Saroja is a pathbreaking film in Kollywood commercial film circuit asserting that Venkat is the writer-director to watch out for- one to be admired and concerned about.
It is undoubtedly new millennium cinema. From the characters, to the plot, to the look and feel, there is something new about it.
The screenplay is minty cool from a wafer thin story with loopholes, but the way it is packaged and unfolds on screen is pure magic. A racy beginning, a twist- in- the- tale climax makes the film work though the prolonged middle needs some trimming.
The writer-director has tried out weaving together interlaced storylines into one coherent plot, touching of an interlocking story. This method of storytelling was worked out successfully by Mexican director Alejandro Gonzales Inarittu in Oscar winning Babel.
Earlier Mani Ratnam tried it out in Kollywood, when he made a sort of remake of the same director's earlier film Amorres Perros as Ayudha Ezhuthu in Tamil, but failed because he could not Indianise it.
Where Venkat succeeded was he was able to take Inarittu's story telling concept of putting different stories together as a whole, laced it to suit local tastes and served it with the right masala mix, which makes it a yummy entertainer.
The story starts day-before yesterday, and moves at a rapid pace like a thriller with a clock timer appearing frequently on screen.
Ajay Raj (Shiva) a TV artist, Ganesh (Premgi) a fun guy, and two brothers Jagapathi Babu (S.P.B Charan) and Ram Babu (Vaibhav) are great friends, who drink together and run after skirts in Chennai.
Jagapathi Babu is the senior of the lot who is married and has a six-year old daughter. One day they decide to go by Ajay's old ramshackle caravan to Hyderabad to watch a cricket match.
Cut to Hyderabad where business tycoon Viswanath (Prakash Raj) has no time for his wife and teenage daughter Saroja (Vega). One day she is kidnapped and the police enter the scene with ACP Ravichandran (Jayaram) handling the case.
Meanwhile a huge tanker lorry carrying highly inflammable and dangerous material overturns on the National Highway between Chennai and Hyderabad and our heroes are struck in a huge traffic jam.
They take a short cut to Hyderabad, through a desolate forest area and their trouble starts as they some how get entangled with Sampath (Sampath) and his gang who have kidnapped Saroja and kept her in a remote abandoned old factory!
On the downside, the plot is much too precarious a peg for nearly two hours forty minutes film. The chase and running around between our heroes and the kidnappers is too long and at times repetitive.
Will anyone take a drive from Chennai to Hyderabad (900 kilometers) to watch a one-day match, it should have been Bangalore (350 Kilometers) to make it more believable ( then how could Venkat Prabhu make it a bilingual, he has to connect with the Telugu audiences!) How could Saroja and Dhaam Dhoom releasing back-to-back have Jayaram in a similar role?
Yet these amount to minor cinematic liberties considering the film as a whole. Never before have you smiled and sighed so spontaneously while joining a group of likeable guys in their quest for fun which lands them in an awkward situation.
Among the cast, all have come out with superb performances that makes the film work big time. S.P.B Charan as Jagapathy Babu suits the role and is fantastic, especially the scene where he gets trapped in a small hole in the factory gate due to his size, and is tugged from both the sides.
Shiva as Ajay Raj, the swaggering show-off small time television actor is superb and amazingly candid. Vaibhav for a newcomer is a revelation.
But the dark horse who emerges the winner is Premgi, he is a scream as Ganesh. The laughs follow from his whacky dialogues and one-liners.
Nikitha looks glamorous, Vega as Saroja suits the role, Prakash Raj, Jayaram and Sampath add richness to the overall effect of the movie.
Yuvan Shankar Raja is back in form, with hit songs and outstanding background score. Yuvan and Venkat have now become a force with perfect understanding and beautiful music video style picturisation- Dost Bada Dost? and Kodana Kodi.., being the pick of the lot. Sakthi Saravanan's camera work is impressive, with the night and aerial shots of Hyderabad standing out.
On the whole the film is fresh, funky and cool. Bravo, Venkat Prabhu.
He's done it again. Go for Saroja rightaway, its hot-'n'-happening'.
Verdict- Very Good