For the Tamil filmgoer used to the unassailability of the hero, Nellu's (U/A) climax is quite unexpected. Truth doesn't triumph nor does malice bite the dust as it ought to — in fact, it's the other way round! This clear deviation from the norm is both a plus and a minus, because the mind is so conditioned to good always winning over evil, at least in cinema. And frankly, in that sense, Nellu is a showcase of reality. The atrocities of Periya Thambi touch the nadir yet he wins in this game of cat and mouse. O.A.K. Sundar who essays the role proves that he's a chip off the old block — his dad O.A. K. Thevar was quite well-known for his anti roles, decades ago.

The oppressed farmers in a village near Kumbakonam aren't going to take the unfair treatment meted out to them for centuries lying down. The result is a catastrophe…

Said to be based on a real-life massacre, when an entire settlement of farmers was reportedly set ablaze, Nellu handles a premise that has all the elements of a gripping drama. But that's about it. The narration turns dry and performances get theatrical soon. A fine theme, but sustaining viewer interest is the problem.

S. S. Kumaran's name in the composer category kindles interest — but the lyric verses of Thamarai and Na. Muthukumar catch your attention more.

Nellu is more a period drama set in the past century. The vagueness surrounding the exact year is because you don't have a clear foreword detailing the era or the event. But the fire of youth in the suppressed colonies where serfdom is prevalent and caste is the criterion has been brought out in a telling manner. Sathya, the young man who played Bharath's rich friend in Arumugam, is the hero of Nellu. He is effective in the sequences where he takes on the rich and mighty. Heroine Bhagyanjali passes muster.

Certain sequences in Nellu have the makings of a docu-feature. Probably it is for this reason that writer-director M. Sivasankar has included a comedy track that tickles in fits and starts, a duet that's a dampener and a few eminently forgettable dances. Thus what could have been a potent story of social inequality gets diluted by the constraints of commerce and ends up being neither here nor there.

Nellu

Genre: Social Drama

Director: M. Sivasankar

Cast: Sathya, Bhagyanjali

Storyline: When the poor and the oppressed take on the wicked and the powerful …

Bottomline: The subject is interesting, but treatment goes awry.