'Kodiyil Oruvan' movie review: A film that ticks off all the boxes for masala entertainment

During a crucial scene in Ananda Krishnan’s Kodiyil Oruvan, the protagonist gets beaten black and blue in front of the public.
Still from 'Kodiyil Oruvan'
Still from 'Kodiyil Oruvan'

During a crucial scene in Ananda Krishnan’s Kodiyil Oruvan, the protagonist gets beaten black and blue in front of the public. As hundreds look on pitifully, the hero continues to get verbally abused, spit on and stomped on the face. He takes it all. When allies arrive finally to rescue him, a boy from the crowd asks, “Ungalukku kovame varadha?” Sound familiar? Vijay Antony’s Vijaya Raghavan is Manikkam holding back his inner Baashaa. This is a well-milked mass moment in our cinema, but only a handful of films have managed to get the magic right. Here, the build-up works, because of the restrained persona of Vijay Antony, both on and off the screen.

Vijay delivers a mini-lecture on gamma rays in this film. In another film, this would have made us wonder why he switches to being a tuition master, but, here the catch is, he is one. These little things transform an ordinary template film into an enjoyable entertainer. The rather ambitious title, Kodiyil Oruvan made people raise eyebrows when it was announced, as Vijay Antony isn’t a first-tier superstar (yet). After all, even MGR went with Aaiyirathil Oruvan. But what’s in offer in this film is thousand times of it (quite literally) and it is extremely surprising that the film manages to justify the title with both the buildup and its storyline. The Baahubali-isque childbirth sequence is proof of director Ananda Krishnan’s capacity to draw the whistles. I also found myself enjoying portions in which Vijay Antony steps out of his comfort zone and delivers witty punchlines.

Kodiyil Oruvan is an unabashed commercial entertainer, and no surprise, the hero wins. Making this format click with the audience is quite tricky. If the plot had stuck to a real-world setting, Vijaya Raghavan would have been dead in scene two, or alternatively, if he were a demi-god, it would have again been an impossible journey to sit through. But the balance here is almost perfect. The hero’s falls are so effective and his redemptions aren’t convenient. His wins too are incremental.

When he secures a scholarship, he doesn’t get the first rank; it is the sixth. Even during his political expedition, he wins with a small margin. This prepares you for the astonishing victories of the protagonist in the final act. It is safe to say that, even those who find it hard to buy what’s on the screen completely, wouldn’t be put off by what’s going on.

It is a relief that the director has taken time to get the facts right most of the time, and interestingly, the film gives a much detailed walkthrough of the intricacies in the electoral process that many blockbusters like Mudhalvan have missed out on. I liked the subtext conveyed through the photos of political leaders, even if they are bit too explicit. The film will also be remembered for its memorable characters like the gold-hearted tailor with speech impediment, Ramachandra Raju’s Maavattam switching to English during unexpected moments, and Prabhakar’s Conference Karna, who takes pride in being a rowdy.

Vijaya Raghavan starts his journey of sanitising the system by actually cleaning the mess next to his window. Only after getting this step done does he move to wider territories. The problem in this film is the poor portrayal of the female lead, played by Aathmika. It feels criminal to see such an underwritten female character when she speaks so much about progressiveness and reformation. I really wish Ananda Krishnan had taken the time to clean this issue in his script before he went on to address bigger issues.

Looking macroscopically, Kodiyil Oruvan feels like a follow-up to Vijay Antony’s Thimiru Pudichavan. In a way, we can say that he is building a franchise of his own, something based on ‘Juvenile Reformation’. It would feel wholesome to see him making one more film in this lineup, making it a really good trilogy.
The actor has managed to play to his strength once again with this film, even if he is found wanting when he operates out of his comfort zone. However, I am convinced that as long as he sticks to the right dose of masala in his films, he might even pull off more ambitious films down the line.

Director: Ananda Krishnan
Cast: Vijay Antony, Ramachandra Raju, Aathmika, Prabhakar

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