The fact that I really liked about Asuravadham was that the film, for the most part, ‘shows and not tells.’ There is some solid writing from director Maruthupandian. When we first see Samayan (A convincing and effective Vasumithra), he is swayed by shadows. The film takes no time to establish who the ‘Asura’ is and the chase starts off almost immediately. When Samayan gets his first death threat, you might think he panics easily. But as the film rolls by, you see that he has reason to. It is interesting that the main objective of both Saravanan (Sasikumar) and Samayan is not to just kill each other. Saravanan wants to taunt Samayan, to see him suffer and the latter wants to know the identity of his tormentor. The demon here is one with too many skeletons in the closet; so much so he isn’t able to identify which deed of his has come back to bite him in the rear.
The first half of the film is extremely engaging with some intelligent sequences placed in. The cinematography by SR Kathir is impressive. The lens constantly switches between third person and first person. Thus, it acts as a stealthy spy (from Saravanan’s perspective) and it also searches for answers (from Samayan’s perspective). It places us in the midst of the action. However, it holds back a few punches, wilfully misleading the viewer at places to make sure the suspense isn’t lost. There a few shots that make for a good visual experience even though it might not seem logically possible. For example, Samayan recognises Saravanan in a dark field from his lit cigarette. Standing close to a light source himself, it isn’t possible for Samayan to spot such a dim source of light across a few yards. However, it still makes for a visually intriguing shot. Similarly, a fight sequence is constructed with the light from lightning but the screen lights up in such continuous intervals that you wonder whether Zeus has a stopwatch in hand.
Despite this, Asuravadham looks good. The dominantly backlit cinematography further elevates the drama in the frames, emphatically aided by Govind Menon’s background score. The Thaikudam Bridge frontman’s score is an extension of what the brand of music the band is known for. Also, Govind’s score, with its grungy guitars and native percussions, doesn’t overreach.
Asuravadham’s screenplay shows some real promise but with some lapses. It answers several questions smartly as the film runs but leaves some questions unaddressed. For example, how did Saravanan get support from the hotel boy? Here is where the film traipses into familiar Kollywood-esque paths, reaching its peak when Samayan’s wife gives Saravanan a character certificate. Most of these moments come in the latter half of the film leaking the steam built up before half-time. Thankfully, the damage is minimal.
Sasikumar maintains a deadly poker face for most of the film that augurs well for the actor’s heavily bearded face. So much so that it doesn’t matter that Sasikumar has very few dialogues in the entire film; in fact, the shakiest bits are Sasikumar’s outbursts of emotion. Sasikumar, in an interview, had said that he did provide suggestions during Asuravadham’s making. He also assured that he would return to directing soon. Asuravadham does feel like a Sasikumar film and that leaves me more excited about his return to direction.