Synopsis: Amudhavel, who returns to India from the US, is blamed for the murder of Thamba, a local big shot, with whom he has previous history. With a number of potential suspects who had a motive to commit the murder, who actually did it and why?
Review: Kathakali begins with a news report about a skirmish between fishermen in Chennai and Cuddalore. We think this might be the focus of the film, but then as the story unfolds, we realize it is one of the many red herrings that director Pandiraj provides us to narrate a whodunit tale that holds its suspense till the climax.
The plot revolves around the murder of Thamba (Madhusudhan), the fishermen's association head in Cuddalore, who is also a gangster. The prime suspect is Amudhavel (Vishal), who has returned to the town from the US after four years for his marriage. His family has had a skirmish with Thamba, which had left his father confined to the wheelchair. The cop in charge of the case, Saravanavadivel (Srijith), is after him because his friend (Kiran), who works for Thamba, had gone to the cops alleging that Amudhavel had murdered his boss. But there are various others who have a motive to commit the murder — Amudhavel's brother (Mime Gopi); his friend Sammandham (Pavan) and his ex-MLA father who were defeated in the elections by Thamba; a textile shop owner (Jayaprakash) whose daughter Thamba had gotten married to her lover much against her father's wishes; the Chennai fishermen; Thamba's son or maybe, it was his own men!
What is refreshing about Kathakali is that it is less an action film and more a mystery. Pandiraj keeps us guessing as to who the murderer might be, even as he increases the tension by putting Amudhavel into situations from where getting away seems tricky. During the middle section of the film, Amudhavel is trapped inside a bus with no way out of his predicament. Even the mandatory romantic portion (with Catherine Tresa) is done away with in short time. Only recently, we had Eetti where a wrong call paves the way for romance to develop between the hero and heroine. It is the same case here as well but as he did in his debut film Pasanga, which also had a mobile phone-based romance, the director treats these scenes in light hearted fashion. He also narrates them in instalments even as he the plot keeps moving forward, giving us one more suspect to add to our list.
It is in the final portions that the film slips a bit. Given that Amudhavel is played by Vishal, the character has to be an action hero and so, we see him beating up professional gangsters with hardly any effort, and the film starts to resemble conventional action films. And Pandiraj gives us one twist too many in the end with a Murder On The Orient Express-like denouement that plausibility takes a beating.