Looks like Srikanth has become more cautious in his choice of films, post Nanban. An entertainer all the way, Paagan (U) shows that the hero can be quite effective in comedy. The story is narrated from a rare point of view — that of a bicycle. The rapport the hero and his bicycle share is established with depth even in the early stages of the film that you understand his joy, sorrow, angst when it is lost, and sentiment vis-à-vis his prized possession. But don’t jump to conclusions. Paagan has nothing to do with Bicycle Thieves, that all-time great Italian film. All the same, making the vehicle a martyr of sorts seems a tad too far-fetched.

Aslam, who has apprenticed under Cheran, Radha Mohan and Ameer, debuts as director with Paagan and does his mentors proud. It is a love story that has humour as a major component. And after Vennila Kabadi Kuzhu, it is only in Paagan that Soori really makes an impression, teaming up with Paandi — ‘Fun’ Paandi, who graduated from television to the big screen a couple of years ago. They take you on a cruise through a laughathon and joining them in the hilarity ride is the hero himself. The trio has you in splits at many a point in the film.

Subramani (Srikanth) is not your usual hero material. Industrious, responsible, honest, chivalrous — none of these epithets suit him. A wastrel, trickster and a loser in all his business ventures, he is constantly on the look-out for an easy way to become rich — no values, no qualms, all he wants is big money. Can you ever imagine Srikanth playing such a part? Looking younger and sporting a fit-as-a-fiddle look ever since Nanban, the actor has dared to break away from clichés, dons a role you wouldn’t expect to see him in, and delivers.

A long gap after the prestigious, yet not-too-significant break in Bala’s Avan Ivan notwithstanding, Janani returns as a solo heroine. Eyes are her asset and she puts them to optimum use. Her role is nothing new, yet it’s refreshing. Sadly, the costume department has let her down. The colours of her attire, particularly in the song sequences, and the co-ordinates, are so garish that they hurt the eye.

Adding spice to the fun quotient is George, a spontaneous actor, who deserves more recognition. He plays Srikanth’s father in Paagan. And with Kovai Sarala as his wife the melee is enjoyable. Sarala’s over-play is her trademark and when the audience enjoys it, why not, she serves it in plenty.

The melodious ‘Ippadi Oru,’ a James Vasanthan composition, will ring in your ears for long.

The moments leading to the climax that involves planting of a bomb under the seat of a bicycle, the chase and the ‘boom’ that follows, don’t quite fit in with the rest of the plot.

A neat film all the way, Paagan is engaging. Thinking differently seems the norm with our young crop of directors. May the tribe increase!

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Tamil Cinema ReviewsOctober 18, 2011