Cast: Arun Vijay, Mahima Nambiar, Thambi Ramaiah, Vamsi Krishna, Aishwarya
Arun Vijay plays Sherlock Holmes and Thambi Ramaiah his Dr Watson in director Arivazhagan’s gripping murder mystery, Kuttram 23 (Crime Number 23) that despite tackling a whole lot of issues, like uncontrollable male ego, blackmail and unethical medical practice, remains firmly grounded and believable.
Essaying a cop, Vetrimaaran, Vijay is asked to probe the strange death of Jessica, the wife of a leading television channel owner. She is found dead along with a church priest one night. In fact, the film begins on an eerie night outside a deserted church where we see Jessica getting off a fancy car and walking up to the priest for confession. No sooner had she confessed than the priest is murdered, and a panicky Jessica tries to flee.
Coincidentally, the first to walk into the scene of the crime is Thendral (a beautiful Mahima Nambiar), who becomes the obvious first reference of police investigation, with Vetrimaaran soon swooning over her.
But I must give it to the director, who steers his work from needless romantic distractions with just about one song, and enriches his work with taut editing (by Bhuvan Srinivasan) to get Kuttram 23 on a much higher plane than most other Tamil movies. With fantastic intercuts and minimal background score (what a relief), Kuttram 23 (referring to the 23 male chromosomes that help a woman conceive a child) may be seen as a powerful indictment of criminal methods used in the medical practice of artificial insemination.
The film flies higher with some memorable performances. Vijay is extraordinarily controlled when he could have gone overboard in a role that provided all the excuses for him to do so. Even in some of the most charged sequences, the actor maintains a certain dignified presence that is hard to come by in Tamil cinema. And even Ramaiah offers a toned down version of his usual self and what a welcome change this is. Though Nambiar has no meaty role, she engages us with her dilemma – which swings between extreme fear (watch that scene where she shuts herself in her flat with the killers prowling outside) and anger at having been sucked into a crime she has no clue about. Or role to play.
Yes, there are a few minuses like Arivazhagan’s tendency to play to the gallery by turning his cop into a superman. Look at his bravado when he walks into every conflict point without his men. No top policeman will do this unless he has this irresistible urge to commit suicide. And Vetrimaraan does not even use his firearm. He relies on his bare fists!
In spite of these weaknesses, I would still go with four stars, because Kuttram 23 is brilliantly scripted and directed – and of course ably acted out by especially Vijay.
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