What should have been a rip-roaring comic caper … Naanum Rowdy Thaan

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Vijay Sethupathi regains some lost form, while Nayanthara shines in *Naanum Rowdy Thaan*

From its title to its unique casting to generally the way it has been marketed, Naanum Rowdy Thaan has a lot going for it. It held the promise of bringing back to form Vijay Sethupathi, who was a sensation a few years back before he lost track a little.

The characterisations are generally twisted, but twisted in a good way. Pandi (Vijay Sethupathi) is an aspiring rowdy, who vehemently resists his police mom’s (Radhika) wishes that he joins the police force. Nayanthara is a deaf woman, who looks fabulous in designer kurtis and leggins, and aches to avenge the rowdy Killivalavan (Partheban) who killed her parents. RJ Balaji is the motor mouth friend of Pandi and they both run an underground on-demand rowdy service and keep holding kangaroo court for young kids, and other innocents.

There are enough elements in place to make *Naanum Rowdy Thaan* a solid comic caper, and there are some funny moments too. The initial scenes between Vijay Sethupathi and Nayanthara are fantastic, both in terms of the acting chops the lead players bring and also some clever dialogues. Vijay Sethupathi refers back to his old films at opportune moments, and he pulls it off in style. The audience went berserk when he said “paaaah” and “ennaachu”.

The chemistry between Vijay Sethupathi and Nayanthara, especially in the first half, works like a charm.

The chemistry between Vijay Sethupathi and Nayanthara, especially in the first half, works like a charm.

But where every thing starts going south is when there are repeated sexual innuendoes. I am not a prude, but I just found this completely out of place in this film. It starts with Pandi checking whether or not Kadambari is really deaf and is a lip-reader. So we have a close-up of Pandi uttering “Wothaa Ommmala” (The Tamil equivalent to ‘Fuck’ ) to check whether Kadambari has read it right. The real tease here is whether the audience will get to see Nayanthara mouth the words. Of course, she says “rojaa poomalai” (rose garland).

This was still funny, and would have been good if it had been just one of those rare moments. If only the director did not resort to overdoing it.

The second half is replete with more such opportunistic placements of innuendoes. When repeated attempts by Pandi and his gang of friends to murder Killivalavan fail, Kadambari decides to walk upto Killivalavan’s den to figure out whether she can kill him, she colloquially says “Yenna enna venumnaalum pannikonga” (“Do whatever you want to to me”) and eventually threatens “Naan ungalla potturuven” (I am here to kill you). You just need to know a little bit of Tamil to understand what the dialogues mean, and again the tease here is having the lead actress mouth these.

To put it in a nutshell, somewhere down the line, Naanum Rowdy Thaan loses whatever grace it had in the first half, and degenerates into something a bit crude. This is a movie I wanted to like because it had some of my favourite actors in it, some good music (Anirudh’s “Thangame” is beautiful) and some great cinematography.

Anirudh's "Thangame" is a surefire chart-buster.

Anirudh’s “Thangame” is a surefire chart-buster.

There are lots of fun moments in the film, no doubt. But it kind of left me wondering why we need to resort to this sort of approach to film comedy. If directors want to make a sex comedy, why not go the whole hog? Or why not just cater full on to only the front-benchers?

Multiplex cinemas are bringing back families to theatres, and it is important that film-makers recognise this.

The film’s director Vignesh Shivan’s earlier film ‘Poda Podi’ too was similar in many aspects. It held the promise but somewhere along the way just became too crude.

I would still want to end this review on a positive note. Vijay Sethupathi has returned to some sort of form, and hopefully delivers a solid hit sometime soon so that he can fulfil the promise of doing some meaningful cinema. No actor has looked as good as Nayanthara in recent times, and she is superb acting form. There are some scenes in the first half where she absolutely rocks. One hopes that she gets a good enough script soon.

RJ Balaji is fast developing to becoming a good comic actor, even though he is getting typecast as the motor mouth. His jokes seem to be getting a fantastic audience feedback.

But there are just one too many characters in the film, and the narrative slows down dramatically in the second half. Just too many things going on.

Naanum Rowdy Thaan should have been better.

Naanum Rowdy Thaan should have been better.

And what can I say about R.Partheban. In my opinion, there has not been a more schizoid film personality like him in past few decades. He can be artful, poetic and tasty in the films he makes sometimes – “Housefull” or “Kudaikkul Mazhai” or more recent “Kathai Thiraikathai Vasanam Direction” – but then again he would go to the other extreme and do things so crude that no other actor would dare attempt.

Bottomline: Naanum Rowdy Thaan has some fun moments, brilliant performances, good songs but falls short because of some unwarranted crudity.

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