One could have been pretty OK, maybe even a little kind towards Maattrraan as a comparatively better, big budget entertainer in spite of all its loopholes and commercial necessities and say that it is maybe better than the junk that Vijay, Ajith or even Vikram have been churning out of late. But the problem here is that the makers have reiterated time and again how this film has raised the bar technically for Kollywood and narrowed the gap between Hollywood and Tamil cinema. What’s more, even the hero in his press conferences kept repeating the fact that this is NOT a brainless entertainer. The problem with this heavy statement – which he has incidentally made unflinchingly for his last 3 films – is that the film starts to unravel for you the minute you DO apply your brains.
Before one starts applying the grey cells, the plot of the film goes something like this. Vimalan and Akhilan (both Suriya) are conjoined twins with only one heart beween them, which is inside Vimalan. Vimalan is the serious do-gooder and achiever while Akhilan is the mischievious good natured rake. Their father, Ramachandran, a genetic sceientist, manufactures a milk based energy powder, Energion, that is extremely popular in the market. A journalist, Volga, finds inconsistencies in the product, which has dangerous steroids in it, which were also given to atheletes belonging to the Unified Team before the 1992 Olympic Games and which led to terrible side effects after a period of time. Volga reveals the information to Vimalan and is killed by Ramachandran, but hiding the incriminating evidence in a pen drive she swallows. Anjali (Kajal Aggarwal), an interpreter and Volga’s friend who is starting to fall for Vimalan gets the pen drive out and passes it on to Vimalan but before he can do anything about it, Ramachandran has the twins attacked and in the fight, Vimalan is killed. His heart then is transpalanted into Akhilan to keep him alive. After coming to terms with his brother’s death, Akhilan decides to expose the truth even if it means going against his own father…
And now for looking at the film with your brains NOT left behind at home…
– You first wonder at the need for the hero to be a conjoined twin as the unique concept has not been utilised properly and is used as little more than a standard double role with two diverse brothers. And even here it is predictable which one dies and how the other becomes responsible. When you have such a strong USP should you not exploit it properly and deal with its issues? Oh and of course, responsibility for the roughish twin means changing your look and identity and going to office.
– You realise just having a concept of mashing together conjoined twins (and that too with only one(?) heart and the one without the heart being the more active one!), Genetic Modified Food and suggesting the use of steroids in the Unified Team’s 1992 Olympic programme doesn’t make for a hip, hi-tech film, however well ‘researched’ it is. Especially, if the writing about mumbo jumbo scientific malpractices is extremely weak. Admittedly, it looks nothing like the standard Thamizh Padam. Yet, for all its production values, the film and the VFX is merely adequate, technically.
– You are totally bored and don’t care beyond a point as the thriller element takes you all over in the 2nd half without clever but yet too much plotting that uses more of convenient dumbed-down twists and turns finally ending in a damp squib in a cave in Gujarat – a tribute to Sriram Raghavan and Ek Hasina Thi? No wait, it is the revenge of the rats. How clever! The length finally tells on the film and how! And the depiction of the Gujarat CM and the Indian PM just leave you gobsmacked.
– You don’t believe that in todays highly technically advanced age, the hero would steal key photographs from an album when his host has gone into the kitchen to get him ‘water’ when he could have just snapped the photos with his iPhone. Again, you can’t believe the journalist Volga has so called sophisticated spy cameras and the like but has hard copies of tell-tale photographs conveniently floating about in her bag. The filmmakers seem to think they are ‘with it’ as long they show the characters using iPads and pen drives in a scene or two . C’mon!
– You sigh that Harris Jayaraj’s hopelessly average songs actually bring the film down and none of the songs do anything for the film. Even a couple of the stunning locales and some great cinematography are let down by some totally unimaginative choreography and the placements of the songs too more often than not bring the narrative flow to a grinding halt. The background score too does nothing for the film.
– You resign yourself to the fact that you are stuck with a heroine who can’t act, can’t dance, has no sex appeal, has no chemistry with the hero and even blends repeatedly into the frame like a piece of the furniture. Of course it doesn’t help that the romance and songs are treated as being necessary evils and little else. So there is nothing to talk about the romantic scenes at all, and they are totally devoid of any cute moments or any proper development barring the scene in the theatre. Anjali shifting so matter-of-fact from tending towards falling for Vimalan for Akhilan after Vimalan’s death is unconvincing. It is also highly unbelievable to see her not feeling Vimalan’s death at all! And while I agree, the makers have tried to make her relevant to the plot and go beyond the 2 songs, 2 scenes, her substantial on-screen time makes her even more unbearable. In fact, all emotional tracks in the film, barring the one between the brothers, are weak thereby giving the film a hollow and superficial core.
– Talking of relationships, neither is the key father-sons track at the heart of the story worked out well either. That Sachin Khedekar is a relatively weak antagonist makes things only worse.
– You’re dismayed that for all the money spent, none of the action sequences – supposed to be a highlight of the film – really hold you at the edge of your seat or are particularly well executed. The one big fight with the twins and the baddy (yes he is a Hindi speaking Bihari in Chennai) just before the interval at the play ground long works best and is the best conceived action sequence in the film but outlives its welcome as it goes on and on and on and on and … yes, on and beyond a point, its outcome is also predictable. Also, seeing the trailer of the new Bond film to come, Skyfall, before the main film didn’t help either as just that was enough to see what great action is all about.
– Still, you do acknowledge that Suriya has more than ably carried the film through on his shoulders and given it his all, creating some brilliant moments – see him remembering his sibling in the Yaaro Yaaro song – even if the script gives him nothing to work with – barring a solitary scene with his father – as the ‘good’ brother and neither can he do anything with that role, even looking awkward in it at times. The Akhilan character does liven up the screen in the first half, and Suriya shows some great comic timing playing him. But the second half with Akhilan solving the mystery is just plain dull and tiresome and does the film in.
Actually it’s difficult to review such ‘big budget entertainers’ and sometimes one wonders if one should review these films seriously at all. If they are to be seen keeping cinematic aesthetics and craft, they don’t hold up well at all as particularly good films. Then again, seen in a different context, all of this really doesn’t matter if the layman just wants to be entertained by the film and its star and feels that all the above are trivial problems seen only by the so called stuffy critics. In any case, standard logic never works for our star films and especially when stars are riding a wave, anything they do touches to gold and their fans too are happy with anything they do – look at Salman Khan for instance. So sure enough, Maattrraan has opened really well, Suriya fans are bound to be happy with his act(s) and the 9 am show I saw was house full. Though I have to add here that audiences were watching the film rather quietly without the usual whistling and clapping I have seen normally accompanying Vijay and Ajith’s films at the same showtime at the same theatre. So hopefully for the makers’ sake, they were actually deeply engrossed in the events unfolding on screen even if I wasn’t.
PS: Reports are coming in that a full 25 minutes, mostly in the second half, have now been removed from the film. This only highlights the filmmakers not working enough on having a properly bound and edited screenplay and the enormous amount of time, effort and money they have criminally wasted. Not only that. since somewhere one event does lead to another, even if boringly so, in the second half, this trimming could actually have the adverse effect and make the narrative appear disjoint and confusing and end up worse than before.
Tamil, Action, Drama, Thriller, Color