Travelling into the past or the future, in short time travel is something that has always fascinated the human brain. For centuries together someone or the other has been trying various means to manage the same, even attempting to make their own version of a “time machine” or any such device to enable the same. While many theories abound on the feasibility and practical nature of time travel as a concept to develop and exist, nevertheless it’s also a phenomenon which has caught the fancy of filmmakers across the World, including India as they go about trying to exploit the concept through films. Be it Aditya 369, Love Story 2050 or even the recent Indu Netru Naalai, all of them have been attempts at making a true sci-fi film with time travel as the core concept. Vikram Kumar‘s 24 is one such addition to this list of films, this time around the stakes involved are higher as it features Suriya in the lead, an extremely popular actor from Tamil cinema, with a fan following all over South India. Considering that Suriya has gone on to produce the film himself the potential involved was also something that was appearing to be obvious.
While Suriya found success with his first 2 outings as producer (his production outfit 2D Entertainment made 36 Vayathinile and Pasanga 2), the same cannot be said about his acting career. In the recent past he has either come up with duds like Anjaan or Massu Engira Masilamani, or come up with successful yet disappointing films like Singam 2. Needless to say 24 looked like an interesting option as a film that could set right things for him as an actor and also make people look up to him as a bankable producer. Vikram Kumar’s track record (which includes hits like Manam, Ishq and 13B/Yavarum Nalam) also made the prospect a lot more interesting indeed. Suriya and Vikram Kumar also did get the timing of the release right, positioning the film as a summer holiday entertainer, something akin to the practice followed by Hollywood studios. Considering the genre of the film it was the right thing to do. So has 24 emerged as a film that’s worthy of the genre? Does it ensure that Vikram Kumar’s track record maintains its positivity? And most importantly does Suriya bounce back as an actor of substance?
By now everyone must be aware of the plot,nevertheless here’s a quick recap in any case. 24 starts off in 1990 with us getting introduced to Dr.Sethuraman (Suriya),a scientist and an entrepreneur who lives with his wife Priya (Nithya Menon) and son Manikandan aka Mani. Sethuraman has been trying hard to invent a time machine and finally manages to perfect his invention,a watch which can enable time travel with certain restrictions. In comes Athreya (Suriya again),the evil brother of Sethuraman who wants the watch all for himself. In the struggle to get hold of the watch Priya and Sethuraman get killed,just before Sethuraman manages to ensure that Mani and the watch are both safely secured.Now 26 years later we see that Mani is now living with his foster mother Sathyabhama (Saranya Ponvanan) and is a watch mechanic. One fine day Athreya who was in a coma all these years after the mishap ages ago, finally wakes up and to his dismay finds out that he is not only old but also a paraplegic. He knows that the only way for him to regain his youth and walk once again is by getting hold of the watch and going back in time. What happens from hereon is what the rest of the movie is all about.
The initial and climax portions are shot in Poland (but mentioned as Megamalai) and the film begins on a promising note as we see Sethuraman at work, going about his research diligently. The VFX work in the film is indeed quite commendable and one of the highlights of the film. The chase sequences and the action on board the train have been captured well and even Sethuraman’s lab carries the right balance of opulence as well as practicality. The film also has an excellent interval block,quite imaginative and pulled off really well. The showdown between Athreya and Mani towards the closing stages of the film has also come out very well, giving the film a much needed balance, considering that the portions in between are quite flat and dull. While the mother-son interactions between Sathyabhama and Mani have been portrayed quite effectively, sadly the romantic track between Mani and Sathya (Samantha) falls flat. So weak are the romantic moments that it actually becomes boring and cringe worthy after a while. Also what’s this obsession that Vikram Kumar has with the term “watch mechanic”? How many times does he think we’ll be happy to hear the term in the film or even the dialogue that Mani keeps repeating to Sathya “Basically I’m a watch mechanic”?What was perhaps a tad funny initially goes on to be quite irritating later on.
The other major problem with the film is the use of music, especially the songs composed by A.R.Rahman which are a total let down. The songs are mostly listless and don’t make any impact whatsoever, keeping the proceedings a bit tough to handle in a way. Since both Vikram Kumar and Suriya had hinted that the film was meant for family audiences and aimed at everyone from 6-60, it’s no surprise that the time travel and the sci-fi element as such has been handled in a very simple fashion as such. Also I don’t think its quite necessary to evaluate any logical loopholes as then there are bound to be quite a few that one can encounter while watching 24. There are some cinematic liberties taken by Vikram Kumar, like we never know why Athreya is hell bent on acquiring the watch even at the cost of eliminating his close family members. Yes so he’s the baddie and deserves to be evil, but some quick rundown on his past and probably what made him such a dangerous person would have been effective in relating to his character and his evil nature I guess.
At a run time of 164 mins the film is certainly a tad too long and I’m sure editor Prawin Pudi could have in consultation with Vikram Kumar,worked out on trimming the unnecessary flab. Of course by now we all know that the film has been trimmed by 9 minutes but I wish that a step like this was taken much before the release, instead of measures like these post release which often do not really help the cause. The cinematography by S.Tirru and Kiran Deohans (who was the original DOP before moving out) is definitely one of the strengths of the film and the Poland portions in particular are visually stunning, imparting the film a truly international feel. The film has a huge supporting cast but then a lot of them including Appukutty and Charlie are there just for fillers. Sathyan as the friend and neighbour of Mani is present in a few scenes but doesn’t really get any mileage as such. Veterans like Girish Karnad, Sudha and Mohan Raman are there to portray key members of the family of Sathya and get noticed, but have nothing prominent to do in terms of performance.
Ajay as Mithran, the trusted aide of Athreya gets some importance and makes some impact, while Saranya as Sathyabhama, the doting mother of Mani is very effective and it’s wonderful as always to see her on the screen. Samantha somehow is a misfit among the proceedings, neither is her presence of importance and nor does her romantic track carry any substance worth appreciating. Suriya is certainly comfortable playing all the 3 characters and bringing them out with a distinction to each one of them. Athreya in particular is the character among the 3 which leaves the most impact and rightly so. Except for the silly romantic track Suriya is more or less in control of proceedings and 24 certainly seems to be way better than most of his recent outings for sure. Vikram Kumar does manage to come up with a simple tale which spans two time zones in a way and is backed by an actor who supports him completely both as the leading man and producer. This may not be a wonderful sci-fi film as expected but it certainly could have been so if the potential was actually well and truly unlocked. As it stands now it’s an effort worth watching,not just because its a decent attempt by Vikram Kumar, but also to understand how better a film like this can be developed as well.