Nishanth Ravindaran and Jathin Sankar Raj’s debut film Odu Raja Odu puts a spin on the usual good trailer-blah film trend. The debut director duo, who perhaps intentionally made an underwhelming trailer, successfully deliver the right dose of dark humour in the film to keep us in splits and hold our interest for more than half the runtime. Unfortunately, after the interval, in infusing pathos and drama into the story, they kill its soul, and the film, which could have easily been one of the quirkiest comedies of Tamil cinema, settles into less exalted territory.
Odu Raja Odu is based on the series of unfortunate events that Manohar (Guru Somasundaram), a lazy, small-time novelist, and his drug peddler friend Peter, encounter in their quest to buy a set-top box for Manohar’s wife, Meera (Lakshmi Priyaa), on the eve of their wedding anniversary. The film also features several interestingly-woven parallel stories. The way the lives of the various characters--drug lord Veerabadhran’s (Deepak Bagga) gang; the petty little thieves, Malar and Sathya; the don brothers, Kaalimuthu (Nasser) and Chellamtuhu (Ravindra Vijay) with contrasting ideologies on violence; the revenge-seeking jailbird Nakul (Anandsami) — affect and confuse each other is beautifully conceived for the most part.
Though the incredible number of characters and the non-linear narrative has the potential to confuse an average viewer, the directors cleverly tackle this issue by revealing the name of the characters, along with the nicknames that the audience would use to refer to them, at pivotal moments. For instance, Irfan (Abhishek), who has a secret affair with his friend Nakul’s wife, gets the nickname, Thunai Maapillai, which makes the theatre burst into laughter.
The satisfactory performance of all the main actors compensates for a number of amateur VFX shots. Nishanth Ravindaran, who has also taken on the additional responsibilities of screenplay and editing, deserves special praise for the latter role. His brilliant multi-screen edit sequence to portray the intimacy between Nakul and Mary (Ashiqa Salvan) and the usage of jump cuts in slapstick scenes elevate the film.
The real trouble for this offbeat dark comedy begins towards the second half when the treatment becomes forcibly serious, and the film, all of a sudden, transforms into an emotional drama.
Jigarthanda (which also starred Guru Somasundaram), too, had a similar mid-film transformation from gangster drama to dark comedy. But unlike that film, which felt believable, Odu Raja Odu fails to justify the sudden change in tone. Halfway through the second half, the viewers are left confused about whether to laugh or cry, as the gruesome death of a lead character is followed by an unapologetic comedy sequence. Similarly, the scene where Nakul mistakenly tortures his masked father instead of Kaalimuthu, which seems to be played for laughs, only makes us feel sorry for the character getting beaten up.
The other problem with the film is the portrayal of the female characters. They all seem to be creatures of lust, and the portrayal is intended to create laughs. Mary has an affair with Nakul’s friend and declares that she loves both of them equally; another character is desperate to bed a stranger immediately after her husband goes missing; and Meera randomly discusses intimate secrets with her neighbour… all in the name of humour. And mind you, these are the main three female characters in this film.
Nishanth and Jathin troll critics, who make it a point to mention the slightest of continuity errors, by making conscious blunders like the ever-changing location of a mole in Kaalimuthu’s face. If only they had paid as much attention to keeping the tone of the film light-hearted throughout, Odu Raja Odu could have been a wholesome entertainer. Instead, despite having the right ingredients, what we are left with is a half-baked product.