Director Manikandan who had done serious award winning films like Kaaka Muttai and Kuttrame Thandanai, is back with his latest Aandavan Kattalai. In a way his third film is totally different and more mainstream as it has stars like Vijay Sethupathi and Ritika Singh.
Aandavan Kattalai is refreshingly fresh and original and executed brilliantly by Manikandan and his team of writers (Arul Chezhiyan and Anucharan). The concept and story is interesting and casting picture perfect.
Vijay Sethupathi and the supporting actors including Yogi Babu, Nassar, Arivandan are aptly cast.
The attempt is to tell the story of an honest man trying to make an important correction in his passport caught in a dishonest system of middlemen as his miseries pile up.
The film has a nice message but it is neither preachy nor is it in your face.
Gandhi (Vijay Sethupathi) and his friend Pandi (Yogi Babu) land up in Chennai from their village in Madurai, trying to go to London in the hope of making big money. An unscrupulous travel agent advises Gandhi to say he is married in his passport, which the agent says would make it easier to get a visa to UK.
When his tourist visa is rejected and Gandhi has different priorities, he has to erase the ‘spouse’ in his passport; a lie followed by more lies that leads to a lot of embarrassing situations for Gandhi. This is the crux of the story.
Aandavan Kattalai works largely due to its script and the situational comedy in the narration. The way the story unfolds and the difficult situations the hero faces is so well brought out, without taking any cinematic liberties.
Everything is real – Gandhi's visa interview at the British High Commission, the family court scenes where he goes for a “mutual divorce”, house hunting in urban jungles, and the final scene in the passport office; all of these have been superbly written and presented. The subtle undercurrent of romance between hero and heroine is brought out so beautifully, without any drama.
The camera work of Shanmugha Sundaram and music of K is in sync with director’s scene creation.
Vijay Sethupathi is outstanding as Gandhi and he is able to bring out the characters shyness, frustration and goodness in a subtle manner without going overboard. The actor reminds you so much of Mohanlal in the 1980s, when he did a lot of Sathyan Anthikad comedies laced with a neat message.
Yogi Babu as Pandi provides genuine laugh moments, while veteran Nasser is fantastic as the master in a drama school. Ritvika Singh is impressive as she works hard in a difficult role.
Aandavan Kattalai is leisurely paced at 2 hours and 30 minutes and could have done with some trimming. But on the whole the film is another feather on Manikandan’s cap, as he has been able to change tracks successfully from art house cinema to meaningful entertainers.