Sun Pictures' Padikkathavan (Illiterate) starring upcoming star-in-the-making Dhanush, directed by Suraaj can be called a masala entertainer that doesn't take itself too seriously -- except in parts. And they've fairly succeeded in bringing you a filmi biryani with a little bit of everything.
The film begins with the hero in Thirunelveli which, after Madurai, is the favourite hunting-ground of Tamil Nadu's gangsters. Here too, there's one vicious rowdy, Kasi Anandhan (Atul Kulkarni, absolutely wasted) who's ruling the roost but even as he's prepared to sway the state, his brother ends up getting killed by a mysterious assailant.
And then the action moves to Chennai.
Playing the illiterate, snarky youth who's permanently wise-cracking about his shortcomings is something that's unique to Dhanush, and as Radhakrishnan aka Rocky, he fits the part to a T. Everyone in his family, starting from father Ramakrishnan (Prathap Pothen) to his sister is a double degree holder but poor Rocky hasn't even managed to pass 10 standard, and is the errand boy to his family members.
His coterie, led by Mayilsamy and Co encourage him to join a tutorial, but that ends in a comical disaster as well, and that's when they cook up a novel scheme: Rocky could fall in love with an educated girl and gain all the respect education confers on anyone.
That's the route Rocky follows and enter Gayathri (Tamanna) with her milk-white complexion who's studying aeronautical science in a prestigious college and who, with a minimum of persuasion, falls in love with Rocky quite quickly. Black is in our culture, she says but she herself, as the girl, must be fair and lovely, of course!
Matters go along smoothly, with the mandatory songs by Mani Sharma. Then, trouble brews. That's the cue for certain cleverly inserted bash-fests and the entrance of Samara Simma Reddy (Suman) and his arch enemy, Rami Reddy (Shayaji Shinde, who flaps about in a dhoti and chains).
Assault Arumugam (Vivek) as the hapless wannabee rowdy makes an appearance and fireworks explode on the screen, and masala-mode is fully underway with hordes of villains.
That's something that dogs the whole movie, actually: there are simply too many characters and minor celebrities who seemingly have nothing to do. Cases in point: Prathap Pothen, Deva Darshini, Kadhal Dandapani, Santhana Bharathi -- the list is endless.
This flick is all about Dhanush and only Dhanush: he's danced, fought, smirked and made snarky comments every alternate second. Here's the thing: he actually makes it work, most of the time. There are several pot-shots at leading stars and heroes, punch dialogues and fights; but Dhanush's comic timing is impeccable. His Bruce Lee avatar is a bit difficult to swallow without any background, but what the heck; there have been worse incarnations onscreen. For every dialogue he utters about uneducated young men who have every right to win, the cheers hit the roof.
Tamanna adds flavour to the pot-boiler; her role is that of a typical heroine, she's got little to do except make faces and dance, but there's a rather neat twist in the tale involving her, which makes things interesting.
Vivek provides some laughs but things get contrived after a point. All the villains are uniformly shrieking machines who order someone's head to be chopped off, all the time. Suman is the only exception in a couple of scenes.
A Venkatesh's camera work suits the movie's purpose, while Mani Sharma's music is all sound and fury. Suraaj's script and dialogues are all meant to gently shape Dhanush as the next superstar and it seems to be working. In this commercial cocktail, there's plenty of chutzpah, dialogue and bashing while logic has taken a toss.
Padikkathavan isn't meant for lovers of serious or meaningful cinema but if you're in the mood for three hours of pure entertainment, this one is your best bet.