Cast: Jayam Ravi, Raashi Khanna, Sampath
Director: Karthik Thangavel
There's anger inside most of us at systems that don't work — at police officers who serve the rich and mighty instead of victims and survivors; at the system that ensures idealistic youth are suspended for wanting to do their job; at a society that allows rich brats to abuse girls at will, and without guilt.
For them, the two hours and 15 minutes spent in the theatre during debut director Karthik Thangavel's Adanga Maru provides the cathartic calm that wrongdoers will be brought to task. At one level, you almost delight when mob justice, even if online, triumphs over evil. But, at another, you wonder where this will all lead to, and what will happen if there are no checks and balances. But, like someone says, "this is not murder, this is punishment". It helps that instead of picking up a weapon, all people have to do is swipe on a phone — ideal in a world where armchair activism rules.
Subash (an effective Jayam Ravi) is a fresher, a sub-inspector with a strong sense of right and wrong. He's shown his place very soon, when he's told his job is to ultimately let the powerful go. His superior reminds him of his rank and tells him that he will listen to him once Subash clears his IPS exam and is posted as his boss. Like Azhagam Perumal's cop character says, no one will respect police personnel as long as they are sent to protect the powerful. But, heading out to investigate the death of a young girl, Subash stumbles upon some truths that everyone wants buried. His life changes then on.
There are some red herrings in the script that's pacy and helped greatly by Antony's editing. You expect the minister's son to be the one who might trouble Subash. It turns out to be four other boys who mangle his loving family.
Subash is the kind of cop who reminds you of Vijay Sethupathi's character in Sethupathi. He joined the force to prevent crime, and has a loving family — his girlfriend is friends with all of them, his mother still makes him ghee dosas when the others get regular ones, and feeds him when he's in a rush to leave. The elder brother (Subbu Panchu Arunachalam) does not hesitate giving him a talking-to when he snaps at his girlfriend. This is a home held together by love, a home with distinctly middle-class dreams. The friendly chithappa (Chicha as Ravi is called by his twin nieces) shares a fond bond with all and is left shell-shocked after the family bears the brunt of a call he takes at work.
Early on in the film, the director establishes how Subash is tech-savvy. And so, it is believable when he banks on technology to deliver justice to the guilty. He goes at them with a vengeance, and when challenged by a top cop (Sampath), tells him the same thing that he was told – where's the evidence? He throws a challenge when putting in his papers; that he will not do anything to the boys, but their fathers will. How he manages, that forms the story.
The twists and turns are not really predictable, and that's a huge plus for a film that aims to score on the thrill quotient. Director-writer Viji's dialogues are spot-on, barring one featuring Munishkanth that propagates the trope of the filmi wife. Watch out for the scene where a person registers a complaint for a missing dog, a fancy breed. The biggest worry of the owner is that it might bond with a native breed. There's a snappy reference to caste pride and the Aadhaar card, in the same breath.
One thing that stays with you is how the four rich fathers are never really contrite; they feel for their children, but don't really realise the gravity of the crime they committed.
Ravi plays the sincere cop who precisely moves the chess pieces in the script with an endearing earnestness; we have seen that in recent years, beginning with Thani Oruvan, but you are yet to tire of it, and credit to him for that. Azhagam Perumal is the understanding colleague; he's honest too, but has seen too much and has accepted the existing power structure. Meera Vasudevan (Oh, the Thanmathra girl, someone in the audience screamed!) appears in a cameo as the sister-in-law; you really wish she had more to do. As for Raashi Khanna, you wonder how they sold the film to her. Her character arc says 'supportive girlfriend', and she plays that well. Wonder why her lip sync is so off-the-mark, though.
If the film had been a little lengthier, you might have had scope to pick holes in the narrative, but the director and editor ensure that things move at a breathless pace — even the one song on the leads is not a major distraction. Sam's background score keeps pace with all the activity.
The film silently speaks of a generation that has grown up without too many compunctions; that feels proudly entitled. It is also a reminder of the dangers that lurk. Even Sampath's character gets a reality check only as a parent, when his daughter questions how he would react if she had been the victim. Till then, cow-towing to the powers mattered; after that, his attitude too changes to reflect the title — refuse to yield.
Subash finally does become an IPS officer. Will he just stay a conscientious officer or will he continue to play vigilante?