Ajith Kumar stars in a derivative but splashy and colourful action-fest
The tonal shifts of a Bollywood blockbuster sit uneasily in Arrambam, a crowd-pleasing melodrama that’s two thirds a revenge story set in the world of computer espionage in the style of Swordfish, with the other third a mixture of musical sequences and low comedy; the fat suits and fart gags sit uneasily with the lectures about police and government corruptions. The legions of fans of durable star Ajith Kumar are unlikely to be too bothered; the distinctive salt-and pepper hair are rarely tousled as he shoots down baddies, rides motorbikes and speedboats with elan and generally cements his credentials as a Bollywood action star.
Ashok Kumar is introduced blowing up three Mumbai public buildings, and the first half of director Vishnuvardhan’s hefty 157-minute thriller plays cleverly with the moral ambiguity of his character. Kumar enlists unwilling computer hacker Arjun (Aarya) to help his plotting, taking his newscaster girlfriend as hostage. The first half of Arrambam is a cat and mouse game between the two men, but after Mumbai police apprehend them both, the film’s second half explains Kumar’s real motivation, uncovering a conspiracy to conceal faulty equipment provided to police by unscrupulous arms dealers.
Stripping away the crude comedy and the jolly dance routines, the clear influence is the techno-thrillers of Michael Mann, but even he would blush at the un-recycled clichés; a bomb disposal expert hesitating between red and green wires, or villains begging for their lives as they hang one handed from Dubai landmarks.
The result is a derivative but splashy and colourful action-fest that makes the most of a charismatic star-turn from Kumar. What’s missing is any real sensitivity to the material; Vishnuvardhan stages his set pieces with style, but the uneasy mixture of genre styles places Arrambam firmly in the file marked disposable entertainment.