What exactly does one expect when one walks into a movie hall? Entertainment? Laughs? Fun, frolic and wholesome heroines? If that's the case, then Cinema Paradise's Tamil film Sandai, directed by Shakthi Chidhambaram, certainly doesn't disappoint.
Just suspend all logic and reason before settling for this age-old mother-in-law/son-in-law battle movies on the lines of Poova Thalaiya and Mappillai.
As the patriarch of an ancient and well respected rural family prays for fourteen long years for his long lost daughter and grand-daughter to reunite with his family, you're pretty much prepared for the age old village drama, villains and goons intact. And so it does transpire -- except that the treatment has gone in for slight changes, affording some good old light-hearted fun.
Thangalakshmi (Nadia Moidu, who returns to a slapdash performance), a crorepati, lives with her daughter Abhi (Ragini, Khushboo's niece) in Bangkok. Thangalakshmi arranges her daughter's marriage on one condition -- it should take place in her native village, Kothamangalam, which is teeming with a hostile brother, cousins and others hell-bent on wanting her out of the way. Thangalakshmi herself has her own history of violence traced back to her husband's death.
Her visit is anything but uncomplicated. Hounded by her brother's family, which she believes is responsible for her husband's, the Collector Kamaraj's (Napoleon) death -- set upon by cousins, thugs who try to kidnap her daughter -- the mother turns to Kathi (Sundar C), a man who wields a mean weapon in the locality, beating men up with bare hands and sporting an aruvaal larger than her's.
Kathi duly takes charge of Abhi, joined in due course by Mani (Vivek, in a longer comedy track), who's there on his astrologer's advice. The two battle it out for Abhi's affections amidst fun, frolic, double entendre jokes and petty quarrels.
Thangalakshmi, in the meantime, goes ahead with her daughter's marriage, amidst little mix-ups on the parts of Kathi and Mani to dissuade the groom from actually marrying Abhi. In the end, predictably, it is Kathi who ends up tying the knot with Abhi.
But then, life throws a spanner in the works that turns everyone's lives upside down. What follows is a protracted battle between Kathi and his mother-in-law, and his efforts at winning every confrontation.
Sundar C is well aware that he can't really lay claim to stardom and he knows, too, that his role doesn't really require him to act. So he does what comes best to him -- go through the moves and have a blast. Humour really becomes him, and his rugged looks help him get in the character of a gangster.
Together with Vivek who, with all the proper dialogues and facial expressions manages to scrape through and Namitha, a so-called folk artiste who practically bulges out of her clothing, Sundar C manages to snap his fingers at a recalcitrant Nadia.
Talking of Nadia, woman, what's the secret of your eternal youth? Barring a few lines, she might still be the young and delightfully sprightly girl who stole everyone's heart in Poove Poochoodava (the music of which is amply used several times in the movie). Her smart good looks are still used by the director to play up on the screenplay. She even does a jiggle with Sundar himself, demonstrating her staying power onscreen. And, one might add, she even surpasses Sundar's real jodi.
Ragini has so little to do except be thrown like a rag doll from one suitor to another, so it doesn't matter anyway. As for poor Kadhal Dandapani, his cohorts, Paravai Muniyamma and the rest the less said, the better. They're responsible for the yawn-inducing second half.
Vivek's comedy efforts produce some laughs, but they're certainly not the squeaky clean variety.
Dhina's music sticks precisely to masala fare, swelling loudly at the fight scenes, where Sundar multiplies into three or six forms onscreen, and dropping to barely there at others. The songs, while they scrape through, are picturised in a way that brings many a chuckle.
And then there are the regulation stunts, not to mention an explosive climax, literally.