Director: Venkat Prabhu
Cast: S.P. Charan, Premji Amaran, Shiva, Vaibhav
Storyline: A rich man’s daughter is kidnapped and four friends on a jolly trip stumble upon the bad men’s secret.
Bottomline: Laughs and thrills
Venkat Prabhu turns up trumps for the second time in Amma Creations’ ‘Saroja’ (U). The light-hearted thriller is a genre rather rare in Tamil cinema and Prabhu’s deft handling of it proves that his ‘Chennai-600028’ was no flash in the pan. A thorough entertainer, at times ‘Saroja’ also brings you to the edge of the seat.
You hear that the inspiration was ‘Babel.’ But writer-director Venkat Prabhu has taken only the concept of a few seemingly unconnected incidents linked to each other, as the base, from ‘Babel,’ and has spun a yarn that sparkles with originality. Satisfying every stratum of filmgoers isn’t by any means easy. Venkat Prabhu achieves it with a veteran’s touch. At no point does ‘Saroja’ sag.
Kidnap drama comprises the storyline of ‘Saroja’ — a theme far removed from the gully cricket scenario of ‘Chennai – 600028,’ though love for the game does find a place again. All the faces of ‘…. 28’ are back in ‘Saroja’ at least in one scene. And if the popular refrain of the former was ‘Enna Koduma Saar Idhu,’ here it is a take on Vijay’s ‘Evalavo Pannittom Idha Pannamattoma’ line (‘Azhagiya Tamizh Magan’) again made hilarious by Premji Amaran.
Even before you get to know who Saroja (Vega) actually is or why she looks lost, she’s taken hostage. You understand her parents aren’t close to each other. They don’t show much interest in the daughter either. That’s about it. So when the mother howls that she wants her daughter back, the agony sounds a tad artificial.
Meanwhile four friends, Jagapathi Babu (S.P. Charan), his brother Raj Babu (Vaibhav), Ganesan (Premji) and Ajay (Shiva) decide to drive up to Hyderabad for an India-Pakistan one dayer. A major accident on the highway blocks traffic and forces them to change their route …
Seniors Prakash Raj and Jayaram have solid roles. Particularly Prakash, whose myriad emotions, including the sequence where he cries out loud for his lost daughter, places him on a pedestal. Even a slight exaggeration could have made it melodramatic, but Prakash revels in the balancing act. Charan has enough scope to perform, which he utilises creditably. Premji scores with his funny body language and timing in dialogue. Why is it only bro Venkat Prabhu is able to use him well?
Shiva as the braggart who lands the quartet in trouble is apt and so is Vaibhav.
Sampath as the kidnapper gets a break that’s long due. Kajal Agarwal has little to do while Nikita surprises you in a vamp like role. Towards the end Vega gets a chance to emote a little. It’s a thrilling one-day coverage of events and half the time things take place in the dark. Cinematographer Shakti Saravanan’s hard work comes through in the silhouettes and shadow play of the chasers and the chased. Editing (Praveen KL/Srikanth NB) is another strong point.
Two technicians lift ‘Saroja’ to the elevated plane it deserves – writer-director Venkat Prabhu and composer Yuvan Shankar Raja. The Ilaiyaraja touches add lustre to some of the tracks. ‘Saroja’ is like watching a Hollywood product in desi style. The technical wizardry planned by Venkat Prabhu is bolstered further by Yuvan’s impact making re-recording. He also croons the ‘Cheeky Cheeky’ number on screen — he has come a long way from the camera-conscious singer of the ‘Punnagai Poovae’ days. Age has in no way touched the youthful spirit of Vaali. Otherwise he couldn’t have penned lyrics like ‘Aaja Meri Soniyae.’ Again Gangai Amaran’s rejuvenating lines for the ‘Nimirndhu Nil’ song exemplify the word power of the songster.
Stories of friends getting into trouble during their getaways aren’t new. ‘Panchthanthiram’ for example, had it. But the warp and weft of wit and humour weaved in, places ‘Saroja’ in a niche of its own. (And don’t miss the finale with Brahmanandam that comes after the credits roll at the end!)