Naiyaandi I’m a huge Dhanush fan, so despite the negative reviews it was inevitable that I would make the effort to see his latest film in the theatre.  And to be honest I don’t think it was quite as bad as reviewers have described, although it is still fairly terrible.  Naiyaandi is billed as a comedy and at least for the guys beside me in the cinema it delivered as promised, since they were literally rolling around in their seats laughing.  But I can’t work out if Sarkunam actually wanted to make a comedy or an action masala flick as the film ends up combining aspects of both genres without ever managing to form a coherent whole.  Naiyaandi is more like watching a TV comedy show with a series of skits, some of which work, and some which don’t, interspersed with the odd fight scene.  It does have a few funny moments, mainly in the second half but generally this is one to skip and wait for the DVD.

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Naiyaandi begins by introducing Meera Krishnan as a desperate mother trying to find a bride for the eldest of her three sons.  Her dilemma is quickly explained when the eldest son is introduced (Sriman), sporting an impressive paunch and seemingly well past marriageable age.  Matters look almost as bleak for the second son (Sathyan), however there is perhaps more hope for the younger son Chinna Vandu (Dhanush) who is much younger (and thinner) than his two brothers. For some unexplained reason, Chinna Vandu doesn’t live with the rest of the family, but rather lives with his uncle (Imman Anachi) in a small village and spends his time lazing around with his friends.  This also involves mooning after Vanaroja (Nazriya Nazim) who is visiting the village to spend time with her grandmother (Sachu).

On the surface Vanaroja should be fairly sensible; she’s apparently a dentist and comes from a loving and wealthy family, but she has irritatingly stupid habits which make her seem childish and inane, and generally she has the personality of wet tofu.  After a few days of being followed by Chinna Vandu, who uses more and more ridiculous methods of trying to attract her attention, Vanaroja decides that she has fallen in love with her stalker and plans to marry him.  Even though he appears to have no job prospects and she knows little about his family. Seriously – no-one is this dumb – even in a ‘comedy’!

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At this point Sarkunam seems to feel that the story needs a villain, so provides one in Vamsi Krishna whose psychotic determination to marry Vanaroja is perplexingly stubborn given that he’s only met her briefly.  However since his sole purpose is to provide a reason for our hero to abscond with the girl, presumably his lack of rationale doesn’t really matter.  Vamsi Krishna does the usual villain shtick, but it’s all very half-hearted and he’s neither menacing enough to be truly evil, or too over-dramatic to be funny.

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Things do improve in the second half where Vanaroja and Chinna Vandu are trying to hide the fact that they have become married from the rest of his family.  The only way to allow them to disclose their relationship is apparently to get Chinna Vandu’s two elder brothers married off, but this could be more difficult than ever since both brothers have their hearts set on Vanaroja.  Sriman and Sathyan provide some much needed comedy, which generally hits the mark and is actually pretty funny.  Whether it’s Sriman pulling in his stomach every time he sees Vanaroja, or Sathyan trying to get her to read his poetry, the two work well with each other (and with Dhanush) to make this section of the film more entertaining.

Nazriya Nazim doesn’t have much scope, but she is also better in the second half and actually seems to develop some personality as she dodges the two brothers while simultaneously contriving to meet Chinna Vandu in secret. Unfortunately this doesn’t last, and the final scenes are clichéd and ridiculously over the top without managing to raise many laughs. This is the first time I’ve seen Nazriya Nazim but she didn’t impress, although that is probably more due to her uninspiring and clichéd character which didn’t give her any opportunity to make an impact.


To add to the disappointment of an unimaginative storyline, the songs are uniformly terrible with bizarre choreography and obviously shot on a tight budget.  At least that’s the only explanation I have for the cheap and nasty costumes worn by the backing dancers in Switzerland.  Dhanush wears a succession of outlandish outfits which don’t suit him at all, and both he and Nazriya get little opportunity to actually dance.  I can’t decide if this was supposed to be part of the comedy or if the songs were meant to be taken ‘seriously’, but this is where the FF button and the film on DVD would be appreciated.


However, despite the terrible storyline, unfunny dialogue from Soori and Imman Anachi in the first half and nonsensical villain, there are a few things to enjoy about the film – even if only briefly.  Sriman and Sathyan are genuinely funny and the older Tamil songs that accompany some of their deranged imaginings are a good touch.  I did laugh for most of the second half of the film and it does seem better written with wittier dialogue.  Even the fight scenes are better.  Dhanush is fine in his role and always watchable, but the character here doesn’t require him to do anything special and such an unremarkable role is particularly disappointing after his impressive performance in Mariyaan.  Overall Naiyaandi is worth a watch for Sriman and Sathyan and the latter part of the film, but I think I’d recommend waiting for the DVD and judicious use of the FF button.

Thuppakki (2012)


After the disappointment of 7 Aum Arivu, thankfully A. R. Murugadoss takes a step back in the right direction with Thuppakki.  With a story based on terrorist sleeper cells in Mumbai, the action is well written and cleverly plotted to build suspense and there are a number of surprising twists towards the end.  The resolution relies more on the hero’s intellect rather than the usual wham bam of most hero-centric Tamil films (although there are a few of those moments too), and Vijay is at home and comfortable in the role of a special operative in the Indian army.  I could have done without the rather dull romance track which didn’t seem to mesh well with the rest of the film, but essentially Thuppakki is one of the better Vijay films of recent times and is definitely well worth a look.  Great opening credits too.


Vijay’ character Jagdish starts off well by proving that he can fight and dance during an unscheduled train stop on the way back to Mumbai to meet up with his family.  While most of the songs are forgettable with fairly dull choreography, this one is much more fun, although that may just be my preference for songs that allow everyone to join in.

Once back in Mumbai, Jagdish’s parents rush him off to a meeting with a potential bride Nisha (Kajal Agarwal), but Jagdish is initially not impressed by the traditional sari-clad and demure girl he sees.  However, it turns out that Nisha is in fact an athletic sportswoman with a mind of her own and a completely modern attitude.  Although this sounds promising, in reality Nisha’s love of sports is only explored in one unconvincing boxing match and in a song.  Her character is almost immediately submerged into a rather pointless comedy side plot involving Jagdish’s superior officer V. Ravichandran (Jayaram) and otherwise she remains firmly in the background.  The romance fizzles and after a terrible song in a nightclub it’s not surprising that Jagdish makes a run for it back to the terrorist in his closet.  The curse of the costume designer hits Nisha too, so it’s not all Kajal’s fault, but the whole romance track feels very much out of place with the rest of the film and doesn’t add anything at all to the plot.


By chance Jagdish is involved in the capture of a sleeper cell operative who detonates a bomb on a bus.  Finding out that a senior police officer has been corrupted leads Jagdish to interrogate the terrorist himself, which reveals that our hero is not as clean cut as might be expected.  Jagdish has no qualms about torturing his captive and quickly learns of a plot to simultaneously detonate 12 bombs around Mumbai.    With the help of some army friends who just happen to be in town for a wedding, he takes out the 12 sleeper cells in a surprisingly tense chase sequence.  Needless to say this ensures that the leader of the terrorist group retaliates and heads to Mumbai to deal with the threat to his next plan – plan B having failed!

ThuppakkiThuppakkiThuppakkiThuppakkiVidyut Jamwal is excellent as the charismatic leader of the terrorists and his subsequent cat and mouse plot and counter-plot with Jagdish works well even if some of the set-ups are rather far-fetched.  Both Vidyut Jamwal and Vijay put in excellent performances and the dynamic between the two works well, although the final fight scene feels staged in comparison to the rest of the film.  There are also some odd moments where sometimes a Tamil track overlies Vidyut Jamwal’s dialogue in Hindi, while at other times subtitles are used to translate the Hindi and English words.  The Tamil voice-over seemed odd as I could still hear the Hindi words underneath and found that rather distracting, however it made much more sense that the terrorists and their sleeper cells in Mumbai would speak Hindi rather than be able to converse fluently in Tamil. The other problem I had with the film was the poor placement of songs, particularly in the second half.  This is the only other song where I enjoyed the picturisation, but it just pops up in the middle of the action and feels very out of place.

Jagdish isn’t a conventional movie hero and has shades of grey that make him a more interesting character.  He is cold and calculating in his dealings with not only the terrorists, but with his family and friends as well.  For instance, he thinks nothing of including his sister in the group of women kidnapped by the terrorists and is just as callous in his treatment of his fiancée.  But on the other hand he has a genuine affection for his friend, the long-suffering Police Inspector Balaji (Sathyan), and has an obvious passionate loyalty to his country.  In some ways he is no different to the terrorists he is fighting and the parallels between the two men provide another layer to the action.


As seems to be his trademark, A. R. Murugadoss includes a message, and this time it’s a reminder of the sacrifice made by Indian soldiers at the front line.  He includes a group of soldiers disabled by their injuries as part of the cast, and the final song is dedicated to the Indian Army.  As an outsider it seems a little manipulative at times, but overall the sentiment is one I can share despite the sentimentality of the final scene.

Thuppakki combines a good screenplay with excellent performances from the main leads ably baked up by a competent support cast.  The cinematography by Santosh Sivan is up to his usual high standard and enhances the mood of the film.  A little less reliance on the standard formula (action + romance + comedy x 6 songs) would have made this a better film, but as it stands it’s still an enjoyable watch.  4 stars.