30 Oct, 2014 2 hrs
Shabeer, Pia Bajpai, Sruthi Hariharan, Y Gee Mahendra, AL Alagappan, Thambi Ramaiah, Bala Saravanan
Using a multi-strand narrative, Lakshmy Ramakrishnan constructs a film that is part road movie, part thriller, and part drama

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  • Critic's Review
  • Times of India
Synopsis: A fuel crisis has thrown life out of gear across the country. A lorry driver is making a clandestine trip from Trichy to Karaikal carrying 2,000 litres of diesel. Why is he on this journey? How do people who board the lorry influence the journey? And, for what purpose is the diesel being transported?

Synopsis: Using a multi-strand narrative, Lakshmy Ramakrishnan constructs a film that is part road movie, part thriller, and part drama. The film is set against the backdrop of a fuel crisis and there are at least a dozen key characters. There is Chandru (Shabeer), who agrees to transport 2,000 litres of diesel from Trichy to Karaikal for politician Kaleeswaran (AL Alagappan); Subramaniam (Y Gee Mahendra), his petrol bunk owner father, who is always criticizing his ne'er-do-well son; Chokku (Bala Saravanan), his friend, who keeps waiting for his heirless chithappa to die so that he can become a rich man.

Then, we have the characters who end up hitching a ride in the lorry — Maya (Pia), a youngster who has a misunderstanding with her singer mother Sita (Viji); Maha (Sruthi) and her lower caste lover who take refuge in Chandru's lorry, and whose elopement has resulted in violence in their village; a motormouth (Thambi Ramaiah) who might be more than what he seems. And finally, a minister (Lakshmy Ramakrishnan) who is masterminding something sinister with the mysterious man whose escape kick-starts the film.

Lakshmy manages to give us the backstory of many of these characters, and keep the plot moving at the same time so that we have enough to care about them and wait in anticipation of what happens next. The use of songs (Kaligaalam, which is used for Maha's romance, is the best of the lot) to narrate the backstories is a nifty touch.

However, these sub-plots feel cliched — inter-caste romance, antagonistic father-son relationship, misunderstood mother, corrupt politician — that we are never really surprised by how they develop. The lovers learn a lesson, the son redeems himself in the eyes of his father, the mother's horrific past makes the daughter realize her mistakes, and the politician gets his just comeuppance. In her debut Aarohanam, Lakshmy gave us characters who continuously surprised us in a good way but here that doesn't happen. The performances, mostly, come across as artificial because the actors are playing archetypes rather than rounded characters.

But there are also times when the director gives too much space to certain characters that the film's pacing suffers. If Thambi Ramaiah is made to go overboard in the name of comedy (Bala Saravanan, in contrast, comes across as restrained), the sub-plot involving Maya and Sita feels inconsequential. Maya is feeling guilty about hurting her mother and wants to apologize for it, but we never get the need for urgency in this track. She knows her mother is going to Malaysia only for a concert but then starts thinking that she will not return forever because of her harsh words! Lakshmy could have even done away with this track and the film wouldn't have suffered at all. Yes, Maya's presence helps when incensed villagers stop the vehicle to search for the eloped lovers and later when the lorry is stopped by the cops. But the director could have very well avoided the first twist and used the couple itself for the second occasion. Instead, the lovers, whose tale resonates better than Maya's, are sent off midway and in rather inelegant fashion. The tacking of a romantic angle between Maya and Chandru towards the end is cringe-worthy.

But the stranded terrorist sub-plot is handled well. We are told convincingly how the cops come to know about his presence (chance interception) and the hunt for him doesn't come across as too cinematic (thankfully, we do not get a daring cop character). The same goes for the manner in which Chandru finally outwits Kaleeswaran when he realizes for what he is transporting the diesel. There are no heroics involved, just plain common sense, and that makes this journey worthwhile.
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