Synopsis: Karikalan (Thirumurugan), a selfish politician, in collusion with a real estate agent, usurps the lands of farmers in a village. Savuri (Goundamani) decides to expose the politician and get the lands back to the villagers in a novel manner.
Review: Debutant director Arokiyadoss has the right material — a political satire — for Goundamani's comeback film, but the patchy writing and crude direction take away the sting, leaving us with a film that has to ride solely on the strength of its leading man and nothing else. In better hands, 49-O could have become a 'talking point film' because its subject is socially relevant. It talks about the importance of farmers, their troubles, farm lands being easy catch for real estate developers, political corruption, cash for votes, and the ineffectiveness of our electoral system.
But these ideas have not been woven together properly seamlessly (the scenes have an episodic quality about them) and have also not been transferred properly to the screen, so that it ends up as a preachy video that is anything but cinema. Take for example the scene where Savuri has to talk about how his villagers have been swindled, why 49-O is a toothless ("Bomma kaththi" as the character puts it) electoral option for voters and raises valid questions on the electoral process. It should make us empathise with these characters and angry at corrupt politicians, but what we just do not feel these emotions. For contrast, one just has to look at the scene in Kaththi where Vijay talks about the plight of farmers.
Arokiyadoss seems to have been content with getting a 'yes' from the reclusive Goundamani that he doesn't seem to have bothered much about the script. The comedian does what is expected of him and in fact, the film shows that he still has it to deliver zingers that can make us laugh and also think, though age does seem to have mellowed him to an extent. At the same time, this is far from his best and with no solid material to chew on, there are times when we find him trying too hard. But he spares no one — be it politicians or real estate promoters or even actors, they are all ridiculed and for the right reasons. But the film, actually, is more drama than comedy. And surprisingly, Goundamani comes across not as a comedian trying to be a leading man but as a character actor being the protagonist in a film.
In the end, 49-O ends up as ineffective as the rule it criticizes — you can admire the intention but you can never really take it seriously.