Naaigal Jaakirathai is a fitting tribute to the memories of Chinnappa Devar and Rama Narayanan; of watching MGR petting his elephant in Nalla Neram and actress Seetha giving precise commands to her pet-cobra in Aadi Velli.
But the similarities end there.
The animals in the Devar and Ramanarayanan films performed gimmicks. They wore bizarre clothes and danced to the tunes of Shankar Ganesh and KV Mahadevan. The filmmakers made them look so human that we began to believe they would cry like humans. As much as the animals were celebrated in their films, they were like circus clowns: performers that did tricks to entertain an audience.
In director Shakti Soundar Rajan’s Naaigal Jaakirathai the canine in the film – Subramani (Idoh) is a bonafide star breathing fear into the villains. Idoh gets top billing in the titles; and he is no mere entertainer. He is a performer, like every other actor in the movie.
The movie opens with a quote from Mahatma Gandhi: “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” The next shot is of a soldier at an army camp in Ladakh missing his steps while climbing a slippery mountain. He calls for help, and from a small tent in the snow covered landscape Subramani comes out, rushes to his master and saves him by pulling the rope all by himself. In the next scene, his master gets shot when they go for a walk and Subramani continues to wait for three days next to the corpse. Aid workers arrive and pull a reluctant Subramani from his dead master. A close-up shot of his soulful eyes. No tears.
We meet sub-inspector Karthik (Sibiraj) at Coimbatore next. The camera takes us around the city before stopping at a statue of Periyar. The inscription reads, “Installed by Sathyaraj and Manivannan.” We smile. Naaigal Jaakirathai is produced by Sathyaraj and the film is replete with moments that are dedicated to best friends Sathyaraj and the late Manivannan. In another scene, Sibiraj, clad in police uniform, walks into his house, when a scene from Walter Vetrivel plays on TV. The Doggy Style song ends with a scene from Amaidhi Padai, in which Manivannan asks Sathyaraj, “Enna, naai kadichiruchukungalaaakum!” We smile again.
Retired canine-commando Subramani and Karthik, who is on a break from work owing to a trauma, become friends after a comical, yet emotional courtship. We respect their relationship more, for they are haunted by pasts of a similar nature. They understand each other through a series of incidents that unfold subtly. For instance, as the duo watches the cartoon Scooby Doo, they unknowingly fall asleep. They suddenly hear a gunshot from the TV and they both rush to take cover. Sibiraj scratches Subramani’s ears as he asks, “Unakkum gundu saththam-na bayama?”
While the first half of the film is used to establish the bond between Subramani and Karthik, the action-packed second half puts them to work. The director tries not to waste a minute as he places them both in perilous situations; consciously trying to sustain the pace of the film. He only succeeds partly, managing to create tense situations, but bungling in how the situations are managed. The laidback attitude of Karthik’s friend and his own levity even as the clock is ticking are unnerving. We want to shake them hard and yell at them to get back to work.
Naaigal Jaakirathai also succumbs to quite a few cliches. Pregnant women that get hurt in their abdomens; a stale revenge drama in the antagonist’s back story. The writing lacks coherence and logic at points, and it is obvious that Shakti has placed all his faith in his stars: Idoh and Sibiraj. And they don’t let him down.
PS: There was deafening applause for Idoh; Ajith, when a scene from Mankatha was played and Vijay, when he hugs a dog in a scene from Thullatha Manamum Thullum. And also for a boy, who said this: “Mani, kaththukitta moththa vithaiyum erakkuraney!”
The Naaigal Jaakirathai review is a Silverscreen original article. It was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the movie. Silverscreen.in and its writers do not have an advertising relationship with movies that are reviewed on the site.