If there is one thing that is lacking in the Simbudevan-directed Imsai Arasan 23am Pulikesi, then that is ambition. Shankar, known for his perfectionist and ambitious ways as director, however, fails as producer to add a touch of class needed to make this movie a great comedy.
After choosing a full-length comedy with Vadivelu in the lead, the filmmakers seem to have settled for a watered down script. Making another Kadhalikka Neramillai or Michael Madana Kamarajan was creatively round the corner if only the debutant director had believed in himself.
Vadivelu is at his engaging best, delivering a performance that cements his place among the comic greats. As Pulikesi, the fictional ruler of what seems to be a tiny kingdom, the actor is on home turf. Satirizing Sivaji Ganeshan and himself in turns, Vadivelu plays Pulikesi as an endearing nitwit with a passion for punishing his subjects in innovative and cruel ways.
As Pulikesi’s intelligent and patriotic twin, Ugraputran, Vadivelu models himself on early MGR, but portrays the character with a hint of self-parody.
You know this story. You must have seen it hundreds of times. Two brothers, separated at birth by the evil designs of the villain (Nasser), come together to defeat him in the end. Since they are twins, they also switch identities and baffle the bad guys. Simbudevan walks this trodden path, but with a sense of irony that reveals that he has seen the countless classics with the same plot.
All of Pulikesi’s antics give the director room to deliver a rather loud social commentary on present times. All through the screenplay, the commentary on corruption, casteist politics, child labour and illicit arrack is as relentless as the comic retorts.
The movie is a welcome relief from the gangster craze gripping the Tamil movie industry.
This story was first published on Chennai Metblogs. A compilation of my stories is here.