Take one brave and brawny villager. Add a societal injustice, a corrupt politician, a handful of mob connections, spice the mixture up with a love story, songs and a comedy track, stir and serve in DVD format. Congratulations, you have just made a typical Tamil masala film.
This is exactly what Dhool, my first Tamil (or Thamizh as the South-Indian language would more correctly be spelled) masala film, is. But thankfully for my sake, Dhool was a good one. Maybe to the general public it's merely a solid film, but to me it's really special, perhaps being my first, perhaps just being that good. I love it to pieces.
And of course, it has these two. If the prejudice about chubby, unattractive old guys in Southie films had been strong in my head to begin with, Vikram would've negated that pretty quickly. Vivek, right in the above picture, on the other hand made for a safe landing into the comedy tracks of Tamil films; his comedy is language-based but aided by his fabulous acting that makes him funny to even me, who didn't know a single word of Tamil (of course, his comedy uses a lot of English, too).
Vikram plays Arumugam, a villager whose village's water has been polluted by a nearby factory. The villagers decide that taking the issue up with a minister who originates from the village should help matters, so Arumugam, Eeswari (Jyothika) and Eeswari's grandmother travel to Chennai to confront the minister. In Chennai they room with a friend of Arumugam's (Vivek) and are introduced to a second heroine, the glamorous model Sapna (Reema Sen). The water issue naturally isn't solved without a can of whoopass being released upon the baddies, and on the lighter side of things, a romance between the bickering Eeswari and Arumugam develops.
Dhool was one of those films I watched and couldn't get enough of afterwards; Vikram-Jyothika chemistry is just so cute here, the songs are catchy and goofy ("Kundu kundu" especially is one crazy picturization), the violence is entertaining enough and Vivek kills me with his comedy.
I knew I had to eventually get my hands on the other Vikram-Jo starrer, Arul. Again, there is a corrupt politician or rather an unjust system vs one man who kicks ass, and I'll admit that once you've seen this plot feature enough times, it does get tiring, kind of like the college-love-opposed-by-parents in Bollywood gets dull after a few movies. However, Arul's not a bad example of it - the songs are again delightful ("Ottiyanam sai" is the glitziest song I've ever seen!), Vikram-Jo chemistry works and Vikram's performance as Arul, whose father disapproves of him despite the good deeds that he has done, is a lovely one. The character has an utterly ridiculous complex about people swearing, though.
Not that I didn't mostly buy the DVD for the eyecandy, to be honest. I'd say Dhool's a better film of the two, with the caveats that if you've seen the plot too many times and the film doesn't make you a fan of its leads, you might consider it merely okay. And let it also be said I've never been alienated by film violence, unless it's particularly cruel (torture, for example). If you're one of those who cannot stomach any, you might want to give the mass entertainer portion of Tamil cinema a miss.