With an engaging screenplay, deft narration, well fleshed out characters and actors well cast, Madras captures the feel, flavour and ambiance of North Madras with perfect precision. For Karthi, it's an appreciable makeover. It's the actor in him that the director has tapped rather than the star-image. And some of the actor's expressions are a delight to watch. Like the innocence and bewilderment when a girl indirectly expresses her feelings to him and the violence reflected in his eyes when he learns of the betrayal by the ones he trusted. It may not be another Paruthiveeran for him, but it comes very close to it.
The film centres on the running feud between two groups in the area, each vying for supremacy. It depicts friendship, sacrifice, betrayal and love amidst violence.
Kaali, the only educated and employed one in the neighbourhood, is dissuaded by his friends from indulging in any type of unlawful activities that his friends like Anbu indulged in. But circumstances would soon drag him, an IT employee, into it. The technical crew has coordinated ably with the director's vision. The set designer has got the ambiance just right. The patchy interiors, the cramped dingy rooms and the congested neighbourhood all have an authentic feel.
Santhosh Narayanan's rerecording is judiciously done enhancing the mood. The cinematography complements the narration effectively. The stunt scenes and fights are excellently choreographed within the confines of the 'neighbourhood', using the playgrounds and the narrow lanes to good effect. Worth mentioning is the scene where Anbu and Kaali are ambushed and chased by rival Perumal's gang.
One remembers films like Puthupettai and Vetrimaran's films like Polladhavan. It's an interestingly crafted scene where Kaali in a restaurant with Kalai, his girl, shockingly learns of the conspiracy and betrayal of a dear one. Thresa as Kalai is a promising find.
The friendship between Kaali and Anbu, the protégé of Maari a local politician, is brought out naturally and is one of the key strengths of the film. The supporting cast of lesser known faces have got their lingo and body language just right. Kalaiarasan is impressive as Anbu. The love scenes between him and his wife played by Ritwika have a raw earthy feel.
It's fascinating how the director has made a huge wall with the painting of the dead patriarch, one of the crucial characters in the film. Presenting an ominous figure, it is an epitome of power with superstitious beliefs generated around it. The camera moves into frequent shots of it from various angles. Narration in the first half moves at a rapid pace with an air of unpredictability. It's towards the latter part that the pace slackens, the screenplay flounders and an element of artificiality and predictability seeps in. It could have been crisper and tighter here. The ending too is rather flat and abrupt. But despite its glitches, Madras is a commendable effort from the team of Attakathi Ranjith and Karthi and is worth a watch.