Bala, a temple priest, is helped by Poochi, a hired killer, at a needy moment and the two become friends. But when the former learns of his friend's criminal ways, he decides to help him turn over a new leaf. But Poochi's boss will not let him go that easily.
There is juicy melodrama in-built in the story of
Naan Than Bala
but the writing and direction are plain amateurish. The trouble is that the director, Kannan, never really has a grip on this material. Bala might be the good guy here but the central character should have been Poochi and the drama should have arisen from his two relationships — one with Kaatooraan, the man who raised him from childhood and treats him as a member of his family, and the other with Bala, who opens his eyes and shows him the error of his ways. This would have made
Naan Than Bala
a far more interesting film. We never really get a real sense of the Poochi-Kaatooran dynamics because Kannan has made Bala his protagonist. Kaatooran's character, in fact, is terribly underwritten — one moment he seems to be Poochi's mentor and guardian (he is introduced in a scene in which he forces a relative to step aside for Poochi at a family function) and the next, he is shown as someone who is just using the guy as a tool heeding the words of his greedy wife.
Kannan's treatment of this material is at best TV serial melodrama. When the heroine and her family go to Bala to plead with him to move away from Poochi, they say "
padicha neengale vedhanaya
". Such lines would have been acceptable in the 60s but here, they seem exactly like the discarded relic from the past that it is. Similarly, when Bala visits the house of his lawyer, who is a Dalit, we see a photo of Dr Ambedkar that is hung outside the house! And, when Bala the Brahmin drinks their water, the director cuts to a close-up of the photo.
The one scene where we really get a sense of what this could have been is the scene where Bala confronts Poochi and makes him see how he has been taking the wrong path all along. This is also where Vivekh shows that he can also handle serious drama. The rest of the time, he is forced to play a caricature, that of a naive and diffident young man, which is clearly not who Bala is, and all we get is a comparable version of the timid character that he played in Alaipayuthey. And, when the character starts spouting Sanskrit mantras at dramatic moments, it only feels unintentionally funny. The only take away for us is the earnest effort that the actor has put in to play this role.