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Brilliance Tempered With Flashes of Insipidity

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Raw depiction of human emotions have been the USP of Bala's movies. The Aghori sadhu in Naan Kadavul, the son of an undertaker in the national award-winning movie Pithamagan, or the jilted lover in Sethu stand out for their oddities, influencing movie and satire makers like no other. So, it is confounding that Avan Ivan, the latest movie from his stable, is surprisingly stereotypical.

Kumbidaren Saamy (Arya) and Walter Vanangamudi (Vishal) are village louts who are half-brothers. Walter, an aspiring actor, has a squint, cross-dresses and even dances as a woman (he boasts that when dressed as a woman, even Cleopatra would emerge from her grave and kiss him); Saamy is an expert at picking locks. A local magistrate summons him to his house to open his ancient safe, the key for which he has misplaced. Although animosity runs high between the two, Saamy is afraid to confront Walter directly. Their mothers, Jayaprabha and Ambika (she sports a beedi constantly, and asks Walter to save some booze for her), respectively, quarrel often.

The love interests of the two brothers arrive in the form of Baby (Janani Iyer), a police constable, and Thenmozhi (Madhu Shalini), a tutorial college student desperate to clear her exams. Sequences where Walter and Saamy court their lovers are funny, but lack hilarity (After all, humour was key even in Bala's earlier 'serious' movies). Why do the girls love them? We never know.

What hurts Avan... the most is its weak plot in the latter half, which gets redeemed to an extent by its supporting cast. The inspector of the village who prays for a promotion and Saamy's plump friend who comes up with wisecracks leave the viewer in splits. G M Kumar puts in in a stellar performance as Highness, a zamindar who was cheated in a property dispute. The villain (RK) runs an illegal slaughterhouse and gets into a confrontation with Highness, only to murder him. The brief flashbacks of fight sequences towards the end are simply superb.

Some dialogues drip with sarcasm, most of which have been reserved for Arya ("Actress Trisha is for you only," he remarks to Walter after seeing his acting prowess). Bala briefly flirts with macabre in a cliched second half, and the element of surprise, so dominant in his earlier ventures, is surprisingly muted.

The review was featured in City Express, the daily supplement of the New Indian Express on June 19, 2011.

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