Cast: Arun Vijay, Priya Bhavani Shankar, Samuthirakani, Yogi Babu, Ammu Abhirami, KGF Ramachandra Raju, Radhika Sarathkumar
If you were wondering why Hari’s latest family drama Yaanai is named after the majestic gentle giant, look no further than its lead hero Arun Vijay and his character Ravi in the film. Arun Vijay thumps, roars, and most importantly, protects his kin like the tusker in this masala action romp, more often than not carrying the faltering film on his shoulders.
As with every Hari movie universe, Yaanai, too, revolves around a tight-knit joint family with a band of brothers. But the film focuses on two hot-headed siblings in the wealthy PRV clan– Ramachandran (Samuthirakani), the family patriarch who prides over his caste, and his half-brother Ravi, who couldn’t care less about the very social order that has his brother in a tizzy. But when one of their own runs away to marry outside their religion, Ramachandran declares war on the couple and his own brother.
Forming another layer of complexity in the film is the rivalry between the PRV family and the Samudram family, both families of fisherfolk that parted ways due to a murder. Ramachandran’s hunger for caste pride is deftly depicted in this narrative thread, which forms the rest of the film’s plot.
Yaanai has all the ingredients of a masala potboiler– romance, family sentiment, action (strength level: elephant), and a superfluous comedy track by Yogi Babu and Pugazh. But despite the tropes associated with the genre, the makers manage to produce a watchable mass film. And that is because the makers know exactly what their movie stands for. The makers also make up for its melodramatic writing–an obvious flaw of the genre–with a seasoned cast and crew. Editor Anthony is dextrous with the film’s cuts, while actors Rajesh, Radhika, and Ammu Abhirami form a strong supporting cast, an important pillar of any family drama. Arun Vijay, on the other hand, is in full form. He gives every lengthy dialogue and ferocious punch in the action drama every ounce of his earnest self.
But some things never change about potboilers, and sadly the film also stands by the genre’s murkier side. Apart from Radhika’s noticeably fierce character arch, the women in the PRV family are reduced to damsels in distress and crying bots, who are often thrashed for their daughters’ attitudes. Priya Bhavani Shankar (who plays Jabamalar, Ravi’s love interest) initially comes off as a glitch in the matrix that is this genre, and stands up to the ridiculousness that the men around her spew. But she is also put in her place when her time comes.