A skeleton is found at the home of Esther (Nandita Das), whose fisherman husband Arulappasamy (Vishnu) has been missing for the past 25 years. Esther confesses that it was she who murdered her husband but when Agnes (Varsha), the cop assigned to the case, lends a sympathetic ear, she narrates a heart wrenching tale of a loving family ruined by the politics of territorial waters.
There is a lot to like in
which seeks to highlight the issue of fishermen killings in the Palk Strait. But where the movie actually scores is not in the message it conveys, but in its handling of human relationships within an under-represented (on film and otherwise) community.
The film is narrated as a flashback and we see how Arul, a drunkard and the laughing stock of his fishing community, is touched by Esther's (Sunaina) kindness towards him. He mends his wayward ways much to the delight of his parents (Saranya and Ram). But the fisher folk protest when Arul decides to earn a living as fisherman. He manages to nullify their objection and turns a fisherman through sheer grit. Just when everything seems rosy, fate deals a cruel hand.
The major strength of
is the authenticity with which it recreates the life of a fishing community. You really feel that you are living amidst these people and the actors, even the minor ones, are aptly cast. While Vishnu and Sunaina are convincing as two young lovers in a fishing hamlet, the supporting characters, be it Saranya and Ram as Arul's doting parents, the church father (Azhagamperumal) whom the populace looks up to, the politically-aware boat builder Uduman Gani (Samuthirakani) or even Arul's drink buddies (Thambi Ramaiah and Black Pandi), are very much relatable.
The technical crew has pitched in with its best. Balasubramaniem's superb camerawork that captures the various moods and tones of the sea is one of the highlights and Raghunanthan's songs
enhance the film's emotions very well (though his background score is at times overpowering).
The first half, especially the plot of a wastrel turning over a new leaf, has a strong whiff of Bharathiraja's
, which was also set in a coastal region. But Seenuramasamy presents this with interesting incidents and you don't get a sense of deja vu. And, the twist in the second half regarding Arul's origins too is mildly interesting. There are a few scenes that are clumsily handled (especially the ones involving the political angle) and the pacing seems slow despite the film's shorter running time, but there are enough emotional highs to make you easily overlook these minor quibbles.
Where the major problem lies is in the portion that bookends this flashback — the mystery behind Arul's death. It is not often that you find a Nandita Das performance phony but, unfortunately, that is the case here. The entire segment feels unnatural and jars tonally with the flashback. While the latter is refreshingly natural, this one is plainly melodramatic and seems quite an unsubtle approach for the director to put his message across.