Synopsis: Kathiresan aka Kaththi, a criminal, escapes from the Kolkata prison and comes to Chennai, where he comes across his doppelganger Jeevanandham, fighting for his life after being shot at by unknown men. Kaththi decides to pass off as Jeeva and make away with a lump sum amount but once he realizes who Jeeva really is, Kaththi turns a crusader.
Movie Review: Kaththi opens with Kathiresan aka Kaththi being chased by prison guards and it is later revealed that he is in fact helping the cops track down an escaped convict. But Kaththi manages to give the slip to the police and comes to Chennai with the intention of flying to Bangkok with the help of his friend. However, he drops the plan after he meets Ankita, who dupes him into believing that she wants to marry him, at the airport. Meanwhile, he chances upon a shootout and is stunned upon finding that the victim looks like him. He decides to impersonate the injured man and implicates him as the escaped convict. But once he realizes what Jeevanadham stands for, he decides to complete his doppelganger's mission — taking on Chirag, the owner of an MNC cola company who wants to take over the lands in Thannoothu, Jeeva's village, which has an untapped water source.
A protagonist switching places and solving the problems faced by his look-alike is an age-old construct in our movies. Almost every major hero in Tamil cinema has done such a film — MGR had Nadodi Mannan, Enga Veetu Pillai, Rajinikanth had Pokkiri Raja, Kamal had Thoongathey Thambi Thoongathey, Sathyaraj had Ulagam Piranthathu Enakkaga. Ajith had Attagasam and Suriya had Vel. Now, Vijay gets his own movie on this line.
There are also echoes of Murugadoss's earlier films — like Ramana, Kaththi reels out statistics, a professor who encourages the hero but works for the villain is straight out of 7aum Arivu, an emotional song closes the film as in Thuppaki.
But, unlike Thuppakki, the previous Murugadoss-Vijay effort, Kaththi is overlong, over-the-top, over-familiar, and overtly preachy. The problem is compounded by the fact that the film turns into a 'message movie' midway (Jeeva is made to define communism just to underline the film's intentions) and all we get is 'city people bad, villagers good' propaganda. In fact, in one scene, when a rich man calls the horde of people who have broken into his house to get the water from his swimming pool as 'uneducated fools', the director himself appears as a have-not to say (directly to the camera) 'We're poor but not uneducated'. The water crisis is precipitated by Kaththi's decision to stage a protest inside the pipelines that take water to the city after Chirag manages to outwit him in the court.
Also, while we see the effort that has gone into the characterization of Kaththi (he even gets a needless origin story), Jeeva is sketched poorly. He is neither wily nor brawny. We see that he is an idealist who cares for his people but that is all there is to the character. So, we hardly care about his fate.
It is commendable that Murugadoss wants to highlight the plight of our farmers and raise awareness on the soft drink companies exploiting our ground water and other water resources but he wields a bludgeon to get this message over that the film ends up as a rant that doesn't address the issue in an even-handed manner. Media persons are painted as people who only want sensationalism, while the police are shown as accomplice to the mighty. Interestingly, the director leaves out politicians, even though, as policy makers, they play a huge role in such a crisis. This only exposes his intention of playing to the gallery.
But Murugadoss gets the 'hero moments' right. Kaththi's method to track down the escaped convict, a fight where Kaththi has to battle two female assassins, another where he takes on 50 henchmen using brawn and brain (which is referenced again in the climactic fight), and Kaththi's speech during the press conference, which despite the preachifying tone, packs a punch... And, that is all that matters for fans.