Cast: Sasikumar, Nandita Swetha, Vasumithra, Srijith Ravi
In director Maruthupandian’s Asuravadham, a man who has ruined the lives of many women, ironically bashes his wife after doubting her fidelity. After bringing her to the ground with his brute force, he kicks her and walks away… only to go back to her. But that’s just to pick up his watch that fell during the tussle. He is our Asuran (demon). Meanwhile, a chronic alcoholic is waiting outside a bar for a miracle which would get him his daily dose of poison. A random stranger hands him a two thousand rupee note and tells him to buy two bottles. ‘Onnu unnaku, innonum unnaku,’ says the stranger and the drunkard becomes a devotee of this stranger who he perceives to be a God.
Asuravadham — as the name denotes — is the vanquishing of a demon and who else can do this but a God? While there are deities who advocate peace and those who get crucified for the sins of others, this ‘God’ uses nails to puncture those who stand between him and his adversary — sort of like clearing the henchmen before the actual boss fight in a video game. Story-wise, Asuravadham is one of the countless run-of-the-mill revenge sagas we’ve seen in Tamil cinema over the years, but it’s the treatment that makes this film stand out.
I was reminded of many Hollywood films such as When a Stranger Calls, Duel and I Know What You Did Last Summer. But in those films, the stalker is the baddie; it’s quite different in Asuravadham, in which Saravanan, a construction worker from Qatar (Sasikumar), is after a small time grocery store owner, Samayan (Vasumithra). Vasumithra’s casting is a surprise and the actor proves that having a menacing persona isn’t a prerequisite to be an effective villain. Almost 70 per cent of the film is a cat and mouse chase, and in the beginning, I wondered if Saravanan would hunt down the gang of people starting with the weakest link, Samayan, only to discover who the primary antagonist actually is.
The character arcs of Saravanan and Samayan are quite interesting. The cold-blooded vengeful Saravanan has a softer side to him, which is shown in the mandatory flashback before the climax. And on the other hand, though shown throughout the film as a wimp, Samayan’s shocking flashback makes him worthy of the tag, Asuran. So much that the gruesome violence Saravanan directs towards him becomes actually justifiable.
In yet another tailor-made role, Sasikumar seems at home as the soft-spoken Saravanan. In fact, I dare say that all his dialogues in the first half could fit inside a fortune cookie! He’s a man of action, and notable is the way he strikes fear into the heart of Samayan. Vasumitra delivers a neat performance as Samayan. While Nandita Swetha was expected to be a surprise considering her absence in the promotional material, her portions are hardly more than an extended cameo.
The film also shines in its technical aspects. Music director Govind Menon, the violinist, and co-founder of the famous musical band, Thaikkudam Bridge, makes a strong debut. His experience with fusion music comes in handy with this script and his rock and metal-inspired score works well. Cinematographer SR Kathir excels at the action blocks — the one in a corridor, comparable to a similar sequence in Raid, is a highlight.
What doesn’t work is the predictable screenplay and a flashback that slows things down. The second half is riddled with a little too much of heroism and melodrama, but thankfully, we don’t have the post-climatic heroic speech similar to that in Naadodigal and Sundarapandian. On the whole, Asuravadham, though being a simple revenge film at its core, has everything we love in that genre and more.