The 80s and 90s were the glory years for the masala movie in Tamil cinema. But with the cliched, crass films from the
likes of Vijay, Simbhu and Arjun, the term 'masala film' has understandably become a rather derogatory term these days,
referring to films targeted only at the front-benchers. Ayan, the second film by K.V.Anand, who is back in the director's
chair after Kanaa Kanden, restores some respect to the genre. It serves up its
masala with style and smarts and shows us, especially in the first half, that a good masala film can work for
Das(Prabhu) smuggles everything from pirated VCDs to diamonds and Deva(Surya) is his right-hand man who does the legwork for
their missions. Kamlesh(Akashdeep Saigal) is their main rival. Eyeing a bigger slice of the pie, he is willing to entice
Das' longtime customers as well as transport drugs, something that Das refuses to do. Chittibabu(Jagan) is the latest addition
to Das' group. Deva and Chitti's sister Yamuna(Tamannah) fall for each other but the subsequent happenings complicate things
quite a bit.
Ayan's first half offers further proof that its not what a movie offers but
rather how it is presented that is important. The film has all the familiar afflictions of masala movies like
poor logic, weak characterization and an unconvincing romance. But its easy to overlook these because the proceedings are just
so darn entertaining. The Surya-Tamannaah romance is too quick to earn any emotional investment but their funny first meeting
and subsequent sweetness make sure we don't miss the emotional aspect. Similarly, Jagan and Tamannaah don't make a very
convincing brother and sister but Jagan's string of comments(like the ones when Tamannaah arrives to buy a cellphone) are
so hilarious that its easy to look past that.
Ayan has enough minor twists and plot developments to keep going beyond the initial game of one-upmanship between
Prabhu-Surya and Akashdeep. The twists - including the key one - are rather weak but they keep the momentum from flagging
too much since they add some new dynamics to existing relationships and introduce some interesting scenarios. The film also
offers some interesting behind-the-scenes look at some of the smuggling operations and though they don't feel as meticulous
or gritty as the bike stealing operation in Pollaadhavan, they do add some realism to
But the film begins to slow down soon after. The twists keep coming and the film employs the old adage It takes a thief to
know a thief in an interesting manner but it seems to start spinning its wheels. Both the plot points and the way Anand
presents them - surprising us first and then rewinding to show us what really happened - are no longer surprising since
they start to feel repetitive.
Anand's first film as director, Kanaa Kanden, was an intelligent thriller that relied more on brains than brawn. Brawn
takes the upper hand in Ayan, which is a much more overt masala offering than the earlier film, but that doesn't
turn out to be such a bad thing since Anand turns out to be equally adept at picturizing action. With quick editing, judicious
use of stunt doubles and an athletic Surya, he gives us one of the best foot-chases we've seen in Tamil cinema. A car chase
in Malaysia is terrific too. The hand-to-hand fights are energetic and when they are not, the locations(like the spectacular
mountains in South Africa) keep us hooked anyway.
Surya has developed the swagger and confidence that comes with stardom(and we know he's a bona fide star when the sight of
him in the getups of some of his previous roles makes us wanna cheer). The initial negative shades of his character don't
come as much of a surprise but it does irk when he apparently takes a video of an innocent girl being molested(to get her dad
to change teams) instead of saving her. Tamannaah looks pretty but has little to do. Jagan is the life of the movie and shows
perfect comic timing. He makes almost all his jokes work. Akashdeep is a new face but doesn't bring anything new to his role.
PaLa PaLakkura... and Vizhi Moodi... are picturized well with some good laughs as they give us a peek into the
lives of Surya and Tamannaah. Thoovum Poomazhai... and Nenje Nenje... are more old-fashioned duets with the
locations in the latter being particularly breathtaking.