It sounded like a fun idea, in fact, a great idea to begin with. Indiana Jones or King Solomon's Mines meets the Tamil commercial film for a spectacular adventure fantasy but sadly the fun stops right there, as an idea. Aayirathil Oruvan (AO), it has to be said, is a costly misfire of epic proportions and even if one might want to commend the producer-director for attempting a genre like this, new to Tamil cinema, one cannot deny that they have churned out one hell of a spectacular mess.
One really cannot fathom the screenplay and who this film is really aimed at. At several moments, the film simply leaves you gobsmacked as you wonder what were the makers thinking??? I'm not talking logic here. A film of this genre doesn't need it. What it needs is slickness, style, an element of naughtiness and fun, and above all great execution of its 'items'. For all its scale, AO fails big time in all these departments. Said to be made at a budget of 32 crores, sadly, it doesn't show. And as AO aims to pander to the baser side of the Tamil front bencher male, it is shockingly crass, crude and yes, even vulgar within the so called adventure story. Forget being senseless and idiotic, the film is incredibly violent as well as enough blood flows freer than water. Maybe all this would work for audiences in B centres and C centres looking for cheap thrills and female skin show but certainly not those accustomed to Hollywood and other films of this genre.
If the first half still manages to hold you somewhat, it is due to the heady pace as one set piece follows the other in rapid succession even if many of them are unconvincing and yes, tacky - the shadow sequence has characters running inside the boundaries of the Nataraja shadow with their shadows being clearly visible within the shadow! The banter between the help and the two girls is funny and risque and the film actually has its odd moments as the threesome get separated from the rest of the expedition and the film depends on them to carry the film on their shoulders for a while. And this is what should have continued as a thread right through the film. But the minute the threesome hit Chola city, it is a rapidly downhill affair as the Reema Sen - Parthiban story takes over at the expense of the other characters from which the film cannot recover.
You have to feel for Karthi. Three years of waiting after the giddy high of Paruthiveeran (2007) and then, this. Although, if at all there's anything even remotely likeable about AO, it's him. Still establishing his screen presence, he has an easy going charm and laid back style and he provides the film with some of it best moments and few laughs. But at the end of the day, it's not about a single actor and he is equally responsible if his career does take a step backwards for accepting a film like this. You wonder what made him do so as the script does him no justice with his character totally vanishing for large periods of time in the second half, thus robbing the film of its strongest point. If he has simply gone by the director's narration, then hopefully he has realized the importance of insisting on a bound script in the future. Maybe, his next release Paiyaa (2010) will do it for him as there is no doubt that he is an actor of promise. The girls cannot act to save their lives nor do you think they were meant to. They are there to titillate, show skin and that they do aplenty though lewdly and in your face. Whoever has done Reema Sen's dubbing has done a terrible job as often the lip movements don't even match the dialogue. Parthiban has a strong screen presence but enters total ham territory as an actor.
What bothers you the most for all the money supposedly spent is that the technicalities too are a big no-no. The CG is a disaster and extremely tacky and this ends up telling on Ramji's work as well, bringing down much of his work as real is mixed with CG. A fine cinematographer in his own right, AO is nowhere near the extremely high standards he set for himself with Raam (2005) and Paruthiveeran. The problem is one understands how expensive state of the art CG is but it's also one of the golden rules of good CG - if you can't do it right, don't do it. Doing it tackily and with limited budgets only makes it look worse. And then, to attempt set pieces from Mackenna's Gold, 300, be inspired from The Mummy and Apocalypto - now that's being unrealistic. The narrative flow is faulty and inherent to the script and there's really nothing the poor editor can do. And it simply goes on and on and needed a story that is at least 45 minutes to an hour shorter. As mentioned, the first half is at least pacy with quite a few set pieces but the
film slows down drastically in the second half as it limps towards a
weak climax and an extremely abrupt end.
GV Prakash Kumar's music is fine enough for the songs with Un Mela Aasadhaan sung by Dhanush, Aishwarya Dhanush nee Rajinikanth and Andrea coming off best but the background score and sound design are overblown as hell. While the production designer, costumes person and make up department have obviously had fun in the film, they have not been very innovative or imaginative, especially so in the look, design and feel of the Chola city. Merely taking 3000 extras and painting them black does not
make it some big achievement.
One is not denying a lot of hard work has gone into the making of the film and has taken major time and effort of all those involved in it but sadly, the end result has simply not been worth it.