Director: TJ Gnanavel
Cast: Ashok Selvan, Samuthirakani, Priya Anand, Bala Saravanan
In TJ Gnanavel's Kootathil Oruthan (An Average Man), Ashok Selvan plays Arvind, a middle son, a middle-bencher. He's not smart enough to get a top rank, neither is he cool enough to be the class rebel, raising a middle finger to conformism. His father (Marimuthu) is one of those tyrants who, when you get 99 marks in a subject, asks, "Why not 100?" This sort of childhood is enough to scar one for life, but Arvind's problem is also that he's nice, pushover-level nice. In a queue, he lets the people behind him go ahead, almost as though he believes he doesn't deserve better. In other words, we are talking severe self-esteem issues as well.
So it makes sense that he allows his life to be taken over by a gangster (Sathya, played by Samuthirakani), who exists at the opposite end of the self-esteem spectrum – Arvind lets others take over his life, while Sathya decides how others should live (or die). Sathya begins to pull strings when Arvind tells him he has fallen for Janani (Priya Anand) – he manipulates events and makes Arvind appear special. One lie becomes two becomes four becomes a hundred. Comeuppance waits around the corner, banana peel in hand, and we realise the film isn't as special as it thinks it is.
But the director, who also wrote the film, keeps veering off into subplots that sound fine in theory but don't come together convincingly on screen. Had the events leading to this development been put in place much earlier, the film might have been more than just an easy watch.
For one, it exists in the kind of world you see only in cinema. Take the scene where Janani asks Arvind to meet her at a coffee shop. He's been stalking her. So he thinks this is the chance for a proposal, never mind that they've barely exchanged a word. (Get this! He has joined this journalism college because she has.)
His friend (Bala Saravanan, who tosses off zingers guaranteed to become YouTube comedy-channel classics), therefore, organises a brass band to play Kettukodi urumi melam, which is bizarre because (a) who celebrates a proposal with a brass band anymore, and (b) which college student remembers Pattikaada Pattanama anymore?
And how is any of this – stalking, followed by the "I sincerely love you" declaration from an average man to a way-out-of-his-league woman (she's a state topper! a chain-snatcher nabber!) – different from the storyline of the average Sivakarthikeyan starrer? But I liked the reason Arvind falls for Janani. She's the first one who said something nice to him, made him feel special. So when Sathya ensnares him in that web of lies, he's unable to come clean because he's swayed by the specialness these lies confer on him. This is an all-too-identifiable scenario.
But the director, who also wrote the film, keeps veering off into subplots that sound fine in theory but don't come together convincingly on screen. And the ending – a mix between a Better India story and a Samuthirakani-movie lecture – is a bolt from the blue. Had the events leading to this development been put in place much earlier, the film might have been more than just an easy watch (the actors help) with zingy songs by Nivas K Prasanna. The ageless SP Balasubrahmanyam is in rip-roaring form in Enda ippadi. Nee indri, a dreamy waltz, gets an unexpected fillip when an electric guitar sneaks in and begins to wail. At least the album is anything but average.
Watch the trailer here: