Venghai is the latest offering from writer and director Hari and although it follows a fairly predictable path it’s still a reasonably entertaining film.

The story is set in a small town somewhere in Tamil Nadu, but presumably not too far from Trichy since the action moves there for some time. Veera Pandi is a well respected figure in the area and feels it’s his responsibility to look after the wellbeing of the local people. He is aided in this by the members of his family, including his son Selvam (Dhanush) who tries to follow in his father’s footsteps. All seems well until the arrival of a new MLA in the form of Rajalingham (Prakash Raj) who sees his position purely as a way to make money. He is corrupt, greedy for power and wealth, and wastes no time in his bid to take control of the area. Veera Pandi tries to keep Rajalingham in check but he can see the way things are going and in an attempt to stop his son becoming involved in the inevitable battle, sends Selvam off to Trichy.

Although he should be safe enough working for his uncle, Selvam soon becomes involved in another stand-off between local gangsters in Trichy who also seem to have some connection back to Rajalingam. Once in Trichy, Selvam sees Radhika (Tamannaah), and exhibits amazing powers of memory and facial recognition as he realises she is a girl he used to know many years ago in school. As may be expected, Selvam falls in love with Radhika even although she wants nothing to do with him and spends most of her time trying to get rid of him. However, after a few song and dance routines in exotic locations, and watching him throughly beat the gangsters at her college, she starts to change her mind and reciprocate his feelings. There is more to her change of heart than first appears though, and it turns out that Radhika has her own private agenda involving Veera Pandi and needs Selvam to help achieve her goal. In the end Selvam has to deal with Radhika and the local thugs before he can attempt to put an end to Rajalingam’s plans to eliminate his father.

The story is a predictable hero against bad guys with added in love interest, which does have one advantage of making it easier to follow the story without subtitles. It works as an entertainer because of the excellent performances by the lead actors. Prakash Raj is fantastic as the corrupt politician and makes the most of his bad guy persona. He swaggers around, generally looking angry as he schemes his way to more power. I think it may be to make sure that we know he’s the villain, but Rajalingham sports a really unusual moustache with rounded ends. I apologize for the quality but this is the only picture I could find. I think you will agree that it makes quite a statement and is pretty spectacular. A couple of his henchmen have mo’s which match so I’m taking it as a method of recognition for the bad guys rather than a fashion statement, but it could very well be both.

Dhanush does a good job as the son trying to follow his father’s wishes but drawn into the fight despite his best efforts. He is excellent in the scenes with his father and although I have no idea what they are saying, the emotion comes through very well. Raj Kiran is also good as Veera Pandi and the two have some effective father-son moments. Less successful is the romance between Selvam and Radhika. Tamannaah’s performance is very flat in the first half and she really only comes to life in the songs. This makes the contrast much more obvious, as when the action switches back to the romance she loses all of the vivacity which makes her so attractive when dancing. In addition, there is no chemistry between the lead pair at all. Some of this is possibly due to Radhika’s initial reluctance to recognise Selvam, but it never gets any better and it’s hard to understand why Selvam would want to continue the relationship once her true motives are revealed. Tamannaah is better in the second half when there is more for her character to get her teeth into, but it is still a very lifeless performance from an actress who has been much better in a number of other films.

I really liked the sound track by Devi Sri Prasad when I first heard it, and the songs are generally well pictured, although the person responsible for Tamannaah’s outfits has a lot to answer for. The general brief seems to have been to make sure her navel is exposed at all times! Despite some of these questionable wardrobe choices Tamannaah does look beautiful and the songs are definitely the best parts of her performance. I do think it was a little strange to go to Malaysia and then stick to a few shots of buildings and bridges as the location isn’t terribly obvious and could really have been anywhere. However the best parts of this film for me are the locations in Trichy. I work near Trichy for a few weeks every year and really love the city. So when I see the Rock Fort Temple, main bus station and St Joseph’s college it’s as exciting as seeing my home town up on screen. Judging by the reaction there were a few people from Trichy in the crowd as well!

The fight scenes are generally well choreographed and although it’s rather unbelievable to see Selvam singlehandedly take out an entire gang of thugs, at least he does it with the help of machetes, posts, sticks and any other weapon that comes to hand. There is a probably unnecessary comedy track which features Ganja Karuppa as Selvam’s friend in Trichy. As usual I missed most of the comedy as it was in the dialogue, but the two actors play well off each other and the physical comedy was reasonably funny although it really doesn’t add anything to the story.

Although the film follows a very well used storyline, the journey to get to the inevitable showdown at the end is reasonably entertaining, thanks mainly to Prakash Raj  and his gang of merry men. Not a bad film but definitely could have been better.