Considering all the controversy surrounding the Tamil film Mirugam (the director slapping the heroine, for one), one is eager to find out how the film would fare.
Surprisingly, the KarthikJai Movies Pvt Ltd's movie conceived and crafted by Saami doesn't disappoint.
Anbazhagan aka Ayyanar (Adhi, in a slam-bang introduction) is the ruffian who terrorises the villagers of Ayarkulam in Ramanathapuram district. Tall with broad-shoulders and his veshti tied up to his thighs, he presents a truly astounding figure of raw, male power.
He breezes by the women at a speed which is truly amazing. Any event sets his roving eyes, much to the chagrin and deep-seated envy of his sidekick, Idi Thangi (Kanja Karuppu, who moans and laments about his friend's prowess, and is constantly on the lookout for some action, himself.)
Besides this, Ayyanar owns a rather vicious bull, which seems to share his master's favourite pastime. Incidentally, this is also his chief source of income.
The locals, for some reason, raise only token protests at his manhandling of them. But then, they might be excused; Ayyanar is a towering, imposing thug who really looks capable of murder with just a swat of his hand.
Enter Azhagamma (Padmapriya), a smart-looking young woman who's full of ebullient sprits. Thankfully, she doesn't trill in a melodious voice like a standard heroine but scrambles up and down palm trees, beats up ruffians herself, and delivers knock-out punches in a perfectly believable manner. And you sit up and take notice when Ayyanar, as is his habit, makes amorous advances on her -- only to be swatted back in his own fashion.
As the cocksure Ayyanar first beats up his wife on their wedding night, and then, at a later date, gets a thrashing from his better half, you cannot help but grin. Ayyanar has, at last, met his match. Even better, the two actually begin to respect each other after a fashion.
Be warned, though; practically every scene is filled with sexual innuendo and titillating references. On the other hand, who cares? They're done quite naturally, so there's no unnecessary 'cringe factor'.
The first half of the movie rushes by without a pause, giving you charming glimpses of rural life, though you're reminded of Paruthiveeran at times, especially during the Dappanguthu dance in the midst of nowhere.
Thankfully, though, Ayyanar and Azhagamma are so different from Veeran and Muthazhagu in their body language and speech that the déjà vu sensation soon slips away.
Come the second half, and the director tries to throw in enough twists and turns to shake away the dreaded boredom. Ayyanar's roughshod life undergoes some unexpected and terrifying changes, turning it upside down which makes him realise exactly what is worth living for, thus delivering the message of the film.
You only wish he realized it sooner, minus all the long speeches, and Azhagamma's rousing tirade in the end, which is completely unjustified.
For a newcomer, Adhi certainly doesn't look it. His swagger within the village as he gives come-hither glances at women make you chuckle with good humour. His kitten-like eyes, shining with innocence, give him away though. Fortunately, an imposing beard does the trick.
Padmapriya is a raging, spirited wife who'll go to the ends of the earth to guard her husband, a la the patni of yesteryear -- but here's the thing, it's not unnatural or overworked. You can actually see her gradually falling in love with him, kicks and punches notwithstanding. As for the scene where she gradually seduces him -- that's nothing short of knock-out sensuous. It's a brave role for her, though.
That can be said for the whole film, in fact. Director Sami treads the very fine line between vulgarity and aesthetic appeal, and succeeds to a certain extent.
You wish the music by Sabesh-Murali, had done a better job, though. The background score is a huge letdown, where it could have done wonders to lift the movie. Thankfully, Thottatarani's art and Suresh Urs slick editing save the day.
It takes a while for you to understand that the movie actually happens a few years in the past. You get it only when there's a reference to the Bharathiraja blockbuster, Mudhal Mariyathai.
Despite all that it has going for it, Mirugam stumbles because of the long-drawn out, predictable climax. Not to mention an Adhi, who evokes images of the old classic Rathakanneer.
Watch Mirugam for some realistically done rural fare. With all the dollops of sex, action and messages, it harks back to the good old masala genre, spiced according to today's specifications.