Radha Mohan, known for feel-good films, has dared to enter a new arena.
The director, who has a proven record of handling human emotions and relationships well, has successfully tried to capture the anxious moments of passengers in a hijacked plane and government officials entrusted with the job of rescuing them.
The hijack that happens on a Chennai-Delhi flight and the drama that unfolds at the Tirupati airport form the crux of the story.
The hijackers demand the release of terrorist Yusuf Khan. The government starts negotiating with them through Vishvanath (Prakash Raj) and others. The National Security Guard (NSG) rep is Major Raveendran (Nagarjuna).
While the government representatives decide to free Yusuf to save the people, the dreaded terrorist gets killed in an accident.
Left with little option, the officials decide to hide the fact from the terrorists and give the nod to NSG to launch a rescue operation.
The rest of the story is all about how the commandos rescue the passengers.
The highlight of the movie is the tempo of the script. Radha Mohan has managed to keep viewers' interest intact throughout the movie. The tension is kept at a high all through.
The variety of characters adds colour to the narrative. The negotiations, the drama inside the plane and the role of media that is keen on just TRP rates have been depicted well.
The set (plane and airport) created by art director Kathir deserves appreciation. The satirical dimension ensures a smooth ride throughout.
However, the way the rescue operation is handled seems a bit amateurish and unrealistic.
The script is predictable at times. Like all the movies surrounding the menace of terrorism, "Payanam" too has some cliches like a Pakistani child getting treatment in Chennai, and a Muslim's presence in the commando team.
The scenes depicting 'making' of dupe of Yusuf Khan with the help of a commercial director and the conversations between the filmstar and his fan inside the plane are hilarious.
T.S. Gnanavel, the dialogue writer, has written some sharp and humorous lines to expose the shallowness of the mainstream 'masala' movies.
The dialogues dealing with the issues of terrorism too have come out well. The director and the dialogue writer have done well to criticise terrorism without resorting to pseudo nationalism and heroism.
The right wing extremists' politics has also been taken to task.
Nagarjuna, who comes back to the Tamil screen after a long time, looks smart and does his job perfectly. The man renders flawless performance of a dare-devil commando officer.
His body language and facial expressions add value to the film. Veteran Prakashraj has done his part well. The way he handles the negotiations is quite convincing.
Other actors, including Sana Khan, Rishi, M.S. Bhaskar, Kumaresan, Brahmanandam, Chams, and Bablu, have done their respective parts well. Radha Mohan has given scope to almost all of them and none of them has disappointed.
The movie is so focused that there are no songs and romance. Music director Pravin Mani has made the background score fitting to the mood of the film.
"Payanam" has come out as something new for Tamil cinema. It's worth watching.