Janaseva Films' Tamil film Naalai Namadhe (Tomorrow is Ours), directed by Malayalam hit-maker Vinayan takes its name from a yesteryear MGR blockbuster, and thus follows the current trend. It's all about a message this time: about life among the underprivileged, the many atrocities of politicians and good triumphing over evil. If only the screenplay and characterisation had had the polish required to carry off the subjects.
It doesn't seem quite so cliched in the beginning: when prominent entrepreneur Udayappa (Ashish Vidhyarthi) announces that he is going to donate Rs 1800 crores for the betterment of the poor, putting two completely unknown entities in charge of disbursing the money. The two in question happen to be Mani (Manivannan) and Ramu (Pradeep), both inmates of Nellikuppam, a slum that houses generous-hearted underprivileged persons such as the call-girl Sarasu (Kiran) and innocent, naïve school-girl Shanti (Thanusha).
Needless to say, young Shanti is a high-achieving student who's targeted by a few unscrupulous ruffians for a night of revelry -- Raju (Sarvanand), the son of Minister Maha Ganapathi (Rahul P Dev) among them. As he chases her from her books along deserted buildings in the dead of the night, she's saved by golden-hearted Sarasu. Just when you think this little affair is over for good, love blossoms between Raju and Shanti, in quite a pleasant twist.
In the meantime, Ramu and Mani of Nellikuppam are targeted themselves for the money they hold. In between being coerced by powers-that-be, the travails of slum-dwellers, the Raju-Shanti love-story, and Ramu's political aspirations -- especially when he's denied the rights of citizenship -- things lose their perspective and get very tiring indeed. There's a petty Collector Priya Alexander (Karthika) who should have been impressive but isn't.
A small interlude where Ramu explains his childhood, the origins of Udayappa and how exactly he came to give so many hundreds of crores forms a neat little segment: a marked departure from the rest of the script's heavy-handedness. But post the intermission is one long, seamless session of crude political cat-fights, then plain fights, supposedly cataloguing one man's rise to power.
Pradeep, with his rugged looks and intense stare is just right for his role and he delivers it with a panache that's refreshing. Thanusha, in her school uniform looks so impossibly young that it almost seems like a case of robbing the cradle. It becomes bearable only after she gets to modern-wear and pavadai-dhavanis.
Sarvanand is hopelessly lost as the helpless lover, and Kiran comes back to screens after a long hiatus. With her thigh-bearing antics and saucy looks, she delivers a perfect act, for a couple of minutes, that is. Rahul P Dev, Manivannan and Co are veterans in this commercial game and play along flawlessly, while Bharadwaj's musical score just barely passes muster.
It should have been en emotional roller-coaster -- but this flick is more akin to a road-roller.