"Aayudha Ezhuthu" ... clearly defined characters
AS LONG as the treatment is fresh and the presentation original, the maker's source of inspiration is immaterial. Every frame of Madras Talkies' "Aayudha Ezhuthu" bears the Mani Ratnam stamp and that's what matters. If silence and secrecy can stoke up interest, it has. And again, if the stature of a director can hype up a project, it has. Writer-director Mani Ratnam's "Aayudha Ezhuthu" comes with an A certificate.
The way the film goes on a rewind trip again and again and returns to the sequence from where it swung backwards, is typical of Mani Ratnam, a style he adopted effectively in "Alai Paayudhae." And Sujatha's dialogue in the romantic sequences seems to follow a predictable pattern in Mani's films.
The entire approach is positive and hence heartening. Three totally different characters converge at a point. And though diametrically opposite in attitude and aspirations each one's life gets tangled with the other. While Michael (Surya) is the fiery young man with lofty ideals, Arjun (Siddharth) is filled with dreams of making it big in the U.S. At the bottom most rung of the social ladder is Inba (Madhavan), a reckless, impulsive and hardened ruffian, who aspires to become a bigwig in politics. The scene opens with Inba, hired by Minister Selvanayakam to kill Michael, who is incensed by the dystopia that exists in the name of governance. Shooting him down at point blank range Inba flees, but the villains' plans turn awry. Madhavan donning the role of a henchman sparkles as an anti-hero a character that ought to find a very special place in his repertoire. His crudeness, gait, demeanour and expressions vary strikingly from what he's done so far. The undercurrent of pathos is a strong point of the character.
The screen space that Madhavan and Meera Jasmine share is replete with noisy and violent romance. None but Mani Ratnam could have so successfully envisaged Madhavan in such a role.
Surya is the pivot. The actor who has been blessed with a winning streak in recent times makes a mark yet again.
The smirk on his lips and the quiet dignity in his eyes every time he locks horns with the villain, and his enjoyable interludes with Gitanjali (Esha Deol), make Surya's portrayal commendable. It is a neat essay from Siddharth.
Among the heroines, Meera Jasmine as Sasi proves an apt foil for the thug Inba. Her diction shows that the actress has worked hard to get the tone and lingo right. "Aayudha ... " marks Esha's debut in Tamil a lucky break. Trisha is appealing. But she can surely do better in pronunciation, if she plans to dub for herself in the future.
Of the smaller characters, Sriman as Madhavan's friend Guna is natural, Archana (whose realistic enactment in off beat films have gained notice) as his wife and Sasi's friend is expressive and Praveen as Madhavan's brother comes out with an effective, underplayed portrayal.
A perfect icing on this crop of small characters is Bharatiraja with his glib tongue and ruthless acts. As they are in the same league you notice many similarities between Selvanayakam and the conniving underworld don of "Agni Nakshatram," so easily and effectively played by Umapathy.
A. R. Rahman's songs appeal more on screen because when placed contextually the impact seems enhanced. Re-recording is another excellent highlight. Be it tension or gentle love, the music in the background scores. Looks like Ravi K. Chandran's camera goes wild with joy especially when shooting on the seaside. And the result is visual splendour for the viewer. The lighting complements Sabu Cyril's sets at every point and ushers in the right mood of each sequence. "Jana Gana Mana" and "Yaakkai Thiri" stand apart for the lyric (Vairamuthu) value. The manner in which the songs have been filmed add lustre. The admirable use of sync sound makes sound recordist Robert Taylor's work significant. The realism in the fights speaks volumes about Vikram Dharma's skilful stunt choreography.
If in spite of Sreekar Prasad's deft editing, the pace slows down considerably towards the end, it is probably because even after nearly three-fourths of the film is over, many loose ends lie waiting to be tied up.
You enter with expectation and walk out with satisfaction. Tamil cinema is in dire need of more such makers as Mani Ratnam.
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