As a regular Tamil cinema viewer, I found Chennaiyil Oru Naal (CON) not brilliant, but far, far better than the usual, run-of-the-mill commercial Tamil film. It takes guts to even attempt to make such a film in these times when every second film is either a love story or a revenge-drama. The film may be another racy thriller where all characters race against time, but it scores high on deft presentation and emphasis on the importance of organ donation.
Except for one major flaw featuring a leading actor in a cameo, CON stands apart as a film to look forward to. Based on the Malayalam film Traffic, CON intertwines the lives of certain characters and connects them through one common incident. In Vellore, the 13-year-old daughter of actor Gautham Krishna, named Ria, is in need of a heart transplant. Her condition is deteriorating with every passing minute even as the multi-millionaire father is ready to pay any price for a heart. Meanwhile, in Chennai, Karthik, a TV show host-cum-journalist, on his first day to work is knocked down at traffic signal by a speeding car.
At hospital, he is declared brain dead, with few hours left to live. A doctor, who has learnt about both the cases discusses the probability of donating Karthik's heart to Ria in not more than 90 minutes. The mission is to transport a heart from Chennai to Vellore, approximately 150 km, in about 90 minutes. Police commissioner Sundarapandian takes the responsibility of overseeing the mission, while traffic constable Satyamoorthy volunteers to drive the heart to the destination. Doctor Robin too, joins the mission.
Will Satyamoorthy and Robin be able to transport the heart on time? This forms the rest of the story. Based on true events that took place in Chennai few years back, CON is a rare gem in Tamil cinema that despite its hyperlink narration, succeeds in striking a chord with the audience. Initially, the film struggles to develop tension, but when it finally does, it only elevates it with some twists and revelations in the story.
The history of the characters is not narrated in the usual fashion, but aptly introduced at crucial junctures of the film, for us to understand the connection between the characters and what they have in common. It is very likely that some may find this attempt irritating, as it is a rather novel style of narration.
One of the annoying parts of the film is the cameo featuring Suriya. It is at this juncture that one realises how what, until that moment was an extremely good film, could possibly be ruined by a senseless cameo. This particular scene forces the film to tread the commercial cinema path even though it doesn't want to. Despite this shortcoming, CON is a neatly executed, one-of-its-kind gripping tale.
This is one of the biggest multi-starrer films in the history of Tamil cinema, yet all actors share equal screen presence. While not everybody shone in his or her role, in the main, the actors performed commendably.
Sarath Kumar as the police commissioner definitely stood out, while Lakshmy Ramakrishnan, in her powerful brief appearance tugs at heart strings with her performance. Cheran and Prasanna turn in decent performances.
Shaheed Khader shows skill and dedication in his work as the director. Not only does he make you hinge to the seats, he also makes you mull over the need for organ donors. Screenplay by Bobby-Sanjay definitely steals the limelight.
For once, this is worthwhile alternate cinema that deserves the time audiences will give it.