If Aamir Khan could make the Hindi version of Suriya-starrer Tamil film, Ghajini, a blockbuster, it's Suriya's turn now to provide a commercial cocktail with Ayan (The One), releasing today. After a sensitive Vaaranam Aayiram, Suriya proves that he just as adept at slamming evil guys and dancing duets in his new Tamil film.
Directed by cinematographer-turned-director K V Anand -- who gave the differently styled Kana Kandein -- Ayan is not just a masala film but a fairly logical one too.
Deva Veluchamy (Suriya) comes home from abroad, speaking perfect English, complete with natty bag, shades and designer-wear. But once he's out of the airport, he meets Arumuga Doss (Prabhu, in a role that suits the veteran to the T), who runs a roaring pirated CD business. Turns out that Deva has been routing the CD of a yet-to-be released movie through customs, where it's zipped to a computer centre and distributed with the help of henchmen like the deaf Dilli (Karunas).
But the authorities smell a rat. Deva gets everyone out of trouble with the aid of a handy fall guy, Chitti Babu (Jagan), who offers to take the rap.
The two promptly become friends, and after a hilarious interlude where Deva ends up with a bunch of call-girls, he literally bumps into Chitti's sister Yamuna (Tamannaah), a B-Pharm student, who rarely seems to go to college. The two fall in love. There's Kaveri (Renuka) as well, who wants to see her intelligent son take up a government job. But he ends up being her eternal despair.
As the characters are sorted out, you realise there's more to Deva and Doss than just pirating CDs; they're engaged in wholesale smuggling with business operations as far-reaching as Likasi in Africa, from diamonds used to fund the local revolution to gold bars from a ship docked in the Chennai Port. But there's one thing Doss will never touch: drugs.
Naturally, there's a villain here too: Kamlesh (TV actor Akashdeep Saigal, making his Tamil debut) whose father has been in the business except that the son wants to be the king-pin, and finds Deva and Doss too slippery to handle. In the midst of it all is customs officer J Parthiban (Ponvannan).
Thus begins a cat-and-mouse game, with one gang trying to outwit the other. Enmity flourishes as they con each other again and again. Deva engages in several stylishly shot fight sequences such as the one in Likasi, beautifully executed by Kanal Kannan.
What gets you by surprise is the thread of logic that laces practically every encounter, and the way K V Anand's screenplay covers all the angles. Yes, there are the inevitable bows to Catch Me if You Can and the unavoidable song and fight situations. But every action, conversation and characters is accounted for and wonder of wonders, here's a villain who actually uses his brains, for a change.
It looks like Suriya's going through a haloed phase in his career: scripts apart, wherever he is, the screen simply lights up. There's simply nothing that can outmatch his screen-presence, regardless of whether he's dancing on the sands with Tamannaah a la Ghajini's Guzarish, or gritting his teeth when bashing up goons. Here, he's back in form as the typical Tamil hero who's larger than life. And he makes it work. Judging by the starting scenes in the airport, it looks like he's had a blast too as he outwits the customs a dozen times.
Tamannaah doesn't have much to do in a movie that's about Suriya. But she acquits herself well in the second half, which requires her to be more than just a fair-skinned bimbette.
Jagan makes you sit up with his laugh-aloud moments and a twist that hits you hard.
Prabhu has taken on the mantle of the older and wiser generation well. As a mentor and smuggler, he's extremely convincing.
Akashdeep is the only one who looks out of place with his screeching dialogues. But his characterisation provides some excuse.
The real surprise package is Ponvannan, who turns in a dignified performance, with slivers of humour.
Harris Jeyaraj's numbers are chartbusters already, with Pala Pala and Nenje taking the cake. But they have little space in a thriller such as this, and slow down the proceedings.
M S Prabhu's camera-work is beautiful; the foreign locales are breath-taking, while the chase sequences put you on the edge of your seat. Antony's slick editing adds polish. Rajeevan's art fits the bill perfectly. Subha's dialogues are spot-on; nowhere do they sound clichéd.
If anything, it's the screenplay that could have been trimmed. The twists come so hard and fast that they lose momentum at certain points. But in a movie with Suriya, reasonable logic, neat characters and cool songs, who's going to notice that?
Ayan is definitely a must-watch.