Director and Writer: R. Ravikumar
Cast: Sivakarthikeyan, Rakul Preet Singh, Karunakaran
Duration: 155 mins
Available in: Theatres
There is nothing more joyous than watching a film do all the wonders you expected, especially when it's been in the making for a long time. It might've taken so many years for R Ravikumar to give his sophomore outing after his classic debut with sci-fi comedy Indru Netru Naalai (2015) but every bit of it is worth it. Does it surpass and surprise you even more than INN? Probably not. Ayalaan takes a very predictable route, especially post the second half but treating the concept of alien with the taste of localness has worked out in the film’s favour.
Tamizh (Sivakarthikeyan) is a nature-lover who believes that the Earth belongs to the insects as much as it belongs to humans. When he moves to the city for work, his paths cross with an alien whom he initially mistakes for a student donning fancy costumes for a science fest. The film immediately jumps into the matter at hand. The alien lands on Earth and breaks into the villain’s office to steal an important stone that will otherwise lead to the destruction of the world. And just like how the time travel machine is lost in INN, the spaceship is stolen in Ayalaan. If coincidences were the villains in INN, we have a social issue and an antagonist posing the biggest threat to the much bigger world of Ayalaan.
Tattoo is the name of our ayalaan and the VFX work is on point. Even the spaceship and the little sneak peek you get into the world of Tattoo are rendered perfectly. The effort that has gone into the VFX is evident through the seamlessly blend of CGI elements in the frame; the imagination in the writing is brought to life through the making. As large as the scale is, the film and its writing focus on the bromance that blossoms between Tamizh and Tattoo. Rakul Preet Singh may be the female lead in the film, but Ayalaan features more sequences of Tamizh and Tattoo — like them enjoying a lollipop, sacrificing things for each other and a beautiful moment of reunion, which you’d happily take back home.
The VFX offers an immersive experience and the rapport between Tamizh and Tattoo lends a strong emotional value. Yet the biggest plus of Ayalaan is how sleekly Ravikumar mixes humour and the serious issue at hand. For instance, in a rather tense situation, when the villain is told that the alien has unimaginably extraordinary powers, the film immediately cuts to the hilarious set-up we've seen in the teaser where Ayalaan tries to connect with his world but manages to only link to a radio channel that plays 'Mallipoo'. The juxtaposition works so well that even when a serious problem is in the offing, the film keeps the mood light and fun. Even when an action sequence takes place post the interval, it happens in a narrow lane where the walls are painted with images of Avengers and Bruce Lee.
For the most part, at least in the first half, Tattoo is our action hero while Sivakarthikeyan's role is limited to some reactions and humorous commentary. But Ravikumar later ensures the star service isn't missed out. From the small Varuthapadatha Valibar Sangam reference to the signature Mankarate pose, there are little hat-tips you enjoy. A series of twists let Sivakarthikeyan take centre stage and also indugle in action sequences. Yogi Babu and Karunakaran as friends of Sivakarthikeyan add more comedy to the script, and the film is at its best when it is about this group of friends experimenting and having fun with the powers of the alien. Rakul Preet Singh does more for the role than the role does for her, which somehow helps you connect with her character and the relationship she shares with Tamizh even though the romance part isn’t given any focus.
The humorous treatment is one of the reasons why we only rarely feel the weight of the message or threat in the movie. Although the humour drives home the point, it may not feel right because the message is pushed to the background. Even when the whole of Cooum River is on fire, you aren’t worried about the larger impact of it. The villain isn’t as threatening as we were initially told. In a crucial stretch in the second half, the main antagonist isn’t even in the picture for a long time which contributes to the fact that you’re already not caring about the villain or the bigger social issue he is causing.
What rarely works in favour of Ayalaan though is the songs. The placement of the songs in itself isn’t very interesting, but there is also a certain dissonance between the songs and the staging, which stops you from enjoying, especially the introduction number ‘Vera Level Sago’ even though it is filled with pleasant visuals captured by Nirav Shah. The effect is better when the songs are played over montages like ‘Ayalaa Ayalaa’, which shows us the time when Tattoo gets along with Tamizh and his friends. But a lot is left to be desired when it comes to the film’s music.
There is a certain personality you associate with an artist and then there is the stardom, a star image that the artist is chasing. There is no necessity that both these factors should drive towards the same destination, but when they converge together, and you get the best of both worlds, what more do you even want? A year before Indru Netru Naalai was released — after Sivakarthikeyan’s Maan Karate (2014) — Vijay said, “Sivakarthikeyan kids elaam pidichitaaru, they like him.” A decade later, it is satisfying to see Sivakarthikeyan do the same, even when he is experimenting with mass and masala formats that his star image demands, last year with Maaveeran and now with Ayalaan.