First off, without a shadow of a doubt, I'm going on the record and saying that Dhanush is the best actor of his generation bar none. This film further highlights his acting prowess (which we, the Tamil film audience have grown accustomed to) that began with 'Kadhal Kondein' and continued with superlative performances in 'Pudhupettai', 'Polladhavan', 'Aadukalam', 'Mayakkam Enna', '3' & the recently released 'Raanjhanaa'.
He carries this film on his fragile shoulders through scenes of joy, love, hate, anger, despair & helplessness. We laugh with him during his fun times and we anguish with him when he suffers.
The story itself had the potential to be superb (it being based on a true event that saw four Indian oil platform workers abducted and held for ransom in North Africa), however Bharat Bala did not do justice with his extremely weak screenplay.
This is his Indian feature film debut (having previously directed a short film, a documentary, a foreign film & a few ads and music videos) and it is glaringly evident that he has a long way to go. His screenplay fails to sustain the viewer's attention, to be honest if not for the lead pair, many would not have watched till the end. The pace is extremely slow, which is fine if the scenes are not disjointed, however it feels like there one too many unnecessary scenes. The African villains were poorly conceived as neither were their motives explained nor were they engaging. They were basically cutboard cutouts of continental African caricatures. 'Kadal Rasaa' song felt out of place, the idea was great but could have been explored differently. The notion that a fisherman is at his strongest only in his element, the sea, is fantastic and proves to be the plus point in the climax.
The lead pair has performed excellently, their chemistry is very prominent. The slow build up of their love is refreshing and funny. Parvathy Menon's acting deserves praise, and she looks great as a village belle. Dhanush really tugs at your heartstrings in certain scenes especially the second half when he is a hostage. That phone call scene will leave you reeling. You will know what I mean when you watch it, I wouldn't want to spoil too much.
The rest of the cast have been grossly underused except for Jagan & Appukutty. It is a shame to see Salim Kumar's talents wasted as the father of Parvathy's character. After all, he also won the National Award for Best Actor for his heart wrenching performance in 2010 Malayalam film 'Adaminte Makan Abu' (incidentally he was a joint winner with Dhanush that year).
A.R. Rahman was at his ethereal best as both his songs & background score was pure aural ecstasy. Although all the songs were great, the best was saved for last, as 'Nenjae Ezhu' coupled with an amazing visual spectacle could not be topped by the rest of the songs.
A big kudos to Mark Koninckx, a Belgian who is pretty well known in his country but whose only previous claim to international fame was the unheralded 2008 Franco-Liberian film 'Johnny Mad Dog'. His framing and angles were evocative. Be it the fishing hamlet that is beautifully hugged by the blue sea or the harsh dry dessert that is both arid & stunning to look at.
On the surface of it all, this is just a love story that could have been brilliant if it had been supplemented by a better plot twist.
I give it 3/5, mainly for the lead pair's performance which was complimented superbly by Rahman's magical tunes & Koninckx's visual feast
BB gains a huge alcove among positive story tellers; which was new as well as aerating to the On-going trend called Tragic ending.