It is hard to believe that Sri Raghava, the director who has delivered sensitive entertainers like 7/G Brindavan Colony and Aduvari Matalaku Arthale Verule, could come up with a mediocre epic adventure like this. Yuganiki Okkadu throws up a saga that is interlaced with fictional history, an element of divinity, royalty and heroism, but is strangely imbecilic. There is big money involved, an ensemble cast, good technical team that does an impressive job, but nothing helps the film from coming a cropper.
The story follows from a 12th century saga, which saw the bloody defeat of the Cholas at the hands of the Pandiyas. We are told that the Chola king leaves to a far away island in Vietnam, along with the idol of Pandiya's deity. Centuries later, an archaeologist (Pothan), curios to unravel the mystery, sets upon himself the task of finding the location of the hiding place. However, he gets missing in the midst. That's when Anitha (Reema Sen), an officer specially commissioned by a Union Minister to head the expedition to Vietnam to crack the mystery, joins with Lavanya (Andrea), the daughter of the missing archaeologist, and a guide (Karthi), who go on the mission together with some military officers and villagers.
Their troubles begin as the path to the mysterious location is littered with traps, all of which the king had laid so it is not possible for any one to reach the Cholas' hamlet. Nothing can stop the threesome and the military officer (Ravi) who try to dodge their way through many life-endangering moments from finally discovering the dreaded place. What follows is to be seen on the big screen.
The first half is a total disappointment. In fact, Raghava seems to forget that he is making a semi-epic film and thus writes the characters of Karthi, Reema and Anitha rather shoddily. While Reema behaves like the voyeur of youthful flicks, Karthi seems to have no purpose in the proceedings. The scenes are carelessly written, so also some lines which are unintelligent. But for the many fearful (just for those in the movie, not for us) scenes played out on the screen, the first half doesn't seem a serious film anywhere. Besides, eroticism, bland jokes and an idiotic song, there are also funny scenes like that of a character speaking over the cell in a place that has not seen civilization, with less difficulty than it takes from Hyderabad's outskirts.
The second half gains momentum and is visually wowee. While Parthiban (Chola king), Karthi and Andrea show their acting skills, cinematography, make-up and costumes department prove their mettle beyond doubt. Two of the action sequences are splendidly executed, along with some well-written dialogue involving the tribals and the modern humans. Background score (GV Prakash Kumar) matches the enormity of the visuals. The director does a good job here by involving the characters in the story (which he never does all through the first half) and thus the audience. The emotions portrayed by Parthiban and Karthi stand out.
The film's biggest minus is that Raghava is not honest to the genre. He plays out his flick as a below average pop corn entertainer in the first half, hoping that the audience will be bamboozled by the graphical scenes. Disappointingly, graphics are simply tacky. The fire-storms and the snakes are ridiculous. Other flaws are that of characterisation, screenplay and performances. The characters's behaviour in the first half is not in consonance with the way they evolve in the second half. The scenes in the desert could have rather been written by a child. Performance-wise, Reema did not act at all. Andrea has been wasted.
Going by the final statement that appears on the screen, we understand that the title role is Karthi's. Attavistic tribals are massacred, military is ordered to head an ethnic cleansing operation, scores of villagers and government officers die - but for what? It just doesn't matter even if you know what it is for.
Released on: 5th Feb, 2010