Cast: Manoj, Richa Palot, Dhamu, Vinu Chakravarthy, Vaiyapuri
Music: A R Rahman
Editor: Suresh Urs
Art: Mohana Mahendran
Camera: A Venkatesh
Producer: Janani Creations
Veteran director Bharatiraja has been moving heaven and earth, and everything in-between, to try and launch his son Manoj on the Tamil marquee.
In fact, Bharatiraja helmed Manoj's debut film, Taj Mahal --- only for it to prove an embarassing flop. Then came the much-delayed Kadal Pookal, which bagged a National Award for screenplay without, however, showing any kind of legs at the box office.
This time, Bharatiraja is content to play producer, while roping in Sharan to direct his son.
Sharan has an affinity for children who do not get the love they deserve from their parents. In fact, the character of the hero (Ajith) in his earlier outing, Amarkalam, showed a similar bias.
So in Alli Arjuna too, Manoj has a bad childhood, growing up to be a young lad whose sole aim in life is to irritate his father. Manoj leaves home and stays in a run-down, abandoned police station (again, shades of Sharan's penchant for unusual settings, similar to the cinema hall that was the locale of Amarkalam) with a group of guys (Vinu Chakravarthy, Vaiyapuri, Dhamu -- the same team that formed the backbone of the Amarkalam cast).
Debutante Richa Pallot plays a young girl who, scarred by her friend's horrible death, runs away from home. The friend was sexually assaulted in a shopping mall and kissed in public --- a traumatic incident that leads her to commit suicide.
The friend's prospective bridegroom, far from being affected by the tragedy, cynically proposes marriage to Richa, arguing that life has to go on. Sickened, Richa runs away and ends up in the same house where Manoj and gang are staying.
Manoj falls for her, but she seems him as a chronic never-do-well, a rowdy and a wastrel and will have nothing to do with him. Typically, Manoj changes -- but again, she argues that the fact that he has changed is not per se reason for her to fall in love with him.
And finally, the revelation -- that Manoj, in his erstwhile rough and rowdy avtaar, was the man responsible for kissing her friend in public and leading to her suicide.
The revelation and its fallout are what the rest of the film is about.
In recent years, eve teasing and sexual harassment, has grown into a full-fledged menace in Chennai. The real life tragedy of Sarika Shah has in fact found cinematic echoes in a scene in Shankar's Mudhalvan, while Sharan too touches on the theme here.
This, too, is typical of Sharan. The director has the knack of taking in the buzz words, and weaving them into plots. Thus, in Amarkalam, the Stockholm Syndrome, where the victim of a kidnapper begins to empathise with the abductor was used to good effect.
But somehow the story fails to grip. As do the characters. If in Amarkalam, you empathised with the rowdy Ajit and the vivacious heroine, played by Shalini, you don't feel for either Manoj or Richa.
This, coupled with an overdose of drama in the over-long climax, earn the film demerits at the box office.