Movie Review: Aandavan Kattalai (Tamil)

Never before has there been a film (let alone a Tamil film) carrying a PSA-like disclaimer bearing the following words: "This film intends to create awareness. Middle men are not required to get public services." But as the movie progresses, you begin to get a hang of what is it that director M. Manikandan (of Kaaka Muttai fame) has in mind, and what exactly is the message he wants to impart. You see, the story (by Arul Chezhiyan) has its echoes in director Cheran's Vetri Kodi Kattu, but rather than making it a grim societal drama, he mines comedy out of the same desperate situations, resulting in an immensely watchable satire about a system that's plagued by dishonest middlemen.

But Aandavan Kattalai (meaning God's Decree) is not just about a hapless villager Ganthi (Vijay Sethupathi turning in what's one the most effortless performances I've seen in recent years) who is caught in a cesspool of bureaucratic miseries and is forced to lie his way out. It's also about his budding romance with a journalist who enters his life unexpectedly. It's also about an undocumented Sri Lankan refugee (an excellent Sivagnanam Aravindhan) who has made Chennai his home. It's also about the hassles of house hunting in a big bustling city. It's also about the drama that unfolds in a family court. And Manikandan ties them all together seamlessly, juggling the narratives with such flair, it's downright impressive. I just wished the arc about Ganthi wanting to repay his debts got to a satisfactory conclusion, but that is a minor quibble in what's otherwise a realistic, subtle and humour-filled exercise in selling a message the entertaining way.