Tamil cinema seems determined to not leave old Mohanlal classics alone! After movies like Chitram(Engirundho Vandhaan) and Bharatham(Seenu) got butchered and Manichithrathaazhu(Chandramukhi) and Kireedam(Kireedam) got diluted by being made more hero-centric, another old Mohanlal blockbuster, Spadikam, has now made its way to Tamil as Veeraappu. The consolation is that this time, the source itself is a regular masala film rather than an enduring classic. That makes it more suitable for translation to Tamil and so the film, inspite of unimpressive casting, passes muster.
Pulippaandi(Sundar.C) is the local rowdy. He is barely on speaking terms with his father(Prakashraj), who he blames for the way his life is today. As a student, he was interested in physics and mechanics. But his father, a Mathematics teacher, wanted him to follow his footsteps and choose a career in Maths. Beaten and caned by his father for his apparent lack of interest in Maths, Paandi rebelled against him and his subsequent actions put him on the path to becoming a rowdy. The local policeman Kaatturaja is on a crusade to humiliate and arrest him while the new teacher Bharathi(Gopika) falls for him.
While Spadikam was a masala film, Mohanlal almost made us forget that it was. He imbibed the larger-than-life role with style and panache and bristled in the action scenes as well as the scenes of confrontation with his father. Those would be really big shoes to fill for any hero and Sundar.C, who is only 1 film old, falls woefully short. It is too early for him to throw around all those styles and punchlines and he ends up looking like another of the heroes who thinks of himself as having reached the position attained by Rajnikanth. And his wooden face drains all the emotions and energy away from the sequences where he clashes with Prakashraj. Thus he is ill-equipped for both aspects of the protagonist's role and ends up being the biggest liability of the film.
In almost every movie where the hero is a rowdy, he usually has a well-intentioned father who is disappointed with his wayward son and keeps imploring him to change. Veeraappu also has a rowdy as hero but is different in that it is the father who is clearly in the wrong. It is the father who refused to see the potential in his son and so was responsible for his son ending up as a rowdy. The movie thus sidesteps the biggest problem in movies that have a rowdy as the hero - the hero's likeability factor. Once we learn about his past, our sympathies are with Sundar.C. This also helps make Gopika's feelings for him more acceptable. At the same time, the movie commits the usual mistake of exaggeration when portraying Sundar. C's past. Prakashraj's displeasure with his son is acceptable and even realistic but even considering his obsession with Maths, his turning a blind eye to his son's other achievements is a tad unrealistic and his methods of punishment are definitely over-the-top.
With nothing on its agenda other than portraying the father-son enmity, the film seems to spin its wheels for a long time. The cycle of Sundar.C going to jail, being brought out by his uncle and/or friends and clashing with his father happens quite a few times before there is some semblance of the movie going in a particular direction. With Gopika entering the picture quite late, it is only Vivek who provides a break during these portions. His track follows his life as he is forced to buy progressively smaller vehicles after antagonizing a women selling those knick-knacks that are supposed to bring good luck. Barring one segment, where he gets a chance to rip apart a custom frequently portrayed in our movies, his track isn't consistently funny but atleast a couple of lines find their mark.
The movie gets some direction and energy after the murder of one the characters. Since the character seemed to be primed to play a major role, its sudden elimination is a disappointment but it gives the movie some focus. There is also no real suspense since it is pretty clear who the bad guys are but since this is not a murder mystery, the plot point works as a nice way for Sundar.C to redeem himself in his father's eyes.
Sundar.C looks the part even if he falls short in the acting department. Gopika shows up pretty late and even after that, she has little to do apart from aggressively wooing Sundar.C. Prakashraj does the job efficiently as always. Vivek easily takes the honors among Santhanam and himself as far as laughs go.