Sivakarthikeyan and Aishwarya Rajesh in Pandiraj's Namma Veettu Pillai

In my review of Pandiraj’s previous film, I said, “Kadaikutty Singam wants to be little more than a time machine that transports you to a certain kind of masala movie-cum-melodrama, but are people interested in spending money on watching an update of films already available on TV and YouTube? Our actors trot out these films with the logic that it strengthens their B/C-centre base, but it may be interesting to research what those audiences really want. Has Internet penetration and 24×7 television changed their movie-viewing tastes? Or, are they still the same audiences — with the same “mindset”? The box-office performance of Kadaikutty Singam is going to prove interesting for these very reasons.” And, interesting it certainly was. The rural drama was a huge success, and now we have more of the same. This time, it’s called Namma Veettu Pillai.

Here, too, we are deposited into a family so large (plus Anu Emmanuel as the love interest), you may wonder if you are in a movie or in an unreserved compartment on the day before Deepavali. As in Kadaikutty Singam, Pandiraj favours pace over emotional depth. The story is that of a brother and sister — Arumpon (Sivakarthikeyan) and Thulasi (Aishwarya Rajesh) — and, like in the far-superior Sivappu Manjal Pachai, there’s a maaman-machan conflict. Natarajan Subramaniam plays Ayyanar, Thulasi’s husband. What a curious career this actor has. After a successful stint as a Bollywood cinematographer — he shot Black Friday for Anurag Kashyap, and Jab We Met and Love Aaj Kal for Imtiaz Ali — he has branched out as an actor in Tamil cinema. He has a muscular presence, perfect for a character actor. He’s the bad guy here, but he doesn’t overplay the badness. Some of Arumpon’s relatives come off as bigger villains.

Sivakarthikeyan in Pandiraj's Namma Veettu PillaiSivakarthikeyan in Pandiraj’s Namma Veettu Pillai

And, they keep coming in the way of the real story. You want more scenes between Arumpon and Thulasi (they get a solid backstory), and between Thulasi and Ayyanar. When Ayyanar says he likes her (he hates only her brother), we have to take his word for it because we hardly see them together. Instead, we keep cutting away to scenes of the extended clan. (Kadaikutty Singam suffered from a similar lack of focus.) But, maybe, that’s why Pandiraj makes the film look like a YouTube video played at 2x speed. (He’s become the Hari of this genre.) If there’s no depth, there’s no dead air, either. There are some laughs, but, more importantly, we see the leading man as both invincible and vulnerable. With better writing throughout, the climax would have made you weep. But, as empty emotional entertainers go, Namma Veettu Pillai isn’t a total loss. In other words, “I didn’t mind it” has become something of a compliment these days.

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