Some heroes need only one movie to understand where they're going wrong; others take dozens of flicks -- and still fail to realise why they deliver flop after flop.
After the debacle of Sathyam, one hoped that GK Film Corporation would have learnt from its high profile, well-documented Tamil failure but Thoranai (loosely translated as Style), starring would-be superstar Vishal and Shriya Saran and directed by Sabha Iyappan looks like a well-worn zerox of earlier versions.
To give credit where it's due, it isn't really that bad in the beginning even if it follows the tried and tested template of 99% of Vishal's movies: naive, young hero Murugan (Vishal) full of zeal, humour and goodness bursting at the seams lives with his mother (Geetha, in a miniscule role) in his native village. In due course she worries herself to death with some problem -- in this case, the loss of her first son Ganesan, who ran away from home.
Naturally, dutiful Murugan, after the mandatory fights and introductory songs pledges to wipe away his mother's tears and bring his brother who is god knows where. But since Murugan is obviously Superman in disguise, he'll find him no matter where in the world he is.
The first half at least has some semblance of entertainment as Murugan arrives in the city and straightaway, as per gangster-flick norms, witnesses a gruesome murder conducted by Guru (Kishore) and his men. Almost immediately he makes the acquaintance of Thamizh Arasu (Prakashraj) and his cohorts as well: both are rival gangsters with their own stake in the underworld.
Regardless of all this, Murugan stays with friend Vellaichamy (Santhanam, who cracks lewd jokes and obviously considers himself Gounda Mani's modern replacement), and promptly falls in love with Indu (Shriya, who wears bikini tops during the dream scenes, and dresses slightly only better otherwise), and plays various pranks on her, including one which involves playing Lord Rama. There's Paravai Muniyamma as well, providing some crude entertainment.
Guns, unkempt hair and rough voices suitably indicate rival gangsters Guru and Thamizh Arasu at loggerheads. In the meantime, Murugan keeps searching for his long-lost brother. In due course, Guru has a run-in with Murugan, where the latter discovers a shocking truth.
From then on, its supposed to be an "intelligent" cat-and-mouse game while Vishal apes every hero in Tamil filmdom -- Vijay, Ajith, Surya, Simbu, Dhanush, Jayam Ravi -- you name it, he plays it. There's even a guitar song a la Vaaranam Aayiram -- except that it's dull, barring Shriya's glorious looks. Where Vishal does score is the humour quotient which, even if forced, works a bit. And then there are the stunts which he does supremely well. This is one of the parts where Priyan's camera-work shines.
But then he remembers that he's a hero, and the director feeds him a lot of gobble-de-gook dialogues about villains turning into good guys which he mouths often, like a 60s movie. The yawns in the theatre are audible. Several shots show the terrain to be Andhra Pradesh, not Chennai and that shows dubbing faults too. Mani Sharma's songs are more sound than music -- an excellent snack-break.
Poor Prakashraj and Kishore -- both excellent actors who have proven their mettle with superb movies -- are forced to play rowdies to complement Vishal, whose acting talent is nowhere near theirs. Santhanam is at his crudest though you have to admit it's not as bad as Silambattam. M S Baskar, Mayilsamy and Geetha occupy blink-and-you-miss roles, while Shriya has nothing to do but look pretty and made-up in every scene.
Aiming for an intelligent action-flick is good but when you have cheesy dialogues, cringe-worthy platitudes, songs shot in Ladakh which make no sense, and a climax that is downright pathetic, nothing works. Nowhere does Vishal's character use his brains -- only considerable brawn, and that makes for a very tedious second half.
Vishal's fans might be ecstatic at their star's new movie -- but Thoranai's only merit is that it's marginally better than Sathyam. And that's no merit at all.