A few good portions don’t make a wholesome meal
As the ominous music played on and the opening credits of Paayum Puli rolled along the backdrop of a partly cloudy sky, I was pleasantly surprised. Another film starring Vishal as a senior police officer would’ve announced itself amid kuthu beats and much fanfare. And Paayum Puli has just the composer to pull it off too — Imman, who is quite popular these days for songs such as ‘Dandanakka’ and ‘Ennama Ipdi Panringale Ma’. But clearly, director Suseenthiran refused to bite.
For a filmmaker who chose such an atypical beginning, why he goes on to take recourse in a super-typical love angle, only he will know. In such police films — more so than in other films — the heroine is usually shown to be fragile. Here, Sowmya (Kajal Aggarwal) is so vulnerable that she can’t even cross the road by herself. To run home this point, you even have a song that goes, ‘Yaar intha muyalkutty’. You get it? She’s a pure, puny creature that needs to be protected and petted. You wouldn’t even be surprised if she suddenly jumped and ended up cracking into a thousand pieces. She’s that fragile. Jayaseelan (Vishal), who sees her struggling to cross the road, however, finds her to be adorable. “Love at first sight,” as he tells her sheepishly, a few scenes later. I wanted to get myself an appointment with Jayaseelan, if only to smack the back of his head and ask him to reconsider his decision. “Get somebody who can cross the road, Jayaseelan!” Sowmya is the exact reason why some Tamil films shouldn’t have a female lead at all. And as if to emphasise this point, she does absolutely nothing to affect the proceedings of Paayum Puli .
All the while, Soori does what Soori does — accompany the male lead in almost all the opening scenes with a wisecrack here and an amusing anecdote there. He isn’t hilarious, but he isn’t terrible either. And then, the twist comes, and you finally get something to be interested in when Jayaseelan finds himself in a cat-and-mouse game with I-can’t-tell-you. There are some really nice portions as this situation develops. The antagonist shows admirable presence of mind when pushed into a dark corner (literally), and Jayaseelan, for his part, shows investigative mettle a few scenes later when he tries to figure out how he was outwitted. While enjoying these bits, I couldn’t but wonder why Suseenthiran had to develop so much fluff around these portions. Why throw in an item number? Why throw in irrelevant, unmemorable duets? And then I dimly realised how less the makers must think of us, the viewers. Perhaps they are right, perhaps they are wrong; but it is amply clear that such elements were added to try and make the basic story — which is pretty interesting — more palatable for the average Joe. You can only hope that Thani Oruvan ’s success will help change this assumption.
Without these ugly distractions, the story would have been much more gripping, and Suseenthiran would’ve had a lot more time to dwell on the villain’s descent into evil. Here, he simply ends up talking a lot about the pressure of politics, about his lust for power, but you don’t get the dark satisfaction of seeing him sink slowly into this quagmire. The transformation of a good man into an evil person is glazed over, when this change is at the very heart of the story’s conflict.
The climax is a fitting example of the whole film. The scene provides a great opportunity for the director to avoid a fistfight. A director of a more subtle mould would have probably been content with emotional destruction, but here, Suseenthiran goes for physical termination through a needless scuffle. Sometimes, less is more. Paayum Puli doesn’t get that.
The end — like the beginning — adopts an atypical, downbeat note, as the camera again slinks back into the sky from where it originally descended for the opening scene. But for what Paayum Puli actually is, they may as well have begun and ended amid kuthu beats and much fanfare.