Asura Vadham Review
This month marks a decade of "Subramaniapuram", the cult movie that had a radical influence on Tamil cinema. Especially, among the new-age directors, who drew inspiration to root their stories in and around Madurai and its suburbs. Sasikumar who debuted as an actor and director with that cult classic has since then embraced acting more than direction, though he claims direction to be his first love.
Coincidentally, his latest movie Asuravadham features him in a different role with shades of grey! The movie that tries to be different with its narrative and character sketch felt like a job half done but left a lot to be desired to convince us in terms of a believable screenplay.
Firstly, it was a relief watching Sasikumar getting introduced in the most underwhelming fashion without any loud introduction song or an over-the-top fight! During the initial sequence we listen to his vengeful voice over the phone, marauding the antagonist, Samayan (Vasumithra) with a nagging "ring and cut" mobile game, that sets a prelude for the things that are about to take place.
After a while, we get to see him standing at the corner of a street, having a fag! His look terrorises the antagonist. The movie then progresses with its gentle pace as a cat and mouse game between the hero and the villain. Predictably, the reason behind the revenge gets revealed at the end!
Asuravadham had abundant cliches. First, it was the classic revenge template. Though director Maruthupandian has tried hard enough to make it look different with an offbeat narration, he could only cross half the well! That was mainly because of the predictability and some insipid scenes that induced erratic and unwanted mood changes in the screenplay.
While we set eyes on Sasikumar and Vasumithra for the first time, we know the good guy and the bad one. We could also sense the reason for the revenge. The backstory, though brutal and convincing enough for an equally brutal revenge, had too many sensibility issues. For e.g. how the antagonist couldn't identify a guy who has lived only a few streets away, that too in a small town? What is the need for a victim to carry her phone into the actual place where the "incident" happens while she converses with her father?
Also, the climax fight appears to compensate for some liberal doses of offbeat stuff that dominated the narrative till then. The movie, however, couldn't be ignored for the vision of the director to narrate a thriller in a rural milieu. The green pastures, corn fields, the open vast spaces, the isolated house - all these added to a brilliant mise en scene. Cinematography by Kathir elevated the art director's efforts!
There was also an inherent evilness in the narrative, which made the template more suitable for a supernatural thriller. Notably, when the antagonist is threatened by the lead, especially with something as naive as a python that magically appears and disappears, it made me laugh a bit. Sasikumar was taken out of his "mass mould", which was good. But, had he been induced into a story where he could have really flexed his "acting" muscle, it could have been a real "Asuravadham" for both the actor and the director!
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