Director Arivazhagan does not waste any time in letting the audience know what his latest film Kuttram 23 is all about. In the pre-credits portion itself we are witness to a murder and a person going missing, with the place of action being a church. The location goes on to be of vital importance to the proceedings in the film, something that we realize a little later. We are introduced to the main characters and the premise gets quickly established. Being a crime thriller, a medical crime thriller in fact, a film like Kuttram 23 gets some brownie points for the way the film starts, not allowing the audience to get distracted unnecessarily. After putting up an impressive show with Thadaiyara Thakka (2012), Arun Vijay had to wait for a while before getting noticed again with Yennai Arindhaal (2015). If he played the antagonist in Yennai Arindhaal, this time he switches over to the other side, playing a cop in Kuttram 23.
Arivazhagan has been a filmmaker who has slowly but steadily made an impact on the audience with his previous films-Eeram (2009), Vallinam (2014) and Aarathu Sinam (2015). While none of these films have created havoc at the box office, the films have nevertheless got noticed and have received acceptance from the critics as well largely. After working on a remake in the form of Aarathu Sinam (remake of Jeethu Joseph’s Malayalam hit, Memories), this time Arivazhagan comes back with an original concept. What made the film even more promising was that it was based on a novel by popular writer Rajesh Kumar, who is known for his thrillers. Originally scheduled as a Pongal release, the makers decided to push the release a little further ahead with the notion of getting a better release window. Needless to say their move seems to have worked out; the film which released on 3rd March has had an encouraging start at the box office.
Vetrimaaran (Arun Vijay) is an ACP who goes on to investigate the case of a missing lady Jessica (Misha Ghoshal), the pregnant wife of a media baron. On realizing that Jessica’s missing status and the death of a priest in the church from where Jessica went missing are both connected, Vetrimaaran goes on to try connecting the two cases and comes in contact with Thendral (Mahima Nambiar), a nursery school teacher and a witness who might be holding an important clue to the crime scene at the church. Though initially reluctant to help the investigation, Thendral and Vetri go on to get close, resulting in a failed murder attempt on Thendral. Back at Vetri’s home it appears to be a lovely atmosphere as everyone is happy on realizing that his sister in law Sri Abhinaya (Abhinaya) is pregnant. But the joy is short lived as Abhinaya goes on to commit suicide. Vetri however is unconvinced that it’s a suicide and his investigation reveals that Abhinaya’s death is linked to the death of Jessica.
Apparently a few more pregnant women seem to have also disappeared/died under similar mysterious circumstances. What is the connection between these women, apart from them being pregnant? Who is the one who is targeting these women? Can Vetri go on to solve the case and prevent more women from losing their lives? The rest of the film has the answers to all these questions. As mentioned already the film certainly sticks to the basic premise and director Arivazhagan does well to steer clear of unnecessary diversions. Take the romance for example, the relationship between Thendral and Vetri has a well-defined arc, which is developed in the course of the main story and does not stick out like a sore thumb. The songs by Vishal Chandrasekhar are few in number and go with the flow of the narrative, a big help in case of a thriller like this film. And Rajesh Kumar’s story which is apparently based on real events does have adequate meat to keep the proceedings engaging to a large extent.
Bhaskaran K.M who had debuted as DOP with Arivazhagan’s Vallinam, has put in an impressive work with the visuals of Kuttram 23. With excellent choice of colour palettes, and using the right tone for the right moment, in line with the director’s vision, the cinematography lends the film the right kind of edginess required. At a run time of 134 minutes, the film gets the duration quite right, the proceedings never really appearing stretched. Definitely the credit does go to editor Bhuvan Srinivsan for some nifty work on the editing table for enabling the same. However despite all the positive factors in favour of the film one cannot but do justice to the review of the film without mentioning the crucial drawback that seems to hold the film from going all the way to becoming a fantastic thriller. What I am referring to is nothing but the way in which the mystery unravels as we find out who the antagonist is and the real reason behind all the murders.
For a tale that was proceeding quite smoothly till then, the manner in which the reveal happens and the way things take off from there right till the culmination, turns out to be a little disappointing of sorts. Some care and consideration into getting this segment a little more taut and executed in a better fashion could have only enhanced the viewing experience even more. However that does not take away credit from Arivazhagan who has got most of the things going right for the film. Talking of the casting, just like in case of his previous films, here too Arivazhagan seems to have gone in for people who meet the character’s requirements and not on the basis of their star power. Thambi Ramaih as Thirupathi, the cop assisting Vetri keeps the proceedings a little light as and when required. Amit Bhargav and Abhinaya are good choices as Vetri’s brother and sister in law respectively. Vijayakumar is seen in a cameo of sorts as the police commissioner, while Kalyani Natarajan as Dr.Tulsi has a significant role. Aravind Akash and Vamsi Krishna are effective in their negative roles, while Mahima Nambiar is really impressive as Thendral. She shares good chemistry with Arun Vijay, their romantic scenes reminding one of Gautham Menon’s cop stories in a way.
Arun Vijay as Vetrimaaran sinks his teeth into the character and pulls it off with a lot of credibility. Be it in the action scenes (which are very well choreographed) or in the intense moments, he is seen to be quite comfortable. Ultimately Kuttram 23 comes across as a well-made crime thriller and has most of the elements needed to keep the audience entertained. If only Arivazhagan could have paid some more attention in ensuring a better second half the film would have turned out even better. However this is indeed one of the better Tamil films of 2017 so far, that by itself should be a good enough reason for watching the film.
Note: Kuttram 23 has been released by the makers with English subtitles in select screens outside Tamil Nadu. The subtitling work is quite effective, visibility factor being taken care of by the use of yellow colour and the language used is also of a reasonably good standard.