Suriya and Shruti Hassan’s film is fantastic but is let down by poor execution by director Murugadoss
At one point in Murugadoss’ ambitious Deepavali release 7Aam Arivu, Suriya and Shruti Haasan get into an autorickshaw in Chennai and the driver does the unthinkable. He flicks down the meter. In Chennai. An auto driver. It is at this point that you realise that Murugadoss is operating in the realm of pure fantasy. In terms of plotline, it is fantastic but is let down by poor execution. What could have been a great action thriller is reduced to a preachy, turgid, bloated bore in Murugadoss’ incapable hands. Perhaps it is because he didn’t have a storyline to borrow from as he did with Christopher and Jonathan Nolan’s Memento script for Ghajini.
The film begins 1600 years ago in Kanchipuram, part of the Pallava kingdom, where the ruler Bodhi Dharman (Suriya) is preparing to leave for China in order to stop a deadly disease originating there from reaching India. In China, the locals initially treat Bodhi Dharman with hostility, but this soon turns to respect when he concocts a cure for a disease that makes people break out in fatal suppurating sores. Respect turns to adulation when Bodhi Dharman singlehandedly displays an awesome range of martial arts in defeating a gang of bandits, his party trick being hypnotising them into turning on one another. Bodhi Dharman imparts his medicinal and martial arts wisdom to the Chinese, spends the rest of his days in the country and is interred there upon his death.
Back in the present day, the Chinese government has hatched a dastardly plot to destabilise India. They send Dong Lee (Vietnamese martial arts star Johnny Nguyen) to spread the ancient 1600-year-old virus in India and then have the upper hand when India begs them for the cure, something that only the Chinese have thanks to Bodhi Dharman. The only person who can stop them is genetic engineer Subha Sreenivasan (Haasan) who has access to Bodhi Dharman’s DNA, which when matched with those of his descendant Aravind (Suirya again) will create the only person who can foil Lee.
It is here that the film goes off the rails and never recovers. For, logically as every scientist does, Subha pretends to fall in love with Aravind, who for some reason is a circus worker, so that she can inveigle him into helping with her research. What follows is a love story spanning an hour of screen time, including three songs, intercut with pointless and pedantic explanations of the DNA matching process. Haasan supposedly plays a native medicine doctor’s daughter from Thanjavur, but her Tamil accent and diction sounds like she’s just jetted in from another planet, struggling as she does with complicated polysyllabic words.
This being a Deepavali release starring Suriya, one would expect him to feature in a crowd-pleasing larger than life role. Though the actor tries gamely enough and is always a pleasure to watch, he is let down by a script that curiously has him being reactive rather than proactive for the entire middle stretch of the film. When he finally does face off to Lee after spending much of the film running away from him, the resulting encounter is rather tame. And when Murugadoss adds in liberal doses of Tamil jingoism and bemoans India’s brain drain to the West continuously, the film descends into the realm of a ‘message movie’ something that director Shankar (Sivaji, Endhiran) does far better. Pity. There were the makings of a good commercial film in there somewhere.