There are 2 Gautam Menons (GVM from hereon) all movie viewers are familiar with. The first is an auteur, with full control of his craft. Each and every frame in his film looks like it’s been meticulously planned out, every line crackles with a chemistry one wishes to experience in reality, and there is a certain pleasure to be derived from watching the plot unfold at its own pace, and to be stunned into silence by a plot twist, or to gasp in awe and how a certain plot thread plays out. And then there is the another GVM, who in his zeal to try something out of his comfort zone, mixes things up and creates something that’s neither here or there, in a manner of speaking. The question one comes across before watching Achcham Yenbadhu Madamaiyada (AYM from here on), which of these GVMs was at the helm?
Leela Mohan (Manjima Mohan) is a film student in Chennai, who wishes to be part of a scriptwriting duo with a classmate. So when the two of them are offered an internship with a director, Leela ends up staying with her, where she meets the classmate’s brother (Silambarasan), and he is smitten by her from first sight. As the internship comes to a close, Leela on a lark decides to accompany him on a road trip from Chennai to Kanyakumari on his brand new Royal Enfield, and it is on this trip, that the two experience some life changing experiences.
There are very few directors who manage to capture even the mundane details of a budding romance with absolute finesse and make it seem engaging, and GVM would occupy the top spot on that list. The first half dealing with the budding of an awkward romance between Simbu and Manjima flows so smoothly that you sit back, expecting a rush one last experienced while watching O Kadhal Kanmani (From another auteur who attempts to look past the cliched stuff), and it hits a peak during the gorgeously captured road trip (Cinematographer Dan Macarthur doing a fabulous job again after Yennai Arindhaal). Even with the sudden shift in gears towards the interval, you sit back in anticipation expecting a crackling 2nd half.
But it is post interval where things begin to fall apart, and the last 20 minutes is where the film collapses spectacularly. Before the credits roll, there’s a note that says “Inspired by a chapter from The Godfather”, and one would expect a tribute to one of the most popular pieces of literature of the last century. Sadly what one gets is an increasingly convoluted series of events and it seems like GVM has tossed quite a few balls up in the air, but somehow loses track along the way, and is unable to hold on to even one. Add to that, the absolute bizarreness of the latter bit of the second half, and you find yourself cringing at a blatant attempt at pandering to Silambarasan’s mass base, the lack of tautness in the screenplay that one usually associates with GVM’s movies and certain other elements that one is used to, and this becomes a highly jarring experience.
Performances wise, AYM isn’t lacking when it comes to the leads. Silambarasan is in top form here, especially during the first half where he does a brilliant job of portraying his attraction to the beautiful Leela. And he shares a warm chemistry with the absolutely beautiful Manjima Mohan, who does a fine job here.
Choreographer Sathish as the token best friend is highly endearing and you actually end up wishing for more of him, especially in the 2nd half, when things go absolutely dark. But the casting of Baba Sehgal as the chief antagonist is a gamble that misfires thanks to the absolutely shoddy manner in which his character is handled. His character comes across as one-dimensional, and something you’d see Prakash Raj portray in a more mass-oriented movie, and it’s a pity to see the talented Daniel Balaji wasted in such a minuscule role.
Overall, AYM suffers from an attempt to do too much. While the first half is vintage GVM, the second half ends up ruining the experience, and one hopes that the auteur bounces back in his next venture.