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Times of India
: Star Jet flight no. 957 takes off for Delhi from Chennai but is hijacked enroute by five Pakistani militants, who want their leader Yusuf Khan released in exchange for the 100 passengers. But as one of the engines of the plane gets damaged, the plane is forced to land at Tirupati airport. Home secretary Viswanathan (Prakash Raj), in-charge of the negotiations with the hijackers, is under tremendous pressure as among the passengers is a Union minister. But when Yusuf Khan dies while being transported from an Army camp in Jammu and Kashmir, Major Raveendran (Nagarjuna) of the National Security Guard takes things into his own hands.
: After 'Azhagiya Theeye', 'Mozhi' and 'Abhiyum Naanum', Radhamohan ventures into uncharted territory with 'Payanam', a hijack drama. And therefore he falters, letting the movie drag in parts, but comes up with some intelligent twists to wrap up the movie neatly.
Hostage/hijack movies by definition need to be fast-paced and action packed to engage the attention of the audience. Though 'Payanam' starts off promisingly enough, Radhamohan, who is also in charge of the story and screenplay, loses his grip while trying to portray the interaction between the terrorists and their hostages. The best example of this is the scene where a hostage Subash (played by a Radhamohan favourite, Kumaravel) asks one of the hijackers for his gun (even though the magazine containing the bullets is removed) and plays with it. Also, most hostages show no sign of fatigue or worry even though they are in the custody of desperadoes wielding guns and carrying plastic explosives.
Prakash Raj graciously lets Nagarjuna shine in the action sequences while opting to play the role of a harried bureaucrat, desperate to save the lives of the passengers but unable to do anything because of the indecisiveness of other bureaucrats in the negotiating team.
The exchanges between 'Shining Star' Chandrakanth (Prithviraj) and his die-hard loyalist Balaji (Chams) are hilarious. The scenes are well-thought out and well-written too, and dialogue writer T J Gnanavel's "punch lines" for the Shining Star's movies are a roar. Also interesting are the sequences where a junior artiste is forced to don make up and masquerade as the leader of the Pakistani terrorists.
K Kathir has done an amazing job of recreating the Tirupati airport, with a lifelike tarmac to boot, at the Ramoji Film City in Hyderabad. The authenticity of the sets comes as a big help to the director in setting the stage for the drama that enfolds. And even though cramped by the limited space inside the aircraft, K V Guhan comes up with good visuals.
But editor Kishore should have been merciless with unnecessary footage to make the movie more tight. In fact, Radhamohan's 'Payanam' would have been a more engaging watch only if the journey was a littler shorter.