Director: P Ranjith
Cast: Karthi, Catherine Tresa
Running time: 156 minutes
An apt title for director P Ranjith's work could have been North Madras. For the film is set there, in its lower middleclass tenements, where women wear jasmine flowers and queue up at the break of dawn by the street corner water tap with colourful containers, and men brawl over brew. If Ranjit dared to make a movie, Madras, in the city's northern fringes, -- perhaps the first time ever for a film to have been shot there - he also deftly captures the area's smells and sounds, its dialect and crudity, which can, though, encompass a certain unique camaraderie, fast vanishing elsewhere.
However, the thin plot by itself does not throw up surprises. It is time worn, beaten to death and absolutely clichéd stretching for well over 150 minutes - much of it wasted in inanity. It is only past the first half that Madras gets down to pushing what it actually wants to show, which is a rivalry over the ownership of a huge wall that two different political clans fight for, shedding blood and brotherhood. Friendships are crushed and lives wasted. It is really not clear why anyone would want to swing sickles, bad mouth one another other and get into physical fights over a mere wall. Ego probably.
Karthik's Kali is a software employee living in a North Madras locality who is as passionate about football as he is about the wall, the right over which, he hopes, will someday come to the political party he identifies with. Hanging around with his best friend, Anbu, and other cronies, Kali ultimately falls in love with a neighbourhood girl, Kalaiarasi (Catherine Tresa making her debut in Tamil cinema after a stint in Kannada and Malayalam movies). And when Anbu is killed, Kali is driven by rage that threatens his romantic dreams.
Sadly, Karthi, who seemed so very promising in his first outing, Paruthi Veeran, is somehow not showing enough pluck to pick different kinds of roles. He remains a ruffian, the ruffian whom we saw in Paruthi Veeran. In fact, most of his roles have veered towards rough characters. In Madras too, he is short tempered and given to sorting issues through might - traits that push him towards loss and suffering.
Catherine is not quite up to the mark, often looking dull and emotionless. The others in the film are disappointing as well adding to the over-dramatisation of the narrative, which mercifully is not peppered with too many songs.
In the end, Madras is but another work about gang wars and political rivalry that can only be watched if you stop disbelieving.
Also watch: Madras trailer