After Malai Malai, the successful combo of Arun Vijay and director A. Venkatesh (the fearful ‘Karungali' of Angadi Theru) is back with another formulaic film, set in Tiruchirapalli, which is entertaining for the most part. Based on the Telugu hit, Lakshyam, the Feather Touch Entertainments' film runs on a tight leash in the first half, with the fast-paced proceedings allowing you little time for boredom. It's the second half that sags, with endless fights, songs and gore.

The rush of old-timers takes you back to the Eighties and Nineties. For one, Karthik. Despite the age and the bags under his eyes, there's still a bit of Mouna Ragam's feisty Manohar and Agni Nakshatram's firebrand Ashok in his role as righteous ACP Subhash Chandra Bose (he even does a little jig to the ‘Raja Rajadhi Raja' number). And Vagai Chandrasekhar, the guy who revelled in playing soft roles, is a revelation as the evil Umapathy, a land shark, who stops at nothing to get what he wants. And, of course, Prabhu, who earns whistles in his brief role as cop.

Arun plays Velu aka Maanja Velu, a do-gooder who dotes on his friends, most notably Santhanam and a remote-control loving Dinesh (who provides one of the twists in the tale), and who carries a fearsome reputation. His happy family consists of brother ACP Bose (whose distinctive voice Velu happily mimics, speaking with water in his mouth!), sister-in-law Anu Haasan, niece, dad Vijaykumar and mom Meera Krishna. He soon meets Anjali, played by Dhansika (this tall, dusky beauty is a natural!), and love's in the air.

Soon, Velu is injured in a sword-fight with the villains when protecting Anjali, and sends her with Dinesh, little realising that he has an eye on her. Some scenes later, Bose is stabbed by Umapathy's men and bad cop Riyaz Khan, and thrown into a burning bus. Before dying, he leaves evidence of the murderer in Velu's pocket.

By now, rumours are doing the rounds that Bose has escaped with Rs. 100 crore from a chit fund that has gone bankrupt. Velu sets about restoring his brother's name and seeks retribution.

Then on, it is time to showcase a hero who revels in stunts, courtesy Kanal Kannan; Arun flies in the air, lands mid-air, and rebounds to hit the villains senseless, even if he is outnumbered one to 25! And, all this is well captured by cinematographer A. Venkatesh (not the director!). Finally, with the last of the villains gone (in gruesome Thevar Magan fashion), it's time for a family reunion!

Director Venkatesh is known for his well-made potboilers, and this one's no different. But, you don't really feel for the lead pair when they are in trouble, because their love is never established! But, that does not prevent them from dancing to Mani Sharma's tunes (the most notable of which is the title number, sung retro style during the end credits). Also, the slapstick comedy (featuring Shakila and Co) rankles most of the time.

If the idea was to showcase Arun the star, it has worked admirably well. He is all fire and brimstone, ever ready to fight even when strung upside down, and dances like a dream! But, you can't but help recall his dignified demeanour and shy smile in films such as Pandavar Bhoomi and Iyarkai. Let's wait for someone to bring that Arun back to the big screen.

Maanja Velu

Genre: Action/Drama

Director: A. Venkatesh

Cast: Arun Vijay, Karthik, Vagai Chandrasekhar, Prabhu, Vijaykumar, Dhansika and Anu Haasan

Storyline: A kid brother sets out to avenge his police-officer brother's death at the hand of a land shark

Bottomline: If you're in the mood for a true-blue formula film, go for it