A lean, mean cop brandishes his vicious fists. A knife's stuck in his back, another on his thigh. Still, he manages to bash up 50 goons -- yes, 50 -- single-handedly, while a wounded witness stands nearby, screaming for help. Lightning crashes framing our hero while rain pours down in buckets but the hero keeps bashing and the goons keep coming. The movie goes on and on and on.
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And that, ladies and gentlemen, is almost 99 per cent of the story of Sathyam, as it were.
Things don't seem quite this bad in the first 45 minutes of GK Film Corporation's Satyam, directed by debutant director A Rajasekar and starring the Tamil hero who's made it very quickly into the inner biggie-ring of heroes, Vishal.
In yet another home production, he stars as K Satyam, Assistant Commissioner of Police, c/o Madurai (they all seem to be from Madurai, these days) who saves a potential encounter victim from the guns of his own colleagues. Explanation? He's the police, not a porukki (rogue) -- a direct hit at Saami's Vikram, who famously mouthed that he was a rogue, not a policeman.
This cop doesn't believe in sacrificing villains, however guilty they may be, in the name of encounters. They've got to be handed over to god and the law -- because neither is wrong. And then begins the hero-entry song, Aaradi kathe, which showcases Vishal lovingly, a la a true mass hero, complete with shades, trim physique, bulging biceps, throbbing veins and engaging in various police duties.
In typical filmi fashion enters Deiva (Nayanthara), togged up in combat boots and chic black clothing and jewellery, and with a camera as well (with which she promises to bring criminals to light). Her aide (Prem G Amaren, absolutely wasted) helps in bringing the apartment's little brat-pack's crimes to their parents, for which they, in tandem with Satyam, of course, trounce her with a home-manufactured set of disasters.
Flour-cans fall, tins roll, rugs slip and forks pin Deiva in quick succession -- the whole sequence inspired very badly from Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill and Deiva pouts and yells her way through it all. Soon enough, seeing Satyam take care of his invalid mother (Sudha Chandran, wasted again), she falls head over heels in love with him.
But romance plays a very teeny-weeny part in this movie, which zooms back to Kondaldasan (Kotta Srinivasa Rao), an immensely corrupt minister with eyes on the CM's chair. Armed with his aides, Dilli and Acharya, he rules the underworld roost, and makes plans to demolish three other ministers, all competition to his ambitions.
Accordingly, plans are set to find the perfect assassin (Upendra), who picks off people like a pigeon homing in on an insect. The police department goes into a tizzy, and ACP Satyam begins hunting clues, holds off crime scene areas, whizzes around in his jeep and shouts at villains in a very competitive fashion.
His investigation techniques are even worse than Vijaykanth's in Arasangam; at least the "Captain" didn't make it such a point to explain each and every step as if to a four-year old. He finds convenient train tickets, injections and vials dropped by the assassin, and intercepts him after his latest assassination, running alone across the airport, tackles him single-handedly, and sustains a great shock -- the assassin is his childhood mentor. An ex-policeman himself. So far, so good. There's a semblance of a story, action, and enough punch-dialogues to keep the front-benchers whistling.
Come the intermission, and you're thrown into a terrible 70s story, complete with shrieking villains, thumping policemen, laughing goondas and a heroine who jumps into a song every ten minutes. After bashing up enough ruffians to beat the tally of every superhero of Tamil cinema, Satyam loses his mother, is slapped with assassination charges and jailed by the very law which he swore would work. Finally -- a turning-point.
Then comes the climax -- a laugh riot, which shatters your ear-drums.
Vishal has lost oodles of weight and looks great, which is a pity as he obviously needs a screenplay which ought to have held out better. As it is, he displays his toned body, looks impressive in his uniform, modulates well and with Nayanthara, exudes confidence and chemistry. If only he didn't scream so much, or mouth inane dialogues in an obvious effort to claim the masses. His efforts at becoming a MinimumGuarantee hero reduce you to irritation.
Speaking of the heroine: poor Nayan. Her histrionic talents are wasted. To play the naïve, giggly 21-year old, she resorts to acting like a ten-year old instead. She's supposed to work in television, wears ravishing, sexy outfits (backless salwars!), totes a camera -- but nowhere, except in the climax, is she actually seen working. As the sultry siren in the songs, especially Chellame, with her slightly cynical smile, glittering eyes and svelte body, she wins. A good thing too, as there's nothing else for her to do.
Kotta Srinivasa Rao, another excellent screen-villain has been reduced to shrieking inanities.
Kannada actor Upendra makes an entrance here, as the unknown assassin Manickavel, and you wish he didn't yell so much, since his dialogues are actually worth listening to.
The movie is to be released in Telugu as well, titled Salute. So, half the characters speak in Telugu, their voice dubbed in Tamil and you get the feeling you're watching a mish-mash of a Tamil/Telugu movie.
A Rajasekar's screenplay isn't filled with plot-holes; they're huge craters.
Harris Jeyaraj, perhaps realising the futility of the project, has done his reasonable best. Stunt Siva, whose capabilities have been utilised fully, does a magnificent job. S Gunasekar's dialogues are cringe-worthy most times, laudable once or twice.
The movie is technically and visually well polished -- and that, in itself is a pity, as, without a good screenplay and execution, it falls flat.
Satyam is for those who are satisfied with dreamy songs, excellent stunts and shrieking characters -- and not much else. Yes, it'll probably get its money's worth, pushed along by the actor's loyal fans -- but would it rank as a good movie? Hardly.