The last time we saw Pandiraj's work, it was a beautiful tale of naughty children and education. Well, the director has shifted gears drastically to an action packed thriller which has Vishal and Catherine Teresa in the lead cast. As is the title of the movie, the plot too dances around a cold blooded murder which is clouded by conspiracies and leaves wide open for investigation. Pandiraj has moved away from his usual strengths and tries to experiment in an unknown territory and gets help from Vishal who is a bankable action hero in Kollywood.
The director wastes no time in getting into the groove; a ruthless goon Thamba, from Cuddalore with two trusted sidekicks builds his share of enemies who wait on an opportunity to pounce on him and not far away is our hero who returns back to India after a few years, predictably yes he has his own share of agony with the goon. In an attempt to build the characters and their roles, Pandiraj brings into their sequences rather abruptly than sketching it into the plot, but that’s all until the murder takes place. Vishal steps into his town, keeps cleaning his hands with sanitizer showing off he is from US until his sweet little girlfriend makes him dress up in the traditional Veshti attire. There are enough sweet little romantic scenes as such that unfold through the first half.
Vishal picked up the stereotype of action hero ever since the days of 'Sandakozhi' where he starts going behind the baddies, thrashes them up out of a good heart. But that was long back, there is a reason behind why the directors want him to be in the skin of characters as in 'Kathakali', an innocent fellow who just minds his own business but rises to the occasion when it matters. That is action not by choice, but by situation and he has completely mastered it through the days of 'Pandiyanaadu', 'Naan Sigappu Manithan' and now in 'Kathakali' as well. Somehow the duo of Pandiraj and Vishal seem to match their abilities in the movie, for the director who is known for making light hearted movies gets a good boost from Vishal’s action capabilities to get the screenplay rolling.
It would not be far stretched to say the actual movie starts in the second half, for the first half is about the characters and their build up to the murder. An unexpected murder of the town’s biggest rowdy becomes chaotic with various murder suspects involved and completely off the hook is Vishal, but the turnout of events makes him the primary suspect leading to all the rival gangs and the cops on the hunt. The director takes time to narrate the sequences, post murder the movie gets going swiftly thanks to a spot-on screenplay. Vishal-Catherine romance is simple and sweet although the heroine’s dubbing looks amiss, the very same thing which was appreciated in Madras. The actress does her role pretty well in the love portions. It's good to see Karunas back in the comedy avatar after a long time, he comes as the usual stereotyped sidekick of the hero. With a plot braced for interesting twists and turns, the director does take us on a role not with some brainy investigations, but what would require out of a situation in rather simple terms.
The movie has two songs, both in the first half and they look to have been inserted for the sake of it; that said, the BGM from Hip Hop tamizha is interesting and flows with the script. His ability to increase the orchestration for critical scenes shows how the musician has grown through the days. Plenty of portions have been shot aesthetically in rain, the muddles of water around apartments, bus travel, chase sequences all of these have been captured brilliantly by Balasubramanian, kudos to the cinematographer for having given a realistic touch. Sreejith Ravi as the cynical police officer looks tailor made for the role; he comes in the second half and does his job well. Another biggest plus of the movie is the runtime of 2 hours, crisp editing and neat screenplay has done it for Kathakali.
Verdict : In all, Kathakali is a good entertainer that slowly builds into an action packed thriller.
Rating: 2.8 / 5.0