Obeli N Krishna's Pathu Thala is based on a Kannada film named Mufti, and even if – like me – you have not seen the original, you know it is a better movie. Why? Because if it had been as slapdash and incoherent as this remake, no one would have bothered to remake it in the first place. The super-contrived first half is essentially a long wait for the star-reveal shot. Silambarasan – named Raavanan (hence the title) – is an underworld figure so big that he controls the government. In an early scene, we see him in the shadows. The slow (and slo-mo) face reveal occurs at interval point, when he gets down from a black helicopter wearing black attire and enters a black car and does black deeds, like beheading someone. Who is this someone? It could be a good quiz question. I don't think even the director cares. This "someone" is just a man to show how cool Raavanan is.
Everyone is just a generic "someone" in the pre-interval portions. Priya Bhavani Shankar is a "someone" who is a good person. Gautham Vasudev Menon is a "someone" who is a bad person. Kalaiyarasan is a "someone" who's Muslim. Santhosh Prathap is a "someone" who's the CM. (Hilariously, he goes missing and no one seems to miss him for the longest time.) Gautham Karthik is a "someone" who acts mysterious – though at least, in time, his motives become clearer . Various tough guys are just "someones" who talk tough and act tough. No character has weight or definition, and the first half is a mess of happenings that could have been sequenced and edited any which way. Had a fight or a dramatic scene been switched in the chronology, nothing would have changed. What makes it worse is the fast-forward mode of storytelling that has become so popular these days, where speed takes precedence over atmosphere and narrative cohesion. Who could have guessed that Hari would be the far-sighted architect of modern cinema!
Silambarasan dominates the second half and single-handedly saves the movie… to an extent. He plays a "someone" character, too. His Raavanan is a randomly written grey-shaded character, with a random emotional angle with his sister, and random business interests. Even the references to the Kamba Ramayanam are random. We find several copies of the book but not much is done with the secrets they contain. All we get is something that someone is going to "decode" thus: Ooh! His name is Raavanan and he carries copies of the Ramayana. But Silambarasan is so composed, he sells the hell out of his scenes. This is the very definition of star presence and a star performance: he makes us buy the bullshit. His fans went crazy over every punch line and "mass" moment, but even non-fans are likely to see him as this film's saviour. He does far more for the movie than the movie does for him.