Over the course of a fairly high-profile career, K.S. Ravikumar has helmed a variety of entertaining features and, in the process, created a basic formula that he adheres to. This formula is fairly straightforward – lots of laugh-out-loud funny sequences, a few decent action scenes, songs inserted wherever required, and just a pinch of emotion to keep things moving. With Aadhavan, he follows the same template to a certain extent and also proves he can keep up with the latest trends with some energetic action and modern, impressive CGI work. However, while the first half has enough to hold our interest in the proceedings, starting from the beginning of the second half – where things start going downhill – he loses control and the movie moves too far into melodrama toward the end that any interest generated initially is all but lost.

The film opens with the Damakku Damakku… song followed by Aadhavan (Surya) taking out his high-profile target from underwater, leading to a variety of similar targets, making him one of the best assassins around. Aadhavan’s gang consists of mentor and father, Ibrahim Rowther (Shayaji Shinde) and elder brother, Tharani (Anandh Babu making his first big-screen appearance in quite a while). Abdul Kulkarni (Rahul Dev) approaches them with another prominent target in Judge Subramaniam (Murali), who has been poking around in the former’s business involving the kidnapping and murder of children across eastern India. Surprisingly, Aadhavan misses his target and is forced to move into the Judge’s household – which includes Bannerjee (Vadivelu), Thara (Nayanthara), Subramaniam’s mother (Saroja Devi) and the rest of the family – to finish his job. But, his reactions suggest that he wants the latter dead on a more personal level, and is not only in it for the money.

Like Ayan, Aadhavan hits its highest point, in terms of generating adrenaline, in the initial sequences itself. The foot chase that follows the failed assassination attempt is definitely as good as the African one in Surya’s blockbuster from earlier this year. Though it shows an obvious inspiration from the first sequence inside the under-construction building in Casino Royale – the fact becomes more obvious when one notes that the location is of the same type –, Surya performs most of his stunts which enables the level of awe to be maintained on our part. Since I said that this is the apex as far as stunt sequences are concerned, it should follow that the rest of the movie’s action is fairly ordinary and generic failing to involve us like this one.

It should also come as no surprise that Aadhavan is best when in comedy-mode because, time and again, Ravikumar has proved that making people laugh is his forte. This movie also gives Vadivelu a chance to redeem himself after the disappointment of his track in Kanthaswamy, and he doesn’t disappoint. Nearly every scene in which he appears succeeds in making us laugh and though it is fairly standard in terms of what we expect from the comedian – the slightly stuttered speech to show his fear, for example –, it is impossible not to laugh as his attempts at proving Aadhavan’s real identity become increasingly futile. In fact, it would be easy to argue that without Vadivelu many people might have been heading for the exit doors in the first half itself, which they might anyway be doing as we proceed into the second half.

As far as Ravikumar is concerned, I have been entertained to a variety of degrees by each of his movies, but never have I been as bored and disinterested as I was towards the end of this one. The CGI effects used to depict Surya as a 10-year old are definitely high standard for a Tamil movie, in spite of the gimmicky nature of their appearance. (Couldn’t the same sequence have been told with “any” 10-year old in it?) Though not awe-inspiring because we always “know” this is Surya (he also voices these portions), the fact that a lot of effort has clearly gone into integrating it makes us overlook the obvious flaws. However, the flashback sequence itself is so dragging that even the special effects cannot force us to think of it any differently. The amount of people sneering in the theatre when this sequence ended should be proof enough of how languid it actually is. And, the movie drags on for quite some time in order to tie up a lot of the loose ends, eventually culminating in an action sequence that makes us laugh for all the wrong reasons (including a “sticky” rocket launcher, if there is even such a weapon). It wouldn’t be any stretch to say that, by the end, I wanted to forget the entire experience.

With the career path Surya is taking, it is obvious that he is trying to emulate Kamalhassan; which is the reason for Ayan, and now Aadhavan, after the heavier Vaaranam Aayiram. The problem with Surya is that he has not yet perfected the art of “acting” in these kinds of casual, formulaic roles. So, even though he can make the comedy portions work, he fails in the serious sequences because he always wants to “act” instead of simply going along with the flow of the movie. It also doesn’t help that the respect built up for his off-screen image takes a hit when Vadivelu compares him with yesteryear greats ‘Sivaji’ Ganesan, M.G.R, Rajinikanth, and Kamalhassan.

The supporting cast is mostly expected to run through the motions. Nayanthara looks very simple and jaded, and is expected to play the standard Tamil cinema heroine, which she can adequately. Shayaji Shinde and Murali (in what sadly turned out to be his last role) are veterans in their own right and are solid, with the latter being especially impressive. Rahul Dev joins the long list of generic Tamil cinema villains. With all the hype surrounding Saroja Devi’s return, she is more or less only used as a tool for comedy, with her now famous tendency to wear too much make-up providing a lot of mileage. Anandh Babu’s return definitely did not generate as much interest as the former’s; and with good reason, because it is definitely not noteworthy. Ramesh Khanna, whose story this is, appears as Nayanthara’s would-be, and proves a decent sidekick to Vadivelu in his comedy.

Harris Jeyaraj’s songs have become very popular, but almost all of them fall into the forgettable category. Hasile Fisile… and Yeno Yeno Panithuli… are great to look at by virtue of the breathtaking locations of South Africa and Iceland on display. Vaarayo Vaarayo… and Maasi Maasi… are largely at fault for the movie’s pacing problems, though Saroja Devi’s decked up appearance as a tribal at the end of the latter will evoke a lot of guffaws. Ganesh’s cinematography deserves some mention for the former two song sequences and also for the initial action sequences.

Usually, any K.S. Ravikumar movie has a certain charm that makes it worth for television viewing, if not for a visit to the theatre. However, it is hard to imagine Aadhavan joining that category. The comedy is certainly laugh-out-loud, but is only prevalent in the first half, and what makes up the rest of the movie largely veers into the “unwatchable” territory that even a TV viewing is hard to recommend, let alone paying money for a theatrical viewing.