ends up sitting beside a man she describes as the most gorgeous she has ever seen, but since she spends most of the flight vomiting into a sick bag it isn’t the most auspicious of meetings.  Her flight companion is Sathyadev, who is there to protect Thenmozhi from a kidnap attempt from the gang of organ thieves, although she doesn’t discover this until later. Somehow Thenmozhi’s heart has been identified as a perfect match for one of the gang’s clientele and a team of dodgy doctors are ready and waiting to perform the surgery just as soon as they can get their hands on her. Sathyadev’s old rival Victor is leading the gang and the film moves into flashback mode to explain the enmity between the two men and Sathyadev’s involvement in the current case.

The flashback goes right back to the murder of Sathyadev’s father, a moment where he had to decide which path to follow and on which side of the line to fall. The possibilities were there – to become a gangster and seek revenge, or to become a police officer and seek justice. No prizes for guessing which way Sathyadev decided to go, or that the very next scene sees him in jail. Of course all is not as it seems. While inside, Sathyadev becomes friends with Victor and the two escape together allowing Victor to marry the love of his life Lisa (Parvathy Nair) and have a jolly good knees up at the wedding.

After Sathyadev reveals himself as a police officer who has only befriended Victor as a way to get to his boss Matthew (Stunt Selva), Victor is devastated at the double whammy of the betrayal and his bad judgement in trusting Sathyadev. Unfortunately Menon doesn’t spend much time establishing the character of Lisa, but from snippets later on, it’s clear that she is instrumental in much of Victor’s later actions and she has a passionate vendetta against Sathyadev. I really wanted to know more about Lisa and why she was so deeply involved in Victor’s wicked schemes, but she glossed over quickly and her motivation is sadly never explored. Victor too doesn’t get as much character development as I would have liked but since he is basically completely evil maybe there isn’t much else we needed to know. As the tension mounts and his schemes are thwarted by Sathyadev, Victor has a couple of excellent hissy fits that perfectly convey his frustration and anger. Although he doesn’t have much scope, Arun Vijay does a good job with the character of Victor and his screaming, spitting frustration boils off the screen in the final scenes.

Lisa is the love of Victor’s life, and as such is his greatest weakness. For Sathyadev, it’s Hemanika, a Bharatanatyam dancer he meets while working undercover as an auto driver. The romance between the two is sweet and develops slowly, allowing Sathyadev to show a more introspective and human side. Hemanika has a daughter, Eesha, and for all her modern outlook (divorced single mum) she’s strangely reluctant to believe that Sathyadev can really love another man’s daughter as his own. This part of the film is beautifully done and Trisha is superb as she expresses all of Hemanika’s hopes and fears for the relationship.  Her characterisation is subtle but effective and fits perfectly into this more emotive storyline.

Of course we know it’s not going to end well, and as events unfold Sathyadev is left to look after Eesha on his own. Rather than brushing this off as an inevitable consequence of the relationship and using Eesha purely as a bargaining tool against Sathyadev in the later scenes, Gautham Menon instead uses the developing relationship to give deeper insight into Sathyadev’s character. The way Sathya breaks the news of her mother’s death to Eesha is poignant and natural while the road trip the two take to allow Eesha to grieve for her mother is an excellent depiction of Sathyadev’s developing fatherhood, particularly when set against his memories of his own father. These two parts of the film, Sathyadev’s romance with Hemanika and the development of his relationship with Eesha are sweet and gentle and really should be out of place in a rough and tough cop drama, but their inclusion is perfectly done, and adds so much to Sathyadev’s characterisation that instead they feel essential to the story development. These are my favourite scenes in the film and Ajith is perhaps surprisingly good at showing this more tender side. I’m more used to his manic killer persona in films like Vedalam but he does an excellent job with a more introspective character here and is good at displaying compassion in his developing relationship with Eesha. Just as good is his frustration and helplessness as he tries to change to a desk job for her sake and realises he just can’t continue as a police officer if he wants to keep Eesha safe.

Perhaps the only misstep in the film is the character of Thenmozhi . Although she starts off as a strong and independent character, once she meets Sathyadev she seems to lose all reason and self-respect, propositioning him despite overhearing what appeared to be an intimate conversation he had with someone else. As the film progresses she becomes more and more of a doormat and seems to lose all of her gumption as the threat to her life increases. Anushka does the best she can but her character is too much a victim to allow much sympathy for her plight.

Along with the mostly excellent characterisations, the more mass elements of the film are also well done. The fight choreography works well and there is a good mix of different styles – knife fights, good old fisticuffs and a number of gun battles. Stunt Selva has cameo as the gangster Matthew and Gautham Menon himself pops up as a police intelligence officer. The film looks stunning too, and the cinematography by Dan Macarthur (an Aussie – yay!) is excellent, particularly during the scenes with Eesha and Sathyadev travelling around India. Harris Jayaraj’s music works well too and is a perfect soundtrack for some of the most poignant moments in the film, such as Eesha showing Thenmozhi her mother’s picture and Sathyadev braiding Eesha’s hair before she goes to school. A word too about Anikha Surendran who is very good as Eesha and conveys many emotions throughout the film simply and easily and perfectly suits the role of Sathyadev’s adopted daughter.

Yennai Arindhaal shows just how good an action thriller can be when there is more to the story than just the action. The characterisations are excellent and provide motive and the reason for Sathyadev and Victor to act the way they do. There is so much happening in this film and yet it is still the story of a cop and a villain and a plan to illegally harvest organs. Well written, well acted and beautifully put together this is definitely one to savour. 4½ stars.

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6 thoughts on “Yennai Arindhaal

  1. Hey Heather,

    Yay! I love Thala Ajith and any movie review about his movie I would be the first to read it. I just loved your review for not only giving great ratings but exploring it in the right way when many did not find the idea of cop story and the emotional story in the same movie a good idea.
    However, one thing I hate about Gautham Menon as a director is his extensive use of voice overs in all his movies. In all his movies there is always a constant voice over given to the leads. I mean the actors have to act express it via their emotions why do you need a voice to tell everything in the background. He uses flashbacks just for the voice overs the visual looks like an extra. Movie being a visual medium the use of voice over extensively is annoying. That is my independent view on voice overs.
    Keep up the good work. Expecting a lot more reviews from you guys.

    Cheers,
    Dinesh V

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    • Hi Dinesh
      Thanks 🙂 I really enjoyed this film – the action storyline is just the thread that everything else hang from and that is unusual for a Tamil film. The relationships, all of them, really are well portrayed and explored. I think that Gautham Menon did an excellent job of combining the two, as the action plot still worked well and had enough suspense – particularly at the end.
      I don’t mind the voice-overs so much as it does provide insight into the characters, but I agree that these are rather heavy handed compared to the way voice-overs are used in European cinema for example.
      I’m more and more impressed by Ajith – this was different from the other roles I’ve seen him play.
      Cheers, Heather

      Like

  2. At long last. The subtitles were long due. Glad that you loved it. On the surface this seems pretty similar to vettaiyadu velaiyadu, but this is a class apart just for the way in which Gautham Menon handled the relationships. And you’re right. I wanted more of Lisa too. Maybe it was removed in the editing room, because it was to small a role for Parvathy. One of my best experiences in a movie theater. And loved how Hemanika’s character was introduced. No love at first sight. No unnecessary drama. Simple and Straight forward. The entire Hemanika-Sathyadev-Eesha track was pure bliss and it probably was where the heart of the movie lied. Gautham Menon later said that he’d love to make a sequel to this with an aged Ajith and his teenage daughter. Fingers crossed for it.

    Regards,
    MAK

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    • Hi MAK,
      I had to download the subtitles as there still isn’t a DVD release that’s subtitled. The Lotus Fivestar DVD is terrible quality too, and mine finished 4 minutes before the end!
      I would love a sequel – how good would that be! Anikha was fantastic in this especially in the way she slowly accepted Sathyadev as her father.
      It’s a great film 🙂
      Cheers, Heather

      Like

      • True.And I also loved the fact that he wasn’t a typical Indian father. He allowed her to grow and develop her own personality rather than bossing her around. There is a scene when Ajith brings Anushka to his home for the first time, and when Anikha opens the door, he asks her for her if Anushka can stay. That moment hardly lasted for a few seconds, but it was beautiful to watch.

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