Vadivelu is probably the only comedian in decades to enjoy immense popularity and loyal following from toddlers to senior citizens in all classes of audiences. It is sad that the actor in his peak had to go into a self imposed exile due to misplaced political aspirations. He made a comeback last year with ‘Tenali Raman’ directed by Yuvaraj Dayalan which received a lukewarm response because the fans expected a lot more from him. This time around the same director has attempted a period film.
It is the 1960s and Vadivelu plays Elisamy a petty thief who, along with his two aides cheats people and takes off with the loot. Meanwhile the government has banned tobacco products and a gang headed by a hotelier Nagarajan (Pradeep Rawat) smuggles illegal cigarettes from foreign countries and poses a big challenge (!!!) to the police to nab him. Eli happens to break into the house of a retired IG and seeing his photograph on the wall tells his cronies that he had aspired to become a policeman, but the IG in the photo rejected him because his chest was an inch short. Eli is almost caught by police officer Shankar (Adithya) who visits the house, but Eli manages to escape with many valuables. The retired IG suggests to Shankar that the person who cleaned up his house is the right man to infiltrate the smugglers and help the police nab them. The rest of the story(!!!) deals with how Eli infiltrates the gang and finally gets to become a police officer.
Vadivelu is in full form as Eli and there are four to five scenes in the movie when he brings the house down with his dialogue delivery alone, but alas this powerhouse talent has been let down by poor writing and execution. The makers have advertised widely about Vadivelu’s seven different get ups, but none make even the slightest impact for no fault of Vadivelu but lack of imagination from the director. Sada looks pretty in the two scenes and two songs she appears. The man of the moment Mottai Rajendran appears in the jail sequence and the audience applaud and whistle expecting something special from him, but he is totally wasted in a one minute role in which even his face is not shown properly. ‘Naan Kadavul’ Krishnamurthy appears in one scene and steals the show. All the other actors like Bose Venkat, Pradeep Rawat, Santhanabarathy and Raj Kapoor have all sleepwalked through the film.
Vidyasagar has done a neat job in the background score with a distinctive sixties touch, but leaves a lot to be desired in the songs. Cinematographer Paul Livingstone is passable. Cannot believe the art work is by the legendary Thotta Tharani. At a time when new age filmmakers are making hilarious laugh riots with unknown faces and gaining huge reception from the audience, director Yuvaraj has failed miserably having the King of Comedy at his disposal. When watching ‘Eli’ one cannot help but assume that director went to the sets without a script and stringed together scenes on the spot. The entire first half is stranded and events happen in circles , completely disorienting the audience and whatever Vadivelu does to salvage it with his comic timing and expressions are wasted. ‘Eli’ rings in a timely warning bell to the ‘Vaigai Puyal’ that though he owns an unshakable place in Tamil cinema audience’s hearts he is in the danger of losing it if he continues with such pedestrian efforts. It is time for him to introspect and follow the great Nagesh who balanced his career to perfection playing the supporting roles regularly and ventured as a hero only when the script was extraordinary and ones that suited him.