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A FEW things about Friends Creations' "Devan" transport you to the crime and action films of the past century — the early 1980s to be exact. The very ambience of the scene of crime, when the murderer looking every inch menacing with hat, raincoat, gloves et al, enters the home of the victim, is an example. Then you have the dark night, blinding rain and a black cat (a la "Sigappu Rojakkal") thrown in for that added eeriness.

"Devan" ... playing it safe with the usual formula.

Arun Pandian who had made a mark in films such as "Oomai Vizhigal" and "Inaindha Kaigal'', takes on the added onus of production, direction, story and screenplay. And the directorial debut shows that he has the capability to present action scenes in quite a thrilling manner.

Arun Pandian, the storywriter, means well and his social consciousness is only too evident in his choice of the subject. A country (ours, of course), which produces surplus food grains, ironically faces pitiful and unpardonable starvation deaths. So where does the fault lie, is what CBI officer Ratnavel (Vijayakanth) sets off to probe. The investigation leads him to Chandigarh. Somewhere down the line, Arun Pandian, the screenplay writer, seems to have developed cold feet. Building the entire film on this concept could prove risky. So filial love, rape, revenge and regular formula with dance, booze, psychedelic lights and girls in the villain's den, have all been added to the original theme.

Arun Pandian as Jack and Kausalya as his sister Jacqueline essay the overt brother-sister affection that the filmgoer is only too familiar with. Both have done a creditable job. Meena as the bubbly, extroverted young woman paired with Arun, is attractive and enacts her part with aplomb.

But the surprise packet is Vijayakanth who dons a typical role with dignity. Thankfully you don't have the CBI cop singing duets in lush locations, attired in multi-coloured blazers — in fact Vijayakanth has no heroine opposite him and that enhances the impact and dignity. Arun Pandian deserves credit for conceiving a character that is not sidetracked by frivolousness and it is a welcome change for Vijayakanth after his recent debacle, ``Rajjiyam''.

The scenes of action are also very different from what you are used to and bored with — Chandigarh to name one. And surprisingly there are no song sequences in foreign lands.

Saikumar as Cheta Raghu, the underworld don, is a new face on the Tamil scene. But the villainous role offers little scope for histrionics. Karthik who looks emaciated, adds to the cheerful mood of "Devan" while Mohanram presents a crude and crass concept of a lawyer.

The villain who swears to avenge his friend's death, conveniently forgets the matter once the court acquits the killer! Strangely Cheta does not even make a reference to the murder case he had lost to Ratnavel and Chakravarthy (Karthik)!

Ilaiyaraja impresses, but it is more in the re-recording, which is the maestro's forte anyway. "Thalattum Kaatrae" sung by Hariharan and Sujatha, reminds one of Ilaiyaraja's own "Malaiyoram Mayilae" number ("Oruvar Vaazhum Aalayam").

The bad men in our films never take out the gun in the climax, even when the protagonist stands before them. New filmmakers like Arun Pandian should wean themselves away from such illogical situations.

You have actors from Hindi, Oriya and Malayalam cinema in "Devan". There is a laudable theme that has been touched upon and, of course, plenty of action. Probably proper pruning and crisp narration would have done "Devan" a world of good.


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