Director: Ashok Veerappan
Writer: Ashok Veerappan
Cast: Vaibhav, Anagha LK, Anthakudi Ilaiyaaraja
Ashok Veerappan’s debut directorial Buffoon is an engaging thriller that explores how far an ordinary man will go to save his life. Kumaran (Vaibhav) and Muthaiah (Anthakudi Ilaiyaraja) dream of going abroad, for which they need to scramble a lakh each. So they temporarily begin working as lorry drivers. But when they somehow get entangled in a drug trafficking case, their struggle to find a way out forms the rest of the film’s plot.
The film manages to address multiple issues through Kumaran and the people living in his orbit. Kumaran is a theru koothu kalaignan (street play artist), and is putting up a street play when we are introduced to him. Through subtle details and sequences in passing, the film manages to highlight the issues faced by such artists, who are often strapped for money. Buffoon also touches upon the issues of Sri Lankan refugees, mainly through Ilaiyaa (Anagha), Kumaran’s love interest. The film’s ability to seamlessly shift from the issues of street play artists to the personal problems of Kumaran, who battles a drug mafia, and a bigger political game, is how its screenplay shines.
Kumaran is not your typical hero, in that he does not pack a few punches when he is in danger. He is instead the type of guy who chooses to run away from his problems. And in this pursuit to save himself, he keeps sprinting to different places - Rameshwaram, Kollam, and Madurai. But when someone asks him what is the point of living when one can’t defend himself, he stops running, and faces his problems head on.
Kumaran’s character arc develops subtly as the film progresses. By the time we get to the third act of the film, he is no more in hiding and starts scheming different plans to fight back. He deals with the police, gangsters, and politicians, all at once. He is sometimes their ally and sometimes their enemy, but the way he manages to tackle all three groups makes the film’s second half quite gripping.
But it is Kumaran’s friendship with Muthaiah which goes on to become Buffoon’s biggest strength.Vaibhav is known for his deftness in humour, but it’s a pleasant surprise to see him pull off the emotional scenes of the film with the same ease.
Even if the plot keeps us gripped, a few important scenes in the film are staged too conveniently, without any logical explanations. For instance, after Kumaran and Muthaiah get separated due to an unforeseen issue, we travel with Kumaran who somehow ends up in Rameshwaram. A few scenes later, when Kumaran fights a gang, Muthaiah appears out of nowhere.
Danabal, played by Joju George, is a character feared by everyone, and the entire plot revolves around arresting him. The film keeps reminding us about how powerful he is, yet, in a wasted opportunity, we hardly get to witness his swagger.
But the writing is tight for the most part, and the subplots add to the storyline. This plays out brilliantly especially in the climax when the film cuts to an isolated island with all different groups planning their attacks. There is our protagonist, an honest police officer, a loyal servant, and a good gangster - Buffoon is not tempted to take the predictable route and does justice to its story with a convincing climax.