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Gautaman Bhaskaran’s review: Aadukalam

india Updated: Feb 13, 2011 16:11 IST
Gautaman Bhaskaran
Gautaman Bhaskaran
Hindustan Times
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Gautaman Bhaskaran
Vetrimaran’s Aadukalam (Playground) follows a trend set by K. Sasikumar in his 2008 path breaking Subramaniapuram. This low budget film was critically acclaimed for its original script, extraordinary direction, imaginative editing and accurate sets and costumes. Sasikumar resurrected the 1980s Madurai, a famous temple town in Tamil Nadu, with unbelievable authenticity.

Several movies tried copying Subramaniapuram, and ended up with merely having Madurai as a location or background. Aadukalam is no exception. Much like most of Indian cinema which still believes that its ticket-paying viewers want to enjoy just about every aspect of life (comedy, tragedy, romance, songs and dances, fights and chases in a high melodramatic mode) in a single film, Vetrimaran’s work tries hard to package a whole gamut of issues in about 180 minutes – and fails to convince us about anything.

But, of course. What do you expect when the movie begins as one on the bloody rooster fight sport, common in and around Madurai, and, a little later, digresses into romantic love between a village bumpkin and an expert on nurturing prize-winning roosters (Dhanush’s Karuppu) and an educated/sophisticated Anglo-Indian collegian, Irene Claude (Taapsee Pannu)? Not just this, there is sexual jealousy that Karuppu’s hero, Pettikaran (Jayabalan), harbours against his young wife, an envy that eats into him. Pettikaran, who owns prized fighter cocks, has an arch rival, Rathnaswamy (Neryn), a cop merrily indulging in a sport that is abhorred by animal activists. However, the film steers clear of angering them by saying right at the beginning that the rooster fights were digitally created.

Likewise, a lot of Aadukalam appears to have been conceived in a way that is far removed from reality. The scenes between Karuppu and Irene are suffocatingly pretentious, and while Dhanush passes off fairly well as the village boy drawn into a web of deceit and distrust (I am yet to see him play anything other than these kinds of parts), Taapsee is not even dollish enough to make a visual impact. Too stiff to portray the Anglo-Indian lass caught between love for an uncouth lad and family sophistry, she stumbles often and appears ill at ease.

Finally, Aadukalam seems like a playing field where too many sports are vying for your attention.