Yennai Arindhal : Gautham Menon relays his dilemma on screen

Gautham Vasudev Menon walks a tightrope in Tamil cinema, he neither panders to the masses  nor does he use the craft as astutely as Mani Ratnam or Shankar nor is he artistic/ noir. Most of his stories are slow musings with a lot of self-introspection and some pet subjects - cop thrillers, dad-son love and everyday romance.

But there is always something simmering in his movies - it takes talent to introduce Maddy in Minnale to the dialogue of ' oru mechanical engineering student ka venda fire vandaa'  ( where is the fire in a mech engineer) in a debut movie where most of the first 20 mins is about the campus fight between mechanical engineering and computer engineering students. To get this aspect of an engineer studying in a random college - the games between 2 engg departments ( different gender ratio, better career prospects in US),  the aimless nightouts ( with a supremely comic Vivek ) , the loitering in streets to chase a girl ( dei andha ponnu da)  was so real life that Gautham separated himself from the rest.  Its iconic status as an engineering campus movie will be undisputed.

This is where Gautham Menon scores .. blending amazing simplicity into romance that it seems so everyday ( watch Simbu's 'Mottumadi' romance in Vennaithandi Varuvaiya  ).  He single handedly created the property boom in ECR ( east coast road Chennai) when Jyothika and Surya take off for a drive in a jeep to the tune in Ennai Konjum In Kaakha Kaakha. Every Chennaiites idea of romantic drive changed overnight. . The pride in Simran's eyes when she talks about Surya in Vaaranum Aayirum. Or the maturity in the romance of Kamal-Jyothika in Vettaiyadu Vellaiyathyu. These scenes are magical , they make you fall in love.  So you can rest assured when Gautham Menon is helming romance and leveraging great music .

Gautham Menon's other fascination is cop stories, this is probably based on the thriller and medical crime books he read in his spare time. This side of him is a curious curry of sophisticated police officers, highly driven individualistic villains and cat and mouse game which is tense but not necessarily suspenseful.  Kaakha Kaakha the first one had a bit of karmic energy driven by Surya as Anbu Selvam IPS and Jyothika bringing such effervesence as Maya that the romance overtook the cop story at times. Vettaiyadu Velaiyadhu was a triumph of sorts because Kamal played Raghavan with such finesse that it gave depth and maturity to the measured investigation of medical crime.

Now back to Yennai Arindhal , as the last of the trilogy faces many dilemmas. With Raghavan or Anbu Selvam there was no background , we just took them as honest officers wanting to make a difference. Now in Yennai Arindhal , Sathyadev ( Ajith Kumar) makes a conscious choice to choose what is right. Indirectly Gautham Menon is saying this guy could have taken a life of crime but he didnt. This context is good but doesnt propel the story in a meaningful way.

Ajith is also in a dilemma. Unlike Surya who literally played Anbu Selvam first time,  Ajith struggles to get it right at times because he played a corrupt cop in Mankatha ,and another one in Aarambham. He lacks the verve and body language when it comes to the chases and his charisma is only used when he is romancing Anushka Shetty in an amazing intro scene on a flight . He lives up to the mantle of Tamil Nadu's George Clooney literally being Up in the Air .

 Gautham Menon also exhibits the dilemma of whether Yennai Arindhal is a Thala movie or a Gautham Menon movie , because there is an unusual 'gaana paatu' in the movie, there is a mass scene where a baddie refuses to attack Ajith. Ajith has a mesmerising screen presence with a sincere look but his portrayal of Sathyadev  IPS doesnt strike that raw freshness that Gautham managed to extract from Maddy in Minnale, Surya in KK, Simbu in VV and even SarathKumar's pensiveness in Patchakili .

Hence the movie actually has a pretty good sum of parts but the director seems to be in a dilemma on what to showcase.  Even with Sriram Raghavan's help in additional screenplay the chases seem fairly routine and not tense enough.

He starts off with Anushka Shetty as Thenmozhi as a software project manager enjoying the world of personal independence  driven further by corporate powerpoint success. The scene where she sings a ribald song when a prospective groom asks her to sing , is good treatment the classic Gautham way. His ability to showcase a modern woman is hamstrung by Anushka's complete lack of perkiness. So Thenmozhi meets Ajith in a flight , flirts and tries to meet at a coffee shop only to know that she is under attack by goons. Flashbacks follow, on who is the goon , on who is the kid that Ajith is talking to and many more.

It turns out that Ajith had another woman Trisha in his life and the kid is hers. In his quest to outdo the mature romance he has portrayed in other movies, Gautham shows Trisha as a dancer who has a kid from a failed marriage and Sathya falls for her. Although Trisha looks absolutely ravishing as Hemanika and Sathya proposes to her that he will take care of her and her baby by investing in a plot in ECR ( dejavu again) , it sounds more like financial planning rather than true love. But like all Gautham Menon cop movies, the cops love is killed to settle scores.

However the emotions that Ajith has for Trisha' s daughter are poignant . The fact that he leaves the police force and keeps touring multiple cities in India ( another self-introspection by Gautham) with his daughter strengthens this bond better and hence when the daughter is kidnapped, the movies emotional core lights up only to be let down by some unimaginative chases and an over confident baddie in Arun Vijay who keeps shouting.

Again unlike an unidimensional cop vs crime story, Gautham stirs another sub plot where Sathya has betrayed the antagonist by infiltrating a gang to decimate them. Arun Vijay as the antagonist gives the movie the raw energy and his scenes with Ajith in the first half are superb.

Vivek returns to form as Revolver Richard providing the light moments in the movie but still doing justice to the role of a trusted lieutenant. His reaction to the Minor Kunju reference in this movie is priceless. Thanks Gautham for giving Vivek his due.

The movie could have been bigger that the sum of its parts  . However Ajith's screen presence muscles through a screenplay that tries a lot without doubling down . Its not a fire-cracker of a movie but has sufficient simmer that manages to rescue the slow pace of the movie at the right moments. It will be an one-time watch unlike some of the directors previous movies.


Brilliant review!! I found ajith completly imnersed himself in the role of sathyadev and the way the father n daughter bonding had the complete stamp of gautam menon.

But agree with you on da fact dat thala ajith didnt have da complete rawness as suriya n kamal in kk n vv respectively

But this film showcased a very real potrayal of ajith which i enjoyed a lot!!