It is a technical splendor embellished with breathtaking visuals, brilliant music score by the maestro Ilayaraja and award winning performances by Arya, Pooja and the entire cast of real life beggars and Sadhus. The film definitely defies all conventions and demolishes all moulds, as the maverick director breaks traditional formula attached to commercial cinema in Tamil. The way the film has been made and packaged is slick and it moves like an edge of the seat thriller and is racy and to the point at 2 hours and 15 minutes.
The film opens with a father in search of his son who he had abandoned 15 years back in Kasi, as per the advice of all astrologers, who predicted that “he was a bad omen”. Now the father in remorse finds his son who has become an Aghori ascetic sanyasi Rudran (Arya) with no human emotions but has the strength of 1000 elephants and has some sort of divine power and calls himself 'Bhagavan' and always mutters- Bham, Bham Mahadev.
The father brings back his son to his native village Malaikovil, in south Tamilnadu, famous for its hill temples. A bald tough guy called Thandavan (Rajendran) runs a profitable beggar mafia business using physically disabled young, old and children to get sympathy from the pilgrims who visit the temple.
Muthalali's assistant is Murugan a man whose conscience torments him at the same time is constantly living in fear of his boss who is ruthless and has no human feelings. One day Murugan kidnaps a blind beggar and a singer Hamsavalli (Pooja) and forces her to be a part of the gang.
Enter Nair a slimy and dirty guy who controls organized begging in Kerala, and enters into a deal with Muthalali, arranged by a cop, to buy some of these Urupadi's (pieces) and take them to Sabarimala, Malayatoor and other places in Kerala for begging!
The story takes a turn as the downtrodden people's prayers are heard and Rudran turns out to be their savior, leading to a stunning climax and the film ends with a positive message. Bala once again asserts that traditional human values will always triumph over evil.
The USP of the film is its perfect casting. The unkempt long hair, the red loony eyes, the ash-smeared face, the tongue snaking out of his lips, and that sloshy voice, Arya pumps life and blood and gets under the skin of Rudran, making his animal like character so convincing. He has delivered a performance that is hard to forget even days after you've watched the film. Pooja as the blind singer is luminous and her outstanding performance will be talked about, as the film belongs to her, especially the lead to the climax.
The bunch of beggars handpicked by Bala are amazing whether it is eunuch or the midget boy, the guy who plays Murugan and Rajendran as the villain are outstanding. The haunting music of Ilayaraja gives the feel the mood and camera work of Arthur Wilson is poetry on celluloid. The screenplay and dialogues of noted Tamil writer Jayamohan is a major plus for the movie.
Bala can ask Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire director) to take a walk. He has brilliantly portrayed the dark and disturbing side of the beggar mafia in places around devotional institutions in the country. It is stark realistic yet with large dosages of humour and leaves a lump in our throat. This is undoubtedly new radical Tamil cinema. The industry people may call it Paithiam to make a picture on Pichakaran's, but Bala has the guts to do it.
On the down side, the scene where Arya's father recognizes his son among thousands of sadhus in Kasi is a little hard to believe. Most of premises like the one inside the train (Pitamagan) or the place that beggar's live (Sethu) looks familiar. There are some disturbing scenes and the film cannot be digested by one and all.
Bala has made it hard hitting, raw and riveting, qualities that is lapped up by worldwide connoisseurs of good cinema. To be honest, the director has shown the dark underbelly of our less privileged citizens who are living like bonded slave laborers controlled by organized crime syndicates. The climax chase of Arya and villain is one of the most fantastic scenes you've seen in films for a long, long time.
It's a much darker film than the director’s previous works. Watch Naan Kadavul, because it's one of those films that won't easily get out of your head long after the film is over.