What happens when the government orders an entire town to stop talking? How will they manage? Will the ones who fight learn to tone down? Will the people who never speak give their thoughts a voice? Is speech at all necessary? That is what Balaji Mohan’s second film, Vaayai Moodi Pesavum, deals with.

On the face of it, VMP has everything going for it. It has a young director (Balaji also doubles as a TV anchor in the movie) and two lead actors who are fresh on screen — Mammootty’s son Dulquer Salmaan makes a charming Tamil debut and Nazriya Nazim turns in a fine performance as a girl caught in an overbearing relationship. Aravind (Dulquer) is an orphan who banks on the gift of the gab to make a living. Dr. Anjana (Nazriya) believes silence is golden. She lives with her father, her writer stepmother (Madhoo) who she does not like, and half-brother in the fictional hill town of Panimalai.

There’s a parade of character actors but each of them has a part that makes you smile or ponder. Madhoo of Roja fame as the stepmom is greeted with whistles of welcome, while Pandiyarajan is the health minister who gets into trouble every time he speaks to the press. Then there’s a grim-faced Vinu Chakravarthi, RJ Balaji, Robo Shankar, who sparkles as the head of an association of drunkards, and John Vijay as an over-the-top actor. But the profusion of sub-plots mostly serves as speed-breakers. One would have liked to see more of Madhoo too. Old, in this case, is certainly gold!

In many ways, VMP is an experiment. Credit must go to Balaji (who made a great debut two years ago with Kadhalil Sodhappuvadhu Yeppadi) for allowing his characters to fall silent in the second half. It is almost Chaplinesque. This is the part that sees some great performances, but the characters seem to become silent a little too effortlessly. There’s no angst at having lost their voice at any stage. Dulquer is the proverbial Mr. Fix It, who smiles his way into hearts. Nazriya’s eyes speak volumes behind her favourite spectacles. Their love story is cute, growing over injections and sugary javv mittai. Then, there’s the background score by Sean Roldan, which lends the silence another dimension.

The film is filled with gags, satire and a cheeky commentary on life. While the laughter is loud and frequent in the theatre, half an hour later you wonder what the reason was for all the fuss. The film doesn't have a taut storyline that lingers in your mind. If that had been nailed, this would have been an experiment that really worked.

Despite that, watch it for some great performances, children-friendly comedy, luscious visuals (S. Soundararajan) and some really smart lines.

Genre: Rom-com

Director: Balaji Mohan

Cast: Dulquer Salmaan, Nazriya Nazim, Madhoo, Pandiyarajan, Robo Shankar, John Vijay and Balaji Mohan

Storyline: What if an entire town stopped speaking?

Bottomline: Holiday timepass. Lots of laughs, but little to take home