Those of us who assume that a woman director's ambit is restricted to mild, romantic rendezvous and sentiment sagas ought to have a re-think! Sudha K. Prasad, a debutante, is out to prove you wrong. In fact, once the film opens you forget that it's a woman helming it. With deadly duels and underworld dons forming the backdrop, Sudha shows she can narrate a crime story in a manner that sustains viewers' interest, most of the time. Drohi (U/A) deals with a tale of betrayal that turns into a game of cat and mouse and culminates in remorse and reconciliation.

When was the last time you saw two young heroes come together for a project? Drohi once again ushers in this long-forgotten trend. An unsavoury incident separates close friends Sami and Karna, who are in school. Sami (Srikanth), who was a timid boy, is now an aide of underworld kingpin Narayanan (Thyagarajan), while the other, whose intrepidity as a boy even makes him a murderer, grows up into a responsible young man (Vishnu), working hard for his IPS exams. But beneath the animus, affection for each other exists.

Come to think of it, the storyline is a little like an extension of Pasanga — in Drohi the hostility between the two boys continues even after they grow up.

It's a revelation to watch Srikanth in a near-anti part, and he does quite a commendable job of it. Success has eluded him for a while, but with Drohi Srikanth seems to have arrived. Performance wise, Vishnu delivers in Drohi. And his toned physique suits the role. Though the three heroines have nothing much to do, Pooja's cameo is a job well done. Poonam Bajwa's dual role seems unwarranted and the character Poorna portrays is one you've often seen in films. The director leads us to believe that as the story progresses the girls would have concrete roles to play, but one by one, they vamoose.

The two protagonists are vested with negative shades and the heroes have equal scope to perform. This in turn increases the suspense at every stage as you aren't sure about their next move. Nowhere do you see illogicality or loose ends — Sudha, the story writer, scores!

It is the screenplay that falters now and then. It is as though Sudha was compelled to shoot a song sequence on each of her three heroines. Again, the track of the boys' childhood is too lengthy. The same goes for the climax on the railway track.

The dance of light and dark and the appropriate tones used make an impression — Alphonse Roy, the cinematographer, is an asset to Drohi.

That Sudha, an original thinker, has allowed dialogue (written by S. Sasikumar and G. Radhakrishnan) that you've heard before in films comes as a slight let-down.

Royapuram or otherwise, the regular filmgoer is used to violence in cinema. So there's nothing unique about the milieu of Drohi. (Anyway many of the fight sequences in our commercial repasts are shot in North Chennai areas.)

Intelligent storyline and appealing performances are pluses. It has its share of minuses, but this Drohi doesn't betray.

Drohi

Genre: Action

Director: Sudha K. Prasad

Cast: Srikanth, Vishnu, Pooja, Poonam, Poorna

Storyline: Childhood friends turned foes nurse inimicality even after they become adults.

Bottomline: Striking a balance between originality and formula …