Review: ‘Ayalaan,’ starring Sivakarthikeyan, Rakul Preet Singh, Sharad Kelkar and Isha Koppikar

February 3, 2024

by Carla Hay

Tattoo and Sivakarthikeyan in “Ayalaan” (Photo courtesy of KJR Studios)

“Ayalaan”

Directed by R. Ravikumar

Tamil with subtitles

Culture Representation: Taking place in India’s Tamil Nadu state, the sci-fi film “Fighter” features a predominantly Indian cast of characters (with a few white people) representing the working-class, middle-class and wealthy.

Culture Clash: A villager and his two friends discover and protect an outer-space alien that a corrupt scientist wants to capture because of the alien’s access to deadly mineral that the scientist want to use to make weapons of mass destruction.

Culture Audience: “Ayalaan” will appeal primarily to people who are fans of stories about aliens from outer space, no matter how stupid and long-winded the stories are.

Karunakaran, Kothandam, Tattoo, Yogi Babu and Sivakarthikeyan in “Ayalaan” (Photo courtesy of KJR Studios)

“Ayalaan” is a sloppy ripoff of the 1982 classic sci-fi film E.T., but with the outer-space alien befriending adults instead of children, as the movie’s ‘heroes’ try to prevent the alien from being captured. This misguided film is just time-wasting idiocy. “Ayalaan” has a very thin and flimsy plot that is dragged and stretched out to extremely irritating levels during the movie’s 155 minutes.

Written and directed by R. Ravikumar, “Ayalaan” (which means “alien” in Tamil) exposes itself very early in the movie to be a cinematic abomination of horrible dialogue, tacky visual effects, and bad acting. It would be slightly inaccurate to say that “Ayalaan” wears out its welcome because this type of torturous drivel isn’t welcome in the first place, if viewers are expecting anything that’s reasonably entertaining. There is almost no imagination in this extremely derivative and annoying movie.

The main protagonist in “Ayalaan” (which takes place in the India’s Tamil Nadu state) is a cheerful but dimwitted man in his late 30s named Tamizh (played by Sivakarthikeyan), who lives in a rural village, where he loves and respects the environment. Tamizh sells mineral water to people in the village. Tamizh’s social circle includes his two best friends—buffoonish Tyson (played by Yogi Babu) and neurotic Sugirtharaja (played by Karunakaran)—as well as Tamizh’s middle-aged, mute roommate (played by Kothandam), who doesn’t have a name in the movie.

A corrupt scientist/business mogul named Aryan (played by Sharad Kelkar), who is based in the city of Chennai, owns Aryan Industries, which looks like a combination of a corporation and a scientific research center. Aryan is obsessed with finding a rare mineral called Sparc (which looks like a glowing blue rock), which Aryan believes has the most powerful energy source in the world. Predictably, Aryan wants to get possession of Sparc to extract the energy source so that he can use it to make weapons of mass destruction. Aryan’s most loyal and most ruthless cohort is Eliza (played by Isha Koppikara), who’s supposed to be a scientist but who acts more like a combat criminal.

Meanwhile, a child-sized green alien, who has the voice of adult male human (voiced by Siddharth), arrives by spaceship from outer space to put a stop to Aryan’s plan. Before he left, the alien was warned by his look-alike girlfriend not to eat the the junk food on Earth. “Ayalaan” mentions that this is the alien’s 324th secret visit to Earth. The alien has the ability to make itself invisible whenever it wants.

The alien is captured by Aryan’s accomplices and is brought to a secret lab at Ayran Industries. The alien is kept in a giant glass cylinder. Why does Ayran want to keep this alien imprisoned? Somehow, Aryan finds out that this alien knows where to find Sparc, so Aryan want to force the alien to tell him where Sparc is.

But that doesn’t happen in this scene. Instead, when Aryan puts his hands on the cylinder, his hands get stuck. The alien uses it as an opportunity to emit a green gas that fills the cylinder before breaking the glass and escaping. The green gas floats out of the cylinder. Whatever is in the gas causes Aryan, Eliza and the others to lose consciousnesses.

Meanwhile, Tamizh finds himself at a science expo for middle schoolers. He has a crush on a science teacher named Tara (played by Rakul Preet Singh), so he is thrilled to see her there. One of the first exhibts that catches Tamizh’s attention is called “Alien World,” from a boy who’s dressed as a green alien. Tamizh starts a casual conversation with the boy, who says his name is Tattoo.

A certain mishap at the expo causes a big fire, where the alien shows up and catches Tara before she falls to the ground. (Don’t ask. It won’t be the last you’ll see of Tara, because she’s the obvious love interest of Tamizh.) Most of the people in the building evacuate in time, but Tamizh is stuck in the building. He sees the alien trapped underneath a fallen display case and rescues it. Tamizh and the alien manage to escape before the fire can kill them.

Tamizh thinks the alien is the boy Tattoo whom Tamizh met earlier. While he is driving the alien to a hospital, Tamizh keeps thinking that a human boy named Tattoo is in his truck with him, even though the alien is obviously not a human. This foolishness goes on for several minutes until Tamizh sees the alien become invisible. It’s only then that Tamizh understands that he has a non-human creature with him in the truck. He continues to call this creature Tattoo after he brings it home and introduces the alien to his friends.

The rest of “Ayalaan” has an increasingly ridiculous series of events. Just when the movie looks like it could have ended one way, there are insipid plot twists that prolong this appallingly jumbled and vapid movie. The alien is neither fun nor interesting, while all the human characters are either generic or very irritating, with performances from the cast members to match. Oscar-winning “Slumdog Millionaire” composer A.R. Rahman wrote the music for this junkpile movie, which just goes to show that having an Oscar does not make someone immune to working on low-quality dreck.

As an example of the shoddy filmmaking, there’s a subplot about an American named Dexter Williams (played by David Broughton-Davies), a UFO enthusiast who saw the alien during one of the alien’s previous visits to Earth. Dexter speaks Tamil in the film, but it’s obviously an overdubbed voice because the actor spoke English while filming his scenes. (People who can read lips while someone is talking can easily spot this discrepancy.)

Dexter has a hard time convincing people that his alien sightings are real. He’s determined to find the alien again and then track it down. Somehow, Aryan finds out that Dexter knows that alien has landed on Earth again. And so, Aryan summons Dexter to India, where Dexter is enlisted to help find the alien. It’s as ridiculous as it sounds.

And did we mention that Tattoo has the ability to heal human injuries and diseases, just by placing his hands on the affected areas? The movie takes a detour into a vapid subplot about how Tattoo becomes invisible and does these healings when he’s with Tamizh. And it isn’t long before Tamizh gets credit for these healings and people think he has superpowers.

During all of these messy subplots, there are chase scenes, emotional meltdowns, and the usual mindless shenanigans that you would expect to find in a substandard “alien on the loose on Earth” movie, where the “heroes” try to help the alien find its way back to its home planet. There are also some out-of-place musical numbers that act as filler for this already bloated movie. In “Ayalaan,” everything is so dialed up to the most asinine levels, if any outer-space aliens saw this garbage film, then they’d want to fly far away on a spaceship and go home too.

KJR Studios released “Ayalaan” in select U.S. cinemas and in India on January 12, 2024.

Review: ‘Maaveeran’ (2023), starring Sivakarthikeyan, Aditi Shankar, Mysskin, Yogi Babu, Sunil, Saritha and Monisha Blessy

July 15, 2023

by Carla Hay

Sivakarthikeyan in “Maaveeran” (Photo courtesy of Red Giant Movies)

“Maaveeran” (2023)

Directed by Madonne Ashwin

Tamil with subtitles

Culture Representation: Taking place in an unnamed city in India, the fantasy action film “Maaveeran” features an all-Indian cast of characters representing the working-class, middle-class and wealthy.

Culture Clash: A financially struggling comic-strip artist finds out that he can hear the voice of his created superhero in his head, and he battles with a corrupt politician who is the landlord owner of the unsafe building where the artist and his family live.

Culture Audience: “Maaveeran” will appeal primarily to people who are interested in watching superhero action movies that have a good balance of drama and comedy.

Mysskin in “Maaveeran” (Photo courtesy of Red Giant Movies)

“Maaveeran” is an entertaining and often-amusing spin on the superhero genre. The movie’s occasionally substandard visual effects are transcended by the engaging story and watchable performances. Sivakarthikeyan carries the movie with winning charm.

Directed by Madonne Ashwin (who co-wrote the “Maaveeran” screenplay with Chandru A.), “Maaveeran” has moments of being very hokey and sentimental, but they are balanced out by some of life’s harsh realities that are depicted in the movie. (“Maaveeran” means “legend” in Tamil.) The movie has a refreshing take on being a superhero: In this superhero movie, the hero does not have a superhero costume or disguise. He also didn’t get his superpower in a particularly heroic way, by birth, or through accidental genius.

In “Maaveeran,” the protagonist’s name is Sathya (played by Sivakarthikeyan), a graphic artist in his 30s whose passion is drawing superhero stories. In the beginning of the movie, Sathya is the writer/illustrator of a superhero comic strip called “The Great Warrior,” which is published in a local newspaper. The problem is that it’s a low-paying job. And the newspaper’s editor/publisher Dhanraj (played by Madhan Dhakshinamoorthy) says that “The Great Warrior” might be cancelled and replaced with advertising.

Sathya lives with his sassy widow mother Easwari (played by Saritha) and his younger sister Raji (played by Monca Blessy) because he can’t afford to have his own place. Easwari often nags Sathya for not having a better-paying job. She thinks his fascination with superheroes is childish. The slogan for “The Great Warrior” is “Bravery triumphs.”

Sathya, Easwari and Raji live in an apartment building that’s condemned and will soon be torn down and replaced by a more upscale building. The apartment dwellers are relocated to another building, but the conditions in this location are even worse: Plaster falls from ceilings and walls. The plumbing often doesn’t work. And other parts of the building are deteriorating. In addition, there are many creepy and criminal-like people who are living in this building.

Easwari is appalled and feels unsafe. She does what she can to complain to the landlord: a corrupt and ambitious politician named Jeyakodi (played by Mysskin), who is campaigning for an upcoming re-election. Jeyakodi is very dismissive of the building residents’ complaints. He completely denies that the building has any problems. Jeykodi has a subordinate named Paramu (played by Sunil), who is the epitome of a “yes man” enabler.

With these problems at home and at work, Sathya is feeling enormous pressure to keep his job. He has a co-worker ally named Nila (played by Aditi Shankar), who pleads with Dhanraj not to cancel Sathya’s comic strip. Dhanraj gives Sathya one last chance, by saying that the newspaper will keep the comic strip if Sathya can come up with a story that he hasn’t done before for “The Great Warrior.”

The slum-like conditions of the apartment building where Sathya lives become the inspiration for him to do a story about his superhero living in a crumbling palace. When the comic strip is published, Jeyakodi becomes enraged because he correctly assumes that the comic strip is a thinly veiled criticism of the Jeyakodi-owned building where Sathya lives. Jeyakodi uses his clout to get Sathya’s comic strip cancelled.

And to make matters worse for Sathya, he comes home one day to find his mother Easwari has been assaulted when she tried to protect Raji from a sleazy neighbor who intruded in their apartment for sexually voyeuristic reasons. Easwari berates Sathya for being fearful and wimpy. She also says that if Sathya’s father were still alive, he would’ve beaten up the intruder in brave self-defense.

A despondent Sathya feels like his life is falling apart. He makes a half-hearted attempt to commit suicide by falling out of the building. He lands on some scaffolding and becomes unconscious. When he regains consciousness, he finds out that he can hear the voice of the Great Warrior in his head telling him what will happen next and how he can be a better fighter. Sathya is going to need all the help he can get, because a vengeful Jeyakodi makes Sathya a target for bullying.

The rest of “Maaveeran” shows what happens as Sathya is initially frightened and confused by hearing this inner superhero voice, but he eventually uses it to become courageous and harness his own powerful fight skills. He tells a few people about hearing the voice of the Great Warrior in his head. Nila is the only person who doesn’t believe that Sathya is mentally ill after she finds out this information.

One of the movie’s main sources of comic relief is a handyman named Kumar (played by Yogi Babu), who is at the apartment building to do repairs. Sathya and Kumar have some hilarious dialogue because Kumar thinks Sathya is weird, while Sathya thinks Kumar is incompetent. The comedic chemistry between Sivakarthikeyan and Babu is very amusing to watch.

On a more serious level, Sathya clashes with his very opinionated mother Easwari. He craves her respect. And so, he decides he’s going to try to get her respect by going after Jeyakodi. Sathya isn’t seeking justice just for his mother. He’s doing it for all the residents in the building and for anyone else who’s affected by Jeyakodi’s greed and corruption.

Without being too preachy, “Maaveeran” has some pointed observations about gentrification and how low-income people are often forced out or displaced from their homes that become gentrified. Mysskin gives a somewhat stereotypical villain performance as the menacing Jeyakodi, but the performance is always watchable. And although “Maaveeran” has some artistically filmed action scenes that are worth admiring on a technical level, Sivakarthikeyan’s multifaceted performance is the main reason to watch “Maaveeran,” which is the type of engaging movie that seems made for sequels.

Red Giant Movies released “Maaveeran” in select U.S. cinemas and in India on July 14, 2023.

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