When Bala made Sethu, he was perhaps one of the most celebrated directors of that era. He’s made 4 films since and Avan Ivan is his 5th film. With Bala having just made five films, it’s not tough for anyone to have watched all his films. I have. Most of you would have as well. Keep that at the back of your mind and I’ll come back to why I’m saying this.
Avan-Ivan is the story of two stepbrothers fighting to be the best in their family business, which happens to be thievery. Walter (Vishal) is an artist who loves to dress up and perform. To dance, to steal or to cut through clutter, he dresses up as a woman and speaks in a screechy voice (apparently ‘like’ a woman). Even when dressed as himself, he is a squint, has crooked teeth and isn’t seen as the most handsome man on the planet. He tries hard to establish himself as a thief but fails miserably and becomes a subject of ridicule.
Kumbudren Saamy (all kudos to whoever for coming up with that one), the charming Arya, on the other hand does not have a real job apart from thievery. Well, this is probably why he is so good at it.
Their father Srikanth (played by the glaring misfit Anant Vaidyanathan – voice expert of Super Singer fame) is much a dummy in the film. I wish he wasn’t there at all speaking those hideous lines in an even more hideous way. Ambika and Prabha Ramesh play the roles of proud mothers to near perfection. When Kumbudren Saamy returns after opening the Judge’s locker, his mother joins him in a victory dance that is worth a million bucks.
Highness (played impeccably by G M Kumar) is exemplary characterisation. An old rich single man who plays Godfather for Walter and Kumbudren Saamy is also the most popular and most respected man in town. He takes care of the two brothers, spends most time with them and saves them from misery. The brothers in return save the man’s pride, beat up police officers who insult him, are pledged to protect Highness from cheats by their mothers.
In a way that is not exactly taking the film anywhere, there are mundane scenes from everyday lives of the two families and our dear Highness. The police department’s Poojai event where Walter is dressed to kill is a laughter riot. The love tracks of Walter and Saamy are flimsy in my opinion (but that is perhaps how love happens in the villages, I don’t know).
To add to this, there is a scene where Surya makes a guest appearance on behalf of Agaram. Walter shows him the navarasas. The only part of the film where someone is evidently acting to cues and the only part where we see what it really takes to be an actor. For the Vishal I hated in Theeraadha Vilayaattu Pillai, he has shown he cannot be written off.
In what feels like a smooth flowing life for all characters, Bala throws in surprises through Kumbudren Saamy getting caught for beating up policemen, Walter driving away a lorry that might contain material – trafficking of which is illegal, a girlfriend who is the enemy’s daughter and through all these sequences, he leaves the viewer worried about who is going to be hurt.
Bringing back what I began this article with, if you have watched Bala’s films before, you know that in the last fifteen minutes of the film, someone is going to die and someone is going to take revenge for it. One step ahead, you also know that the someone dying would be killed by a ‘bad guy’ for busting his ‘business’. So, the moment Highness saves the cows, you know what will happen in the end. This is perhaps the only glitch in the film. When the story really takes off, you know where exactly it is going.
With that out of the way, I am proud of Bala’s Avan Ivan. It reminds me of Pithamagan. I think it could just be another Pithamagan with differently written characters. Yet, it is a vibrant story of lively people. It is a story of closely-knit families and genuine togetherness of the people in the town. It is the story of disturbance caused by an external entity and the restoration of peace thereafter.
With Ilayaraja making music for all of Bala’s films (except Nandha of course), the music in this films is a treat. I haven’t heard any of the songs before on Radio or TV and so every beat was very new. But none of the songs were really ringing in my head after I left the theatre. The background score however, was something to notice. Yuvan is contributing to the film and not to his CV, which is a fantastic improvement.
This is a Bala film – all in all. I would definitely like it if he ventured beyond his comfort zone and make ‘different’ film (not different from others but different from his previous ones). That said, I am not complaining about Avan Ivan. The part of your life you give for this film will be fully worth it.
P.S: I’m rather impressed to see that we as Tamil cinema audiences have come to accept nudity in our films. After Jackie Shroff in Aaranya Kaandam, we see G M Kumar in the nude for a full five minutes in the film.