Ajith Kumar in Valimai (Courtesy: boney.kapoor)
A biker gang overruns Chennai. They smuggle drugs, snatch chains and commit contract murders. The city police are at the end of their tether. A super cop is rushed in from Madurai to give the criminals a run for their money. That, in a nutshell, is Valimai for you. Does it deliver the horsepower it promises? Barely.
An expert biker himself, the no-nonsense crime-buster goes full throttle at the criminal mastermind, a modern-day Mephistopheles who entices jobless, restless young men to sell their souls to him and carry out his bidding. A generic battle between good versus evil ensues. The mission clean-up takes a toll of many lives and puts the policeman's professional skills and moral fibre to the test.
Valimai is a massy, splashy action movie starring Ajith Kumar as ACP Arjun Kumar, a policeman who is anything but trigger happy. He is a reformist at heart and believes that criminals deserve a second chance. He does not shoot at sight. At worst, he breaks a limb or two to prevent young men from indulging in further mischief.
That isn't the sole differentiator. Valimai, in which Huma Qureshi shares screen space with the lead actor, has no romantic track. The hero is tasked with a job that is too important to allow him any scope of attending to matters of the heart.
The assistant commissioner of police, who possesses the acumen to stay a step ahead of the criminals who employ hi-tech means to unleash mayhem on the streets of Tamil Nadu's capital city, precipitates an all-out clash with Naren (Telugu movie star Kartikeya Gummakonda in his Tamil debut).
The latter, who claims to have rid himself of all emotional attachments, has raised a criminal army of masked motorcycle stuntmen who elude identification and strike all across Chennai in broad daylight. He meets
his match in ACP Arjun Kumar. Once the action sluice-gates are thrown open, Valimai slips into top gear.
Valimai is a perfect vehicle for the seasoned action star. Writer and director H. Vinoth projects Ajith Kumar's real-life motor racing persona on to the big screen to reasonably good effect. The film would have been infinitely more entertaining had it not been as long as it is and had opted to skirt around a maudlin sub-plot about a brother gone astray and a mother reduced to an emotional wreck as a result.
The brother and the mother in question are both Arjun's. The man, wedded to his job and loyal to a fault to his family, has remained single so that his alcoholic elder brother (Achyuth Kumar) and unemployed younger sibling Ashu (Raj Aiyyappa) have no dearth of financial support.
Snazzy cinematography (by Nirav Shah) and eye-popping action sequences choreographed by Dhilip Subbarayan are the high points of the three-hour thriller. Unfortunately, monotony inevitably kicks in at times. Although Ajith Kumar fans may not have anything to carp over, parts of the bloated film become a bit too much to digest.
Valimai, produced by Boney Kapoor's Bayview Projects, is Ajith Kumar's first full-fledged all-India release. A Hindi dubbed version of the Tamil film has hit screens all across the country. It is a vehicle that showcases for the 50-year-old star's action movie credentials although, as is evident within Valimai itself and in his career as whole, there is definitely much more to the actor.
His entry scene - the star single-handedly takes on an battery of goons in pouring rain and in a sequence that is strategically punctuated with slow-motion shots - sets the stage for the high-octane heroics that propel the rest of the film forward.
The lead actor and the bad guys inject life into the extreme bike and car stunts that Valimai is replete with. In fact, when the action is under the spotlight and the motorcycles roar and soar (literally) and plunge (literally again), it seems that the director has handed over the reins of the film to the stunt coordinator.
The arch-villain, who lords over a network called Satan's Slaves and farms out work to his minions through an app, isn't a fully rounded figure. Worse, his relationship with the girl in his life, Sara (played by
Gurbani Judge, better known as Bani J), is underwritten to the point that it does not become clear until it is too late that there is a place for love in the bad guy's black heart.
Huma Qureshi, in her second Tamil film (after the Rajinikanth starrer Kaala), gets a pre-intermission 'entry' scene although she first appears in the story much earlier. Cast as a narcotics bureau officer working alongside the hero, she pulls off the role with aplomb.
Valimai would have been just another super-cop movie but for the flair that H. Vinoth demonstrates in the action set-pieces. The rest is left to Ajith Kumar to salvage. He does what he can but the weight of the movie does put a massive strain on him.
Interestingly, this story of crime and punishment, unlike most films of the genre, has no politicians at hand for the purpose of underscoring their oft-portrayed nexus with the underworld. But not to worry, among the senior officers in the police headquarters are two men who answer to the names of Sarkar (G.M. Sundar) and Sasan (Selva), meaning government and governance. Both are crooked to the core and excel in queering the pitch for the ACP as he goes about the task of restoring order in the city - and the people's faith in the police force.
As already indicated, what undermines Valimai the most is its insistence on playing up a sentimental subplot that hinges on the hero's mother (Sumithra). Its flirtations with the mawkish pushes the film into an area of needless preachiness entirely to its own detriment.
Ajith Kumar's screen presence rescues many scenes from sinking into insignificance. Valimai is for fans of the star and for those that dig protracted stunt sequences. As for the rest of you out there, the film will at best be a mixed bag: riveting when the bikes hit the road and the action revs up, and exhausting when the tears of the sorrowful mothers whose sons have lost their way become the focal point of the film.
Ajith Kumar, Huma Qureshi, Kartikeya Gummakonda, Yogi Babu