Capital Film Works has always been known for its unorthodox and fresh take on movies like Chennai 28, the youthful KPKP and now, their latest Tamil movie, Naanayam (Coin, or Integrity, depending on your interpretation), directed by Shakthi S Rajan.
It's a subject many makers here have touched only superficially, with not much thought bent towards the actual heist.
Naanayam aims to break that particular tradition, and certainly begins in a spectacular fashion. Young and enthusiastic Ravi (Prasanna) has just one dream in life; to someday become an entrepreneur and run his own company. Life hasn't given him that many opportunities until, one morning in Kodaikkanal, he sees a weakened old man getting pummeled, goes to his help, and gets a big dollop of good fortune. The pummeled man turns out to be Viswanath (S P Balasubramaniyam), CEO of the Trust Bank where Ravi is promptly offered a job.
His dream of setting up his own company still remains his driving force, however he's bent on saving Rs 2 crore for it, come hell or high-water. Exactly how he ends up being an expert on security systems isn't clear (Ravi's an Engineering graduate, but appears to have no special training), but he designs a superb security system that puts Trust Bank on par with Swiss banks, making it the World's Safest Bank (!).
Along the way, he confides some of this to loyal secretary Devaki, but falls headlong in love with a journalist from Adyar Times, Nandhini (Ramya Raj, aka Ragini of Sandai fame) for whom he's willing to take more than a blow on the head.
Unfortunately, meeting her seems to have brought him the proverbial boatload of ill-luck: Ravi is accused of murdering Nandhini's ex-husband, is blackmailed into joining Farid (Sibiraj) into planning a daring heist into Trust Bank and thereby defeating the security system he himself designed.
Kudos to the director for having chosen a plot not often dealt with in Tamil cinema, and getting a cast that's done justice to it.
Prasanna is sweet, savvy, intense and desperate as the situation demands. His diction too is superb. But it's Sibiraj who makes more of an impact. Yes, he apes his esteemed father often, especially in tone of voice and modulation but he seems to have had a blast doing it. Ramya Raj has more than one role to play, and does justice to it. SPB plays his role with élan. The rest sort of fill in the blanks.
It's an added advantage that no comedy track has been thrust in although the songs hamper the pace.
But Naanayam would have been an even better film if it had actually retained some originality in its basic plot: the heist.
Hollywood has developed so much on this genre that every new heist movie has to outdo itself spectacularly. Unfortunately, Naanayam's makers seem to have simply decided to take several classic heist movies like Ocean's Eleven and Twelve and simply add "nativity" to it.
The entire security system, and the ways to get past it, particularly the laser beams are crude imitations of the slick original while the fruit shop ploy is hilarious.
And since the heist is pretty much 75 per cent of the movie, you're left to find solace in the neat acting, the slick cinematography by Omprakash, Praveen and Srikanth's editing and James Vasanthan's music. While not scintillating, Naanayam and Naan Pogiren are pleasing to the ears.
The truth is, if you're a Hollywood aficionado, Naanayam is no fun, because you've already watched all the originals with much better logic. If you haven't though, its racy screenplay that flags only post intermission might keep you in your seat.