Pure action films are a rarity in Tamil cinema with essential aspects like romance, comedy and sentiments
usually pushing action to the sidelines. So Peraanmai, which gives top billing to action, is
a pleasant surprise. The film is not without distractions as it initially pursues its agenda of highlighting the
upper caste-lower caste divide. But the single-minded focus on action - even if its quality is uneven - when
it does happen makes Peraanmai the closest we have come to a real action-adventure film. And that
makes it worth a watch.
Dhruvan(Jayam Ravi) is a tribal who has become a forest officer through the dint of hard work and
determination. But that's not enough for five girls(Saranya, Varsha, Tanushka, Adhisaya, Liyashree) who
arrive as part of a group for an NCC training camp and get assigned to Dhruvan for training. So they try to
get him into trouble since they are unable to digest his caste. Dhruvan is required to choose 5 girls to take
into the forest for a day-long training session and he picks those 5 girls. But when they come across some
foreigners planning to sabotage the launch of a weather satellite that is going to happen the next day, the 6
of them take it upon themselves to stop them.
Not content with delivering just a simple action film, the director coats the story with his take on casteism
as Ravi is insulted by both his superior officer and his trainees. The message does come through and we do
feel sorry for Ravi when it is presented well, as in the snide comments and casual behavior of Ponvannan. But
more often than not, the message gets jumbled or lost because of the blatant and exaggerated happenings. As the
girls come up with some brazen plans, they look like spoilt brats rather than girls with a strong casteist bias.
The silencing of most of the dialogs by the censors also does its part in diluting the impact of the message.
Its quite telling that with all these hard-hitting acts and words, the scene that has the most impact is a quick,
wordless scene at the end of the film.
The director goes overboard with the characterization of the girls. It is clear that he wants to
make them traverse character arcs where they learn to look beyond Ravi's caste and like him for who he is rather
than what caste he belongs to. But they are made to look like confused airheads and their characterization
has no consistency. It is one thing when their behavior is irritating and irrational, as when they wander off
repeatedly on their own to view wildlife. But when they wear swimsuits and dance around with Ravi to celebrate
a birthday when stuck in a pretty bad situation, their behavior becomes unrealistic and cinematic and that is a
problem. And after all this, their turnaround is just too abrupt and convenient to be even remotely believable.
The film finally kicks up the pace once the foreigners make an appearance since the film - and its leads -
finally get some purpose. The jungle provides a wonderful setting for action and this has been exploited
nicely in some well-picturized action sequences. But the action mounted on a smaller scale fares much
better than the action picturized on a larger scale. The hand-combats that Ravi and the girls have with
individual bad guys are thrilling and feature some nice stunts and moves. On the other hand, the sequence
where they wage war with the foreigners with guns and bombs is very weak. The action sequences are also
interrupted by several artificial scenes where Ravi gives impromptu inspirational and/or patriotic speeches.
These make some good points but lose their effect because they are so ill-timed.
Jayam Ravi has worked for the role and it shows. He looks fit and trim and totally comfortable doing the
action scenes. The girls do well though none of them stands out in particular. Roland Kickinger seems a bit
stiff but his could be considered an Oscar-calibre performance when compared to the performance of the others
in his gang. They seem uncomfortable in front of the camera and utter the few lines they are given in a
completely unconvincing manner. Vadivelu is a total misfit in the film and even the little screentime he gets
seems unnecessary. Vidyasagar's background score works very well during the action sequences and helps in
giving those scenes a good momentum.