Kodiyil Oruvan

Cast: Vijay Antony, Aathmika
Director: Ananda Krishnan

The first half of Kodiyil Oruvan is filled with masala movie flourishes that will delight any lover of the genre. The film begins in Kombai, where a local big shot asks a young woman to contest in the local body elections. The place has been announced as a reserved constituency for women, and so, he wants a proxy. But the woman is an idealist (she is introduced while washing the national flag), and once elected, she proves to be a thorn in the man’s plans. And so, he decides to bump her off, but she escapes and also gives birth to her child, who also brings her back from dead.

In these first 15 minutes, Ananda Krishnan establishes the myth around his protagonist, Vijayaraghavan (Vijay Antony). So, when this character lands in Chennai to prepare for his IAS exam and fulfill his mother’s dreams, we already know this avatara purushan is going to do much more than that. This do-gooder soon earns the respect of the community where he stays in — a rundown housing board locality. He starts reforming the teens there, cleans up the garbage and soon, ends up in the bad books of the corrupt local councillor (Super Subbarayan) and his henchmen, Sullu and Conference Karuna (Prabhakar). Can Vijayaraghavan do what he has promised his mother, especially after antagonising the councillor’s boss Bedda Perumal (Ramachandra Raju), a political bigwig?

What gives Kodiyil Oruvan heft is how Ananda Krishnan keeps the mother-son relationship as the driving force of the story. The amma sentiment had worked big time for Vijay Antony in Pichaikkaran, and it is no surprise that the actor picked this script. The director creates situations where his protagonist’s resolve is tested, and with Sullu, especially, raring for a fight, he builds our anticipation to the moment when Vijayaraghavan would explode. It is these moments, even while familiar, that keep us involved in the film’s proceedings. And what happens after the protagonist’s explosion, sets Kodiyil Oruvan apart from films of its ilk. We see Vijayaraghavan still feeling apologetic and trying to get away from the situation that is threatening to destroy his dream, which is within his arm’s reach.

But the narration suddenly fumbles in the second half, which feels like a different movie, both in terms of tone and the writing. It becomes a political drama that requires too many leaps of faith from the audience and comes across as too much of a one-man show. The writing, which felt tight and focused as long as the story was contained to the housing board locality, suddenly seems all over the place. The antagonists, too, do not come across as real threats, unlike in the first half. Despite the build-up, Bedda Perumal remains a passive villain, who springs into action only after it is too late.

Ananda Krishnan also wants to shine a light on how the system works (or rather, fails to work), and gives us scenes of Vijayaraghavan’s battles inside the corporation. These scenes come across as farce. But most importantly, Vijay Antony’s monotonous acting style, which suits the character we see in the first half better, doesn’t suit these portions, which require a more dramatic performance. When Vijayaraghavan reels out statistics, it lacks punch. And after the gradual build-up over the first two-thirds, a lot happens in the final portions, making the scenes feel rushed. Eventually, it is the amma sentiment that pulls back the film from derailing.