Tamil Movie Reviews:

Naalai   

Cast: Richard, Madhumita, Natraj, Nasser, 'Kaadhal' Shanmugam, 'Bose' Venkat, Ilavarasu
Music: Karthik Raja
Direction: Udayabanu Maheshwaran 
 

Based on all the films we've had on the same theme, it looks like gangster films can be broadly divided into two categories. On one hand are films that follow the protagonist's rise from a small-time hood to the leader of the rowdy gang. On the other hand are films about rowdies at the lower levels of the food chain. Naalai falls in the latter category and inspite of telling a familiar tale, does so in an interesting manner.

Justin(Richard) and Natraj alias Nattu(Natraj) have been friends since childhood, doing all the dirty work for Nair(Nasser), the local dada. When the brother of another dada Thanigai('Kaadhal' Shanmugam) speaks ill of Nair, they kill him. Thanigai now wants revenge and asks Nair to give the two up.

Like Don Chera, Naalai is a victim of bad timing. If released about six months ago, it would have been a surprisingly realistic depiction of the lives of dadas and rowdies. It doesn't sugarcoat the lives they lead and maintains a sober tone that illustrates the dangerous nature of their lives. But with the glut of gangster-themed films we've had recently, it ends up feeling like a retread of many of those films (there are scenes that remind us of Pattiyal and Thalainagaram and it even includes the line "Survival of the Fittest", which happened to be Pudhuppettai's tag line!). To the film's credit, the familiar story is narrated in an entertaining manner with the screenplay going through enough small twists and turns to keep us engaged.

Naalai depicts the cruel nature of the the world Richard and Natraj live in as well as most other films in this genre. The lack of true loyalty and the bottom-feeding nature of many of the players keep us unsure about what the next moves of the characters will be. It also illustrates that once you've lived a life of violence, it is not easy to stay away from it. Past sins always have a way of catching up. The romance and the comedy(which is part of the movie and not a separate track, thank God!) help lighten things a little but the underlying grimness is never ignored.

Like Thalainagaram this movie also shows that the director has a good sense of style. Action sequences, right from the chase undertaken by the two young boys near the start of the film, are energetic and a couple of moves in the fight sequences catch the eye. Some shots, like the one near the carousel towards the end, are executed particularly well.

Richard, who has played softer, more refined roles so far, slips into a rowdy's role easily also. But newcomer Natraj, who plays his friend, is the scene-stealer. He is completely natural whether he is teasing Richard about Madhumita or shouting at someone. Madhumita has proved her acting chops in movies like Kudaikkul Mazhai but gets little to do here. 'Bose' Venkat has a nice turn as a police officer who has his own rules for dealing with antisocial elements. Karthik Raja reminds us of his dad in both the songs and the background score. Oru Maatram... is a very melodious number and is picturized well also.

Courtesy:  Balaji Balasubramaniam
 

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