Saamaniyan Movie Review: Excessive plot and exposition drown out the potential

Saamaniyan Movie Review: Excessive plot and exposition drown out the potential

An overdose of plot is the real villain of the vigilante film with a noble premise that makes big points about the status quo
Saamaniyan (2 / 5)

The third act of R Rakesh's Saamaniyan, starring Ramarajan in his comeback film, feels more like the first act. The film buries itself in layers of plot, only to resort to a flashback right before the climax. While the interval scene builds enough intrigue, the flashback feels ineffective, with the introduction of an unnecessary subplot within another subplot. It seems that the subplots were only added to give an extra serving of the 'appa-ponnu paasam'. It makes you wonder why excessive sentiments are even necessary for a vigilante film, which makes grand points about the banking system preying on the middle-class Indian. The heavy-handed approach to delivering these messages through a long-winded monologue feels outdated.

Director: R Rakesh

Cast: Ramarajan, MS Bhaskar, Radha Ravi, Vinodhini Vaidyanathan, Bose Venkat, Mime Gopi

Speaking of subtlety, Saamaniyan has elements that resemble Neeraj Pande's Hindi film A Wednesday!, also remade as Unnaipol Oruvan in Tamil. The films have different stories, but there are similarities between both with regard to the arc of a common man who takes the law into his own hands to challenge the system and make big statements about the status quo. Except for the beginning, the central message of the film is conveyed with the subtlety of a sledgehammer.

The film begins with Ramarajan's Sankara Narayanan exiting a bus as he folds his veshti to the tune of 'Madura Marikkozhunthu Vaasam' from his own Enga Ooru Pattukaran. As Sankara walks into a hotel, he realises that every customer dislikes its food. Then, he chides a bus employee for stopping by the establishment. The scene establishes that Sankara is a common man who does not hesitate to raise his voice against issues the public chooses to ignore. So, when we later see the character wielding a weapon and delivering speeches about free will, egalitarianism, and justice, it comes as no surprise.

Despite the flaws, you go along for the ride, hoping that the film will eventually have some fun with its premise. But instead, what you get is a film with excessive plot and exposition. The film tries to establish the fact that it is Ramarajan's comeback film with callbacks to his filmography, but these attempts often feel unnecessary and awkward. Any callback is enjoyable when it comes organically out of the story, but Saamaniyan has some that even do Ramarajan a disservice. For example, in one scene, a woman at a bank accidentally bumps into him and recognises him as a hero from the 1990s whom Gen-Z kids do not recognise. This scene also disrupts the narrative flow for the sake of a forced tribute, complete with 'Mankuyile Poonkuyile' from the actor's own Karakattakaran playing in the background.

And did I even mention Radha Ravi and MS Bhaskar? The film also uses the two veterans as part of a clever plot point, but the novelty starts to wear thin the moment you figure out what they are up to. There is also a bit of Maaveeran in Saamaniyan in terms of not just the plot but also the collective darts it throws at the real estate mafia. Sure, Sankara has no superhero powers, but the corporate evils he fights are similar to what Sivakarthikeyan faces in Maaveeran.

The saving graces of the film are Ramarajan's comedy in the second half and his chemistry with Radha Ravi and MS Bhaskar, as well as Ilaiyaraaja's music. There is a sense of ease to Ramarajan's performance that makes him instantly likeable, and he also summons up the right emotions wherever necessary. Further, Ilaiyaraaja's compositions 'Thathiva Thathiva' and 'Oli Veesum' add some energy to the proceedings, especially when it starts to dip considerably. However, even these elements cannot quite salvage the overall experience.

In the end, Saamaniyan is a film with a promising premise that drowns under the weight of its own plot and heavy-handed messaging.

Cinema Express