Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Naanum Rowdy Dhaan

Although he’s the son of a cop, Pandi (Vijay Sethupathi) thinks rowdies are way cooler. So while Pandi placates his policewoman mother (the delightful Raadhika Sarathkumar) by taking the police entrance exam, he also has a side business going in amateur rowdy-ism. But Pandi is a sweet boy and doesn’t really have it in him to actually commit acts of violence. His version of rowdy-ism is based on the filmi image and mainly seems to involve threats, con artistry, and showmanship. The menace is in the threat of the follow-through.

Pandi doesn’t seem to understand that he’s not the typical rowdy until, yes, he meets a girl. A girl who’s got a real rowdy problem. Kaadambhari (Nayantara), you see, wants revenge against the man who destroyed her family, a real rowdy named Killivalivan (Parthiban). Can a cream puff of a rowdy help a lady take on a dangerous criminal? I have to say, it was a fun ride finding out!!

Naanum Rowdy Dhaan was the first new(ish) film I’ve seen in some time and I’m glad I took the time. Although I’m sure some of the jokes went over my head because of the language barrier, what did come through was delightful. The police-rowdy revenge drama has been done a million times but what struck me with Naanum Rowdy Dhaan was how much care had been taken with the story and characters. Nobody was sleepwalking through their roles because they all had such great material to work with, even the women in minor roles--like bubbly Meenakshi playing Killi’s wife “Baby”--got some chances to steal scenes.

Vijay Sethupathi, our hero, was playing a one of my favorite hero types--the slacker. As @indraneelm commented to me on twitter, “Pandi” is the type of hero that Govinda or Mithun would have played once upon a time, just a normal guy hanging out on the street corner. Vijay doesn’t have their dance skills but he does have a likable, relaxed manner about him. And as Hindi heroes have become increasingly waxed and gym-buffed, their skill sets limited to burning through daddy’s money and influence, their moods artificial, the heroes of these small-scale Tamil films have been such a breath of fresh air.

And of course Pandi would want to emulate the rowdy-heroes he sees in films. The cops are always so uptight. Given the choice, who wants to be Singam when you could be Vikram in Rajapattai just hanging out with your buddies?

With Vijay so solid in the role of slacker, it allowed heroine Nayantara to take some risks as the girl out for revenge. Kaadambhari was an unusually complicated role not only because she had a lot of emoting to do but… (spoiler) because she is deaf! And guess which rowdy is responsible for that? Nayantara--and director Vignesh Shivan--do a great job with the showing not telling of Kaadambhari’s deafness. From having the sound cut out when we switch to Kaadambhari’s perspective to Nayantara having to focus on character’s lips rather than their eyes in order to show she’s lip-reading. And even with all that extra “acting” in the role, Kaadambhari still comes across as playful and fun, rather like Kajol playing the blind Zooni in the first half of ill-fated Fanaa. Nayantara never veers into disabled burlesque. It’s a wonderful, very fresh, very real performance.

There was a lot to like from the rest of the cast, as well. Director Vignesh Shivan seems to share my love of minor characters and packed his cast with so many I can’t possibly name them all. The random Tamil speaking white girl, the guy with the big hair, the 1 minute sub-sub-sub-subplot featuring the staring guy, the grandpa in Pandi’s gang, a cameo from Rajendran, scene stealing Meenakshi, dear Azhagam Perumal as Kaadambhari’s beloved father, the hilarious lady playing Pandi’s policewoman mother’s sidekick, RJ Balaji in the comedy sidekick role…

The music from Anirudh Ravichander was also fantastic. He’s really been on a roll with his soundtracks. Plus, on the few articles I read it seems like he was responsible for getting the film made, so kudos to Anirudh! I look forward to your next project (#4yearsofKoliveriDi.)

Enjoy a song picturization, the wistful “Thangamey”, and see the appeal for yourself. Those looks Vijay throws...

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