Alpha Adimai, On SonyLIV: A Predictable Crime Thriller That’s Saved By Its Speed
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Writer-Director: Jinovi
Cinematographer: Manikandan Murthy
Music: Sathya & Jen
Cast: Vinod Varma, Arun Nagaraj, Kalki, Eshwar, Jinovi
Language: Tamil

Spoilers Ahead…

Alpha Adimai begins with a quote from Dostoevsky that suggests that everybody secretly likes to do the wrong thing, even if they outwardly act like they’d hate to. You then meet a group of pretentious guys hanging out at their studio in Coimbatore. Dheeraj (Vinod Varma) and Vicky (Arun Nagaraj) step out to score weed for a party and get caught up in a tangle with their dealer and the cops. With a running time of less than ninety minutes, Alpha Adimai starts energetically and sticks to this simple plot — it’s a big part of what keeps it watchable. But the writing unsuccessfully tries to elevate the film into a portrait of a twisted mind and this undermines the effectiveness of an otherwise straightforward thriller. It tries too hard to project a subtext that doesn’t exist.

Dheeraj’s dealer is Mayilsamy (Kalki), and he’s in a spot due to recent police raids. He needs to move his huge stock to another dealer in Ooty in order to pay off his creditor and escape the cops. Mayilsamy’s entourage consists of his assistant and relative Aaru (Jinovi) and an apprentice Ponnan (Eshwar). The changing pecking order between the three is ostensibly behind the title alpha adimai (alpha slave) — the subtext being that a docile slave such as Ponnan could be secretly hiding an inner alpha male. But almost right after you meet Ponnan, you know that the film will end with him becoming the alpha — this unfolds in a predictable manner as the three grow wary of each other gradually. 

Thrown into this chaos are Dheeraj and Vicky who too are locked in a tussle about who’s the alpha. They’re so desperate to score that they drive down to Mayilsamy’s place. After the score, in a bit of convenient writing, they’re caught smoking weed by the cops. At the same time, Ponnan conspires to use them to transport the weed safely to Ooty. This sets up the film’s most engrossing stretch when things move at a fast clip even when they’re predictable. Without any buildup around a hero or a villain that you’d see in a mainstream film, Alpha Adimai efficiently moves through its plot points. 

But writer-director Jinovi tries to add a layer of interpretation about the hidden alpha in all of us and it doesn’t sit well on a simple and sparsely-written thriller. Instead of being a straightforward, amoral tale, the film tries to tell an ambitious but sketchy story about Ponnan’s inner life. You get snapshots of his mother at different points in the film. You can see that there’s trauma associated but the memory of a deceased mother is a generic image. By itself, it doesn’t explain why a person has to suddenly turn violent. It’s the kind of scattershot detailing that throws you off rather than deepening your understanding of the film.

A random homosexual interpretation is added to the relationship between Dheeraj and Vicky when Mayilsamy’s gang mock them for being gay. There’s also a repetitive and banal joke by Aaru that puns on the name of a rooster called Kunju. Ironically, the film ends up contradicting its opening quote by trying to explain why the seemingly innocent Ponnan chose to turn violent. Dostoevsky has already declared that people do wrong simply because they secretly like to.

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