A young man embarrassed with his name decides to carve a name for himself through his achievement. And, so, he signs up for a marathon. His victory will also mean redemption for his coach...
What's in a name Shakespeare might have asked but for Kunjithapatham (Sivakarthikeyan) it is his own name that is the source of constant embarrassment. He has been giggled and mocked at right from his school days for a name that everyone immediately links to the male genital. And this 'cock'amamie reaches its climax when the neighbour girl whom he has been flirting with spurns him because of his name. So, on the advice of his friend Peter (Sathish), Kunjithapatham goes for a name change and becomes Harish. And, lo, how his fortunes change! He gets a job (after losing one on account of his earlier name), a girl (who comes into his life moments after the change in name) and even a 42-inch LCD TV!
This good run almost comes to an end when people from his past and even Geetha (Priya Anand), his girlfriend, bring up his original name back into the picture. So, Harish decides to create an identity for himself with his new name by signing up for a marathon. To his trainer Valli (Nandita), a disgraced athlete, the win will mean redemption.
The first half of Ethir Neechal follows the current Tamil cinema formula of 'laughs first, plot next'. So, we spend the first 30 minutes laughing at Harish's plight in having a double entendre of a name. For the next half an hour, we laugh at his attempts to woo Geetha, a school teacher, using his landlord's overweight son as an excuse. So far so good as Durai Senthilkumar exploits the wisecracking happy-go-lucky guy persona of Sivakarthikeyan to keep us entertained. The air of casualness that the actor brings to the role endears us to his character. But Senthilkumar more or less exhausts his bag of gags at this point and so, when the actual plot kicks in, the mood turns sobre — not exactly in a good way. He introduces Valli, a natural athlete, who has become the victim of corruption in the system. But he prolongs this entire segment focusing more on Valli's father, piling on melodrama. This would have been bearable if there had been some detailing on how sports bodies function in our country but what we get is a black-and-white sub-plot of a scheming coach (Ravi Prakash) thwarting the chances of a gifted athlete with money power.
By the time the focus gets back on Harish, we feel as if we have moved into a different screen and a different film. The climax, the all-important marathon, is shot in a manner that never creates tension. Harish's win is quite easy and very standard sports movie masala. There is no real challenger. Even his chief opponent — who is, unsurprisingly, the student of the coach who spoiled Valli's career — is nothing but a bully with less talent and more cunning.