'Sporting' ideas and Tamil cinema rarely go hand in hand. Forget a Lagaan kind of magnum opus or an Iqbal, even smaller level of sporting theme-based scripts have been rare. So when Lee is made with a football-team-centered story, one had some initial misgivings.
But Prabhu Solomon, the nifty director, has used the motif of a soccer team, symbolizing the values of camaraderie, honesty and healthy rivalry, and has fused this into a larger canvas of revenge drama. The director's ingenuity is in making this work. Solomon also needs to thank Sibiraj and Prakash Raj for making the movie tick with conviction. The young hero, looking for a major break, has done all that he could possibly do. Prakash Raj as the coach is remarkable. Quite simply, his success is in his ability to make us think that nobody else in Tamil could have played this character.
Leelatharan, Lee to his friends (Sibiraj), hangs out with a bunch of merry youth who do practically any work and play football in other times. It is a strong-willed and thick-tied group. Chellam (Nila), a worker in a facility for the mentally-challenged, is also kind of a groupie. Life is all merry and mirth till she espies Lee & co, attempting an assassination of sorts on a Minister. The bid fails, but Chellam is shocked and so are we. Why would this bunch want to take a crack at the murky world of politics?
Well, the answer unspools back into a college where Lee and his team are raring to go as footballers. They have a committed mentor in Butthiran (Prakash Raj). Though a coach, he is a friend, philosopher and guide kind of omnibus figure for the youngsters. Just when the boys are making the right progress, problem erupts in the form of Rangabashyam (Jahir). He is a scumbag, but is also the principal of the college and he wants his son to be in this all-conquering team.
The coach, with Chappellesque firmness, says no to this and wants to pick his team on merit. But the principal kicks out the team with its coach out of the college itself. So they gravitate towards another college and again start doing well as a team. And when they win a big and prestigious tournament, Rangabashyam throws up a major spanner in the works.
He scuttles the rise of Lee and co. The stifling is so bad that one member commits suicide and the team slowly disintegrates, while on the other hand, Rangabashyam rises up in the big bad world of politics. He ends up as a Minister.
Now the circle is complete. So the question, what happens to the rivalry of Rangabashyam and Lee and his team. And does Chellam understand the rationale behind Lee's actions?
The story strikes a major blow for the state of sports and sportspersons in our villages, who have to contend with innumerable Rangabashyams and sundry other hurdles. The heart of the story is this and it is a very vital one in these times, when sporting victories are deemed to reflect and underline a nation's feel-good emotions.
Sibiraj, as he has been saying, has given it all. The hapless and helpless youngster with dream in the eyes and fire in the belly comes alive in his wiry, battle-hardened frame. Sibi's eyes reflect the passion and pride for sports and the larger idea of playing the game (of life) fair and straight.
Nila's character has many soft and mirthy undertones and she fills into it adequately. The comical situations with her are quite good.
The integrity is showed up in the performance of Prakash Raj. The role is suffused with heroism as it backs the underdogs. And Prakash Raj elevates it to an even higher plane with a kind of show that he alone in contemporary Tamil cinema can play.
Imman is very good in music and even more so in the background score. He is not loud, mercifully. Rajesh's camera is