Seeing cinematic potential in a short story, whose heroism and sentiment are far removed from the usual, making a fairly gripping screenplay of it and boldly going in for a cast that suits the narration are aspects that set director Suseendran apart. Azhagarsaamiyin Kudhirai (U) is an interesting attempt that stays within the format of commercial cinema even while steering clear of formula!

The maker of Vennila Kabbadi Kuzhu and Naan Mahaan Alla tries out yet another innovative subject — the bonding between a man and his horse. And woven around it are blind beliefs of gullible village folks easily conned by fake priests, juxtaposed with a group of logically thinking young men. Finally matters culminate in the victory of rationalism over dogma and reality over religious superstition. Based on Bhaskar Shakti's story presumably set in the 1980s, the screenplay doesn't gallop, yet the momentum is just right to sustain interest.

Appukutty, who plays the protagonist Azhagarsami, going around searching for his lost horse Appu, Prabhakaran as the ratiocinating Ramakrishnan, Advaita who plays his lover Devi and Charanya Mohan as Rani, waiting for her fiancé Azhagarsami to return with his horse, are finely chiselled characters. And all of them do justice. The only disappointment is Chandran, the policeman sent to find clues about the theft of the horse mount belonging to the temple. Suri, who made a mark in Vennila Kabaddi Kuzhu, comes a cropper in the role. Small characters, such as the exasperated sub-inspector Rajaram, portrayed well by Aruldas, make an impression. Prabhakaran is another actor who presents a neat contrast to the villagers.

The bewitching beauty of the verdant forests surrounding the villages on the slopes of Theni remains etched in your memory, thanks to cinematographer Theni Easwar and his top angle shots in particular. The element of naturalness that Anal Arasu has brought into the fight sequences is a rarity in Tamil cinema.

Ilaiyaraja's contribution is invaluable. You've heard him sing songs of sadness, love, affection and devotion. He adds gaiety to the list with the ‘Kudhikkira Kudhira Kutty' song. And the melodious duet, ‘Poova Kaelu' that reminds the listener of one of the maestro's own earlier tunes, will ring in your ears for long. The background score intertwined with telling silence-filled moments is a definite draw!

The last few scenes, where the horse's escapades remind the viewer of MMA Chinnappa Thevar's films of yore and Rama Narayanan's sojourns of the later era, set the right pace for the climax. The thin line of humour that runs through the entire film is enjoyable. Particularly the irony in the climax, where just as the enraged president of the village panchayat (Azhagan Tamizhmani) curses that the village shall have no rain, it pours!

On the flip side, there are a few ‘why's and ‘how's that gnaw you. But the director's skilled craftsmanship makes you forget the minor flaws.

Probably only Suseendran could have found hero material in Appukutty — such a choice needs a lot of conviction. Commendable indeed!

Azhagarsaamiyin Kudhirai

Genre: Sentiment

Director: Suseendran

Cast: Appukutty, Prabhakaran, Charanya Mohan, Advaita

Storyline: The search for his lost horse takes Azhagar to the village of Mallaiyapuram, where people who found the animal, believe that it's from the Lord above and refuse to return it!

Bottomline: Innovative attempt

Keywords: Suseendran