Cast: Vishal Krishna, Samuthirakani, Kajal Aggarwal, Soori
The first Suseenthiran film I watched was Naan Mahaan Alla in 2010. I was amazed by the way the film panned out, both before and after the interval. It felt like I was watching two different films. The first half, despite being fun and jolly, ended on a grim note and whetted the audiences’ appetite. The second half was gritty, and univocally focused on revenge. In fact, revenge seems to Suseenthiran’s favourite genre. He repeated the Naan Mahaan Alla magic with Pandiyanaadu in 2013. Vishal’s best film to date, Pandiyaandu was also a revenge story, but one that didn’t have a common man performing superhuman stunts to defeat the villain. Vishal underplayed himself as the timid Shivakumar who goes on to avenge his brother’s death, supported by a brilliant performance from Barathiraja. The film marked a great comeback for Vishal in Kollywood. So I wouldn’t deny that my expectations were high with Paayum Puli, which sees the return of this director-actor duo.
Paayum Puli is the story of Jayaseelan (Vishal), an undercover cop who takes on a mafia gang. The gang extort money from influential businessmen based in Madurai. How he deals with the twists and turns of trying to destroy an organized crime syndicate forms the plot of the film.
Jayaseelan is nothing like Shivakumar in Pandiyanaadu. He is the unabashedly tough cop who literally pounces on goons and cracks their bones in no time. Or, if he’s too bored for all that, simply shoots them in head. Vishal’s personality and demeanour convincingly lend themselves to his role in the film. The surprise package is Samuthirakani who, surprisingly, doesn’t limit himself to a social message masquerading as a character. His delivery of dialogues and expressions showcased a different side to his acting skills. One we definitely hope to see more of. Soori’s parts are limited and subtle, as in all Suseenthiran’s films. He is used in the right proportions (thank God for that!) and manages to evoke a few laughs in the first half of the film. Kajal Aggarwal’s role can be best described as ‘also there’. She plays Sowmya, an adult woman who cannot cross the road. One who finds primordial joy in bursting soap bubbles at a traffic signal – Kollywood’s quintessential ‘innocent girl’.
The biggest downside of the film is the screenplay, which takes its own sweet time to unfurl. The first half oscillates between action and romance, interspersed with songs. The story doesn’t move forward in the usual ‘Suseenthiran style’. From his first film Vennila Kabbadi Kuzhu to Jeeva, the audience has grown to expect an intelligent interlacing of romance in the plot. But the romantic track between Vishal and Kajal was, to put it mildly, uninspired. One can’t help but wonder whether we will ever get to watch something other than the age old romance template – tough and smart guy falls in love with the girl, impressed by her juvenile and joyful behaviour. And the forced placement of the duets didn’t help. The second half does have some interesting chase sequences where we see the Suseenthiran touch. But the languid first half leaves the audience feeling somewhat detached from this plot, and nostalgically remembering the solid plot of Pandiyanaadu.
Velraj’s cinematography is a huge plus in the film. His birds-eye view of the lanes and bylanes of Madurai during the chase sequences heightens the intensity of the scenes. Imman’s background score is on point for the most part, but at certain places becomes so jarring that it obscures even the dialogues. And sadly, the songs (of which at least three could have been done away with) sound like a rehash of his previous work.
Paayum Puli is a good cop story, but will go down as a ‘could have been great’. Too bad Suseenthiran succumbs to the usual stereotypes and formulas. His past work has shown he can tell engaging stories without deviating from the central plot. If only he had done away with the unwanted fluff in the film, we would have had another indigenous film from his stable. This Paayum Puli (Pouncing Tiger) simply takes way too much time to pounce.
The Paayum Puli 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.