Note: The plot or Story line is not revealed
After a scene like this and dialogs like "I have come back after one year amma! I just want to make everybody happy", I was thinking that it is very tough to take Rajini for the character that he plays - Saravanan - A Doctor of Psycology. The real rajinikanth is so explosive that he permeates into every character he plays. So much that he is obligated to explain his break in making movies - to the audience - through his character. I was thinking, I should sit back, enjoy and evaluate the movie in Rajinikanth's own parallel movie world, with its own set of rules and laws ( much like the James Bond ones). But I was wrong! Rajini plays a character close that of Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot and the movie follows a classic Poirot kind of plot. This is really a movie. What I mean by this is - unlike many other Rajinikanth movies - this movie has a rock solid story line ( a proven one at that in Kannada/Malayalam too). When was the last time you sort of tensed your arms and legs feeling scared, like the way you do in a horror movie - for a Rajinikanth movie!. This movie if it wanted to could scare the B-Jesus outta you. Rajini for most part of the film does really become and play the role of Saravanan. Not only that, he is not the main dude in the movie! He merges into the background and comes forward when the script makes it necessary. Rajinikanth has chosen quality over grandoise. A rare thing indeed. Though it is extremely difficult to make Rajinikanth look credible as a Doctor of Psycology, this movie comes as close to acheiving that as any movie can( albeit not completely).
P.Vasu has obviously broken down a very heavy story line to fit it with the requirements of a Rajinikanth movie. A very difficult task in itself. The story is so good that probably even after hours of chipping away at the script and de-intelligenc'ing it for the palatability of an average Rajini Fan, it still carries a lot of weight. However, P.Vasu in this movie has shown poor attention to detail. There are too many logical flaws to pen down. I wouldn't wanna be a party spoiler and harp about logic in a Rajini movie but these flaws aren't introduced for the sake of Rajini. These are errors created by the director because of the choices he makes in deciding how the movie progresses. He could have very well avoided these flaws and made a better movie without compromising on the "Rajini" factor. The problem that the movie poses requires that the Doctor of Psycology ( Rajinikanth) should solve the problem and not anybody else. The movie creates huge gaps in logic to make that possible. A little thought and clarity in scripting could have made that possible. Bottomline if someone like Kamalahassan or K.Bhagyaraj was asked to write the screenplay instead of P.Vasu himself, this movie would have worked much better. There are jarring cuts in the way movie progresses and some scenes follow each other so quickly that we are left with a "drama" feeling than a movie feeling. Apart from the script P.Vasu has also done a poor job extracting performances from the side-artists, especially Nasser, Prabhu and K.R.Vijaya. The "drama" feeling is especially prominent in the first half an hour where you almost get the feeling these actors are "acting" the part than actually "living" the part. This was not true for some of the earlier Rajini movies.
The plot, which I will not reveal, is a complex one. It involves two perspectives - and the viewer is privy to only of the two perspectives. The other perspective is something only Rajinikanth is privy to. The story evolves and changes direction as a result of some of Saravanan's(Rajini) decisions. The movie pauses at a point where the problem(the viewers are still not aware of it) is so interwined that, only Saravanan can solve the problem. He then narrates, in Poirot style, the second perspective to everybody ( the viewers are synched up with Saravanan at this point) . This is when Kurosawa's old and famous technique of showing the same scene from two different camera angles is once again used in Tamil Cinema ( although this may have been used in the Mallu movie which won Shobana the national award). The final few scenes wonderfully reveal the second perspective and makes you slam your head with your hands and say "I saw this scene! why didn't I notice this". After you hear Saravanan's narration, you understand that if the problem is solved Saravanan will die. You are thinking! "Wow! Rajinikanth dying" that never happens unless its a double action movie, does it? You are not sure. This movie is delightfully so far away from the Rajinikanth formula that you half-entertain the thought of such a possibility.
The last few moments are the best part of the movie. Jyotika delivers the best performance of her career. Man! She was really good. It is very difficult to appreciate her without revealing the plot but I will try my best. When the telegu song was played, the way one and then later two artists danced to that tune was simply impressive. It was mind blowing. Anybody who is a general movie-goer should not miss this movie thinking " ah! who wants to go to a rajini movie". The fantasy re-enactment of the Chandramukhi story was excellent. I always held that Rajinikanth can act wondefully well in a negative role ( Anybody who has seen avargal knows that). Those few moments reveal his potential in that direction.
The camera work is good but scratchy in certain places. Again some atention to technical details ( not something associated with any of Rajini's directors) could have made those special effects look better. At least the beginning introduction scene where Rajini stands with one leg in kicking motion could have been done better. The way it is right now - it is plainly obvious someone's leg has been digitally cut and pasted. And - oh! my god! enough of gravity defying Rajini jump scenes. Are we still in the 80's? Although the songs, except the kite song, is nothing to write home about and actually irritating ( especially the title "devuda" song), they were taken very well. Colorful, lot of people - 100% Rajini style. The background music was impressive though. I have to make a special mention about the lighting. The selective lighting on Jyotika's eyes and the change of filter colors to dark red and brown during certain critical moments makes the scene appear more menancing. If you remove the lighting and the background music, you may notice the reduction in impact the scene creates. P.Vasu because of his experience making Apthamthra, does very well in creating the horror movie effect. One thing, he could have avoided silly things like putting Sivaji ganesan's photo in the beginning of the movie, P.Vasu and Sivaji's son Ramkumar appearing in that Devuda song to say "repeat" etc. The whole movie is taken inside a single building with the layout of the building being vital to the plot. Sometimes we don't know where the North room is with respect to the other rooms in the castle ( Watch Panic Room for good example of how to deal with an analogous requirement) . When someone is shouting for help and the "evil" chases them, we do not know where they are running. We also do not know why Rajini is the only person to hear Chandramukhi's midnight dances. With a little bit more attention to detail, he could have sorted these things out and made the movie even better.
To sum up. I was very happy to see Rajinikanth do such a movie. He should do more movies like this. Unfortunately ( judging by the jeering whistles in the last few scenes) not all the public may appreciate such sincere efforts at movie making. But for purists sake he should try it anyway. This movie is a must watch. It has a good story and an outstanding performance by Jo! Go watch it.