Director: Caarthick Raju
Cast: Dinesh, Nandita Swetha, Bala Saravanan, Dhilip Subbarayan, Sharath Lohitashwa, Shriman
Thirty minutes into Ulkuthu, I wished I had the luxury to get up and leave the cinema hall. I had enjoyed Caarthick Raju’s Thirudan Police and with Dinesh, who’s consistently made interesting film choices, on board, I didn’t expect the first half hour to be this horrible. The film opens with Saravanan (an impressive Dhilip Subbarayan) stabbing an inspector in broad daylight because the inspector’s brother had not repaid a loan to our villain.
This is followed by the introduction of Raja (Dinesh) who comes to the aid of Sura Shankar (the film’s MVP Bala Saravanan). The latter rewards him, a completely unknown person, by giving him a place to stay. The heroine Kadalarasi (Nandita), Sura Shankar’s sister, also stays here. The next few minutes involve ‘comical’ situations like Raja eating all pieces of fish from the gravy, the heroine’s grandmother getting dressed up as a bride only to reject a potential groom of Kadalarasi’s.
There is also a jibe at A, B, C centres and what they like and how films are made for them using a bad analogy about fish sellers. But I guess that the first half hour mentally prepared me for whatever was to come, which I figured couldn’t be worse. And thankfully, it was true. Dhilip Subbarayan’s character of a hot-headed loan shark who only cares about his vanity is well-written, and the choices that he, as well as his father Kaakamani (Sharath Lohitashwa), make aren’t without consequences.
The writing is quite intelligent in parts, and it has to be said that the suspense around who Raja is and what his motive is, is maintained well into the second half. That it proves to be a damp squib of a flashback takes the sheen away. The action sequences are well-made and seem organic. At no point do you see clean stain-free apparel after a fight or people walking back impressively steadily after just taking sickening blows.
A well-choreographed action scene can tell stories in its own right and it is most visible in an imaginative Kabaddi sequence whose impact is heightened by a whistle-worthy background score. But despite all this, the sequences leave you cold because Dinesh, sadly, lacks the charisma.
There is a shot early in the film that shows a crowded fish market, and as the camera captures the cutting of the fish intricately, I wished it would linger and take in more of the hustle and bustle of the marketplace. After that, the only time the canvas wows you in are coastal shots at the interval block.
The film’s point that loyalty among thieves isn’t a given made me harken back to last week’s release, Velaikkaran, which also talked about the topic at length. Ulkuthu’s climax is intelligently done as it hinges on this context quite well. However, that does not excuse the fact that such a sophomore fare has what seems like such a bloated runtime.