The first hour of Achcham Yenbadhu Madamaiyada (AYM) gives you what you expect in a Gautham Menon film — a breezy romance. And then, this breeze turns into a twister, wreaking havoc on everything in its path — not just the film’s characters and their lives, but the film itself! The film begins with an acknowledgment that it is inspired from a moment in The Godfather — the moment when Michael Corleone runs into Captain McCluskey — and we get a nod to this moment in a scene where a cop in the payroll of a politician, slaps the hero, undermining him and kindling within him something that he had only felt as a flicker — a fiery spirit.
But before we get to this moment, Gauatham gives us a romance that is so delicately written and delightfully presented onscreen. We are introduced to the hero (STR, who is wonderful both as a lovesick youngster and an angry young man). We are not given his name, an element which is integral to this plot. He is an MBA graduate trying to find his life’s calling, while whiling away time with his friends and the love of his life — his bike — and waiting for the girl of his dreams. The latter arrives in the form of Leela (Manjima, promising), his sister’s half-Tamil, half-Maharashtrian friend, who stays in their house for an internship with a filmmaker. The casual way in which he and Leela become friends gives us some of the film’s charming moments. They go on a road trip together, which brings them closer, but the pleasant journey is rocked by a freak accident that turns everything topsy-turvy.
The change in the film’s tone is sudden (the film’s earlier title, Sattendru Maaruthu Vaanilai, couldn’t have put it better) and jolts us out of the wistfulness into which the script, aided by AR Rahman’s soothing music, has lulled us into. We learn that the accident was no accident, and find an attempt has been made on the lives of Leela’s parents. Another attempt is made, but the hero saves them. And it is here that he runs into Inspector Kamath (Baba Sehgal), who comes across as another version of Inspector Shankar from Dhill. Soon, Leela and he are on the run, with Kamath trying his best to finish them off.
It is here that Gautham Menon slips and quite fatally. The film turns into an increasingly implausible action film where the only bangs are from the guns going off and not from the writing. From the hero’s confrontations with the villains to the final act — which tries to ride on the mystery around his name and explain the trail of violence with exposition — everything feels inorganic, suggesting a filmmaker grappling hard and failing to prevent his film from becoming convoluted. The promising road trip turns into an endless stretch.