Masala entertainers have carved themselves a special category in Tamil cinema in recent years and Alex Pandiyan will perhaps be the biggest representation of films in the class. Promoted with much zeal and enthusiasm through ads and promo songs before launch, the film appears to be the biggest contender this Pongal and is releasing in around 450 screens in Tamil Nadu. Let us take out the magnifying glass and see what it's all about.
Right from the word go, one thing is very clear in Alex Pandiyan - its commercialism. Director Suraaj doesn't try to blend genres of filmmaking in his project nor make an attempt to do something groundbreaking. His script is typical for an action entertainer in Kollywood, and we have seen numerous such films in the past. Drawing close to the lines of Paiyya, it tells the story of Karthi who seems to have a vengeful past but leads a normal life. But overall, the film appears to be a collection of chase and stunt sequences, which deliver one message - no one, can beat the hero.
By the time the fight sequence in the beginning is over, you realize that Karthi has taken a masala-action avatar that has been used by several others in the Tamil industry. Without taking into account a lot, his character does the obvious by fighting bad guys and rescuing the heroine from near-death situations. In between, he gets time for comedy, aided aptly by his co-star Santhanam. He appears lighthearted, comic, dark and serious throughout the film and switches between them as if he is on loop.
Santhanam, like in other movies he's appearing in is truly the savior of Alex Pandiyan. His dialogues filled with ridicule and twisted meanings in the first half and partly in the second, are the highlights of the movie and make the audience cheer more than even for Karthi himself. The actors share good chemistry on screen and lighten-up the moment even when they are given only a few minutes between sequences portraying three villains in the movie. Santhanam continues to be at his best when he is given freedom and his usual timing is brilliant enough to even shake the most bored of the audience into a laugh.
Anushka, who was expected to play the lead gets more of a side role and is rarely seen in the first half. In the second, the romance appears quite late, despite the presence of a few songs and her role forcibly changes gear all of the sudden when she falls in love. In fact, leaving out a few sequences, Anushka needs rescuing in most parts of the film, whether it may be when everybody's running on a train, riding in an Omni van or when the hero is tied up to death. One would have liked to seen more importance to her role considering her acting proves and effort shown in her last film Thaandavam.
If you are into action filming, you will have good reason to like the film. But for most of the people, all they will be able to recall from the fights is a bunch of items, which include the hero himself, his deadly counterparts and other actionable items such as daggers, cars, footballs and even ropes. In the middle of it all, the cinematographer Saravanan tries to carefully turn the viewers attention to minor details with his sharp camera. More than just slow motions, the camera perhaps helps Karthi the most, definitely more than the script of the film by making sure the fights at least appear colorful even in bad lighting conditions.
Devi Sri Prasad's music, which didn't make too much of an impact with the soundtrack release is little notice with the action extravaganza taking place on the main stage. The songs are positioned oddly and appear all of the sudden changing the mood of the situation. However, his efforts with the BGMs are better and capture the heat of the scene bringing emotions to the center of focus for audience. Again, his formula is also simple and he feeds the growing masala factor that increases again and again.
Other characters in the film like Milind Soman, Suman, Prathap Pothen and even Visu have little to play in the plot. However, despite coming from different backgrounds, the villains all suddenly become gangsters and powerful fighters who can come close but not beat Karthi completely. Manobala, who appears for a short duration gets some impact with his comedy. National Award winning editors Praveen and Srikanth don't get much scope to show their skills as film continually offers fights, chases and humour alternatively. But they do deserve a pat on the back for showcasing Santhanam.
Overall, Alex Pandiyan is your everyday masala film. It reintroduces Karthi in an all-out action hero, something the actor has learnt quickly over the past 2 years. For the regular audience, Santhanam's comedy might prove to be enough value for money, but for the rest, a predictable story and a questionable screenplay would leave a lot of questions unanswered.
Verdict - an overdoze of action and masala from this entertainer
Rating - 2.5/5