Director: Jeeva Shankar
Cast: Vijay Antony, Miya George
A thought experiment. Imagine Aboorva Sagotharargal (Appu Raja in Hindi). Dad-Kamal is murdered before the opening credits. Son-Kamal takes revenge during the climax. The entire stretch in between – the entire film, that is – is built on our knowledge that the son gets to know what happened to his father. At that point, our investment in the revenge is complete. It’s primal emotional gratification. We wait for the moment as much as he waits for it. Now, what if the same scenario played out this way? The villain knows he killed the father. The audience knows. But the son doesn’t. So when son-Kamal ends up killing the villain, it isn’t revenge. It’s just… murder.
The most fascinating aspect of this reworked premise is the incompleteness of emotion. We want to cheer the son for an act of justice. Vigilante justice, to be sure. But still, justice. Yaman (God of Death) brings up this angle and doesn’t know what to do with this. Or perhaps it doesn’t want to deal with it. The film, directed by Jeeva Shankar, subverts a time-honoured masala-movie trope only to leave it hanging. Quite literally. A noose is involved.
Otherwise, Yaman is another testament to Vijay Antony’s talent for doing something different within a familiar “commercial” ambit. The story revolves around Tamilarasan, who strikes a deal when he realises his grandfather’s operation is going to cost a bomb. He ends up in prison. There, another deal is struck. And so on.
Vijay Antony isn’t actor enough to clue us into the character’s inner workings. He concentrates on the “hero moments” instead.
His talent for deal-making, negotiating, takes him to great heights as a politician. These parts of the film are interesting, if repetitive. It’s the Saat Khoon Maaf conundrum. How do you make what’s essentially the same dramatic block look different each time? The director doesn’t really find an elegant solution, but at least he keeps the wheels whirring. The film moves, culminating with a Godfather-like assassination montage.
What we miss is the sense of who Tamilarasan is. He’s the very essence of kindness and decency when it comes to Anjana (Miya George, in an exasperating romantic track), but the desperation that caused him to take this turn in the road disappears after a point and we just see a cold, vengeful man who kills at will. Unlike son-Kamal, Tamilarasan has no real reason. And the reason he gives – “thappu seyyaravanukkum thappu seyyaravana dhandikkardhukkum neraya vidhyaasam irukku” (there’s a difference between committing a sin and punishing a sinner) – makes little sense in this scheme of things.
There’s too much dialogue, explaining what we already know. And Vijay Antony isn’t actor enough to clue us into the character’s inner workings. He concentrates on the “hero moments” instead. The slo-mo walk. The occasional punch dialogue. Or the way he converts a toothbrush into a weapon. As always with this actor, you keep wondering what the film would have been with a better writer, a better filmmaker. To his credit, he wants to veer away from the mass-hero template. His films actually have a story. If only he’d find better people to tell them.
Watch the trailer of Yaman here: