When you're making a movie set in the Tamil heartland, the moustache isn't so much a barber shop decision as it is a plot point. But you need to watch director Rajadurai's Muthuraamalingam to understand how much you can milk the moustache and all that it signifies.
Gautham Karthik's attempt at making a mass movie, the kind where he's walking around with his chest puffed and pants aren't a wardrobe option, falls inexorably flat. Blame it on bad storytelling, a penchant for wanton violence and a tendency to let the few decent plot 'reveals' flutter by with a whimper. It was a surprise to me how the movie spiralled out of control post the intermission, because the first half was actually quite decent, going by the standard of rural family dramas we are used to.
Mookaiah Devar (Napoleon, with moustache and rural swag from a decade ago still intact despite his now living in the US of A) is your typical village chieftain. Solid family. Swift to anger. Strong sense of justice. Copious amounts of sentiment towards women. The typical Nattamai type. With one interesting twist. Well, call it a spin, really. He teaches the youth of his region the intricacies of silambam.
Muthuraamalingam (Gautham Karthik) is his son, his protégé, the apple of his eye and the Robin to his Batman, in Silambam circles. As his customary in these cases, he falls in love with a school student - Priya Anand in a role that she looks slightly old for, but manages with considerable elan.
Things begin to go south when his band of twirlers sneak off to attend a Silambam competition and the competitors try to sabotage them. A bloody fight ensures and Gautham Karthik slices a few of them. Instead of toeing the line of justice, Mookaiah Devar asks them to run for the hills and then tells the cops to take a hike. "I'll handle my boys," he tells them, like a moustachioed version of The Godfather. That's when things go wrong. For the family, the movie and the audience at large.
Despite the constantly unmoving expression and the plaid wardrobe choices, Gautham Karthik actually manages to show some skill during his Silambam sequences. Full credit to him there. But his lack of variety in expression and a complete disdain to try and attempt the dialect spoken in Tirunelveli, makes it seem frightfully forced. Almost like he was waiting for the director to say 'cut' so that he could slip into loafers and linen.
Napoleon deserves a pat on the back for pulling his role off with consummate ease. It's almost like he shot these scenes when he was making Tenkasipattinam over a decade ago. Singampuli's gags and a running comedy track in the first half are amongst the high points, while Vivekh's painfully protracted humour in the second half is one of the lower points.
Ilaiyaraaja's background score will evolve a lot of nostalgia for fans but the songs are average and fail to make an impression.
But beyond just being a tiresome movie, riddled with ridiculous subplots, some of the sentiments expressed in the film are downright dangerous in these times of heightened Tamil nationalism. Looking on with pride as your son slices a police officer's arm for touching your moustache, waxing eloquent about how you're sparing a policeman's life simply because he has a moustache and telling the police that it's perfectly acceptable to defy the law because their honour was besmirched by mishandling of moustaches - none of these are things to propagate with pride in post-Jallikattu protest Tamil Nadu.
Cast: Gautham Karthik, Priya Anand, Napoleon, Suman, Singampuli
Verdict: Decent first half laid to waste in the second with a terrible set of twists, turns and godawful violence