MOVIE SYNOPSIS: A stranger comes to a coastal village and gets into a tiff with the local gangster and his son
MOVIE REVIEW: Like his debut film, Thirudan Police, Caarthick Raju’s Ulkuthu is a blend of two genres. It is a revenge story, involving gangsters, and set against the backdrop of a coastal town. And, just like he did with Thirudan Police, the director tells this story largely as a comedy. As in that film, he utilises Balasaravanan every time to lighten the mood, even while ensuring that the gravity of the situation doesn’t get lost.
Balasaravanan plays Sura Shankar, a fishmonger, who tries to pass off as the locality’s big shot. Into his life enters Raja (Dinesh), who tells him that he is the son of a rich man who has walked out his family. Deciding that the educated, rich guy could be a suitor for his sister, Kadalarasi (Nandita), Sura Shankar becomes his friend. However, when Raja hits the underling of Saravanan (Dhilip Subbarayan, impressive), the son of the local don, Kaaka Mani (Sharath Lohitashwa), the situation turns tense.
Despite the familiar arc of its storyline, Ulkuthu is fairly engaging, mainly because Caarthick Raju introduces minor variations into situations that we have seen earlier. We think Raja’s humiliation of Saravanan in public will lead to an everlasting enmity, but in the next few scenes, he refreshingly changes their equation.
When Kaaka Mani kills an underling, we brush it off as something that is regular, as we have seen many bosses do this onscreen, but here, that has consequences. The way Sura Shankar’s punchline (Sura Shankar-na summava) is used to inject humour every time it is used works very well. The use of kabaddi to show intimidation and superiority is also a nice touch.
Most importantly, the director keeps the suspense around Raja intact well until the second half, and keeps us guess. Yes, his backstory is a cliche, but even here, we get a friendship angle that mirrors what’s happening in the present.
It is in the casting that the film feels underwhelming. Dinesh, who continues to struggle with getting out of his Cuckoo ticks, is miscast. Caarthick Raju is forced to keep things lowkey for the most part (though Justin Prabhakaran’s score tries to make the scenes feel epic), despite the script having the scope for stronger masala moments because of his lead actor.
This certainly robs the film of some punch. Even the character of a mother wanting revenge for her dead son requires a better actress to make that sub-plot forceful. The cinematography by PK Varma, too, is somewhat flat, despite the exotic backdrop, with only the aerial shots providing us some striking images.