One of the opening shots of Naalu Policeum Nalla Irundha Oorum (NPNO) is of a Thirukkural inscribed on a bus stop. It’s Thirukkural number 131, and it talks about how important virtue is, and how it must be guarded with one’s life. The village, Porpandhal (awfully similar to Porbandhar, the birthplace of Gandhi, usually regarded as the pinnacle of virtue), is full of incorruptible people. Gold chains lie freely on the road for owners to come back and reclaim. Children return extra chocolates to store owners when they can’t pay for them. The local police station in which the Naalu Police of the story (Arulnithi, Singampuli, Bagavathi Perumal and Rajkumar) are employed is locked on Sundays, for, what purpose does it serve in a village so utterly virtuous? Shanmughapandian (Arulnithi) and co. mainly spend their working days watching cricket matches, playing carroms inside the prison, and fetching old women their lost cattle. These portions are all downright hilarious.
The conflict in NPNO comes in the form of a job transfer for the four policemen, and to Ramanathapuram no less. Buses that are headed to the district have the tagline: “ Kondraai, Vendraai ”, a stark contrast to the peace-hugging town they are from. NPNO continues to be funny, right up until the interval. Singampuli, in particular, almost comes off as the hero, despite Arulnithi getting the mandatory love story (which, by the way, is totally forgettable). It must’ve taken a lot of courage for the latter to let the former have so much screen time, and the film’s most funniest moments too.
It is when the film takes itself a bit too seriously in the second half that the laughs trickle in number. It ceases to entertain as much, which is quite odd considering that there is more happening. ‘Yogi’ Babu replaces Singampuli as the funny man in the second half. In one memorable scene, he stands at night, dressed in a suit (which by itself is funny enough), with two sticks in both hands that he swings around like an orchestra conductor, even as his minions scamper to do his bidding. The second half needed more of these moments. Instead, you get scenes that belabour to make a previously made point. The climax, incidentally, is bound to surprise quite a few. While I got over its jarring nature and thought it was rather cheeky, it’s not a stretch to imagine plenty of befuddled people looking at each other and saying, “What? That’s it?” The preachiness at the end could’ve been avoided though.
On the whole, NPNO is an admirable film, mainly for its irreverence to elements that are typically thought of as being forced by producers. There’s no big climactic duel at the end. There’s just the one duet in the whole film, and even that is shot as a parody of a song from the black and white era, as if to say that it is in that time that such love songs firmly belong. Quite curiously, in the title credits, the only card that didn’t appear right was the producer’s. While the names appeared, the word ‘producer’ was projected beyond the reach of the screen and couldn’t be seen. I thought it was a mistake, but maybe it was deliberately done to make a subliminal point.