Saithan Review: If his Pichaikkaran was an old-fashioned masala movie, Vijay Antony’s new film, Saithan feels like a new-age masala movie. The film unfolds as a mystery thriller, but like the recent Achcham Yenbadhu Madamaiyada, it is only in the end that we realise that it is actually a mass hero movie masquerading as something else.
The film begins with Dinesh (Vijay Antony), a software engineer with a promising future and newlywed wife, Aishwarya (Arundhathi Nair), consulting a psychiatrist Shanmugam (Kitty) because he has been hearing a voice in his head that tells him to go and murder a mystery woman named Jayalakshmi. Jayalakshmi, the voice tells him, has murdered him in his previous birth — when he was Sharma, a school teacher in Tanjore — and urges him to avenge that crime. Dinesh tries to come to terms with these eerie occurrences by going to Tanjore and finding out more on Sharma and Jayalakshmi, but he is in a shock when he realises that Jayalkashmi looks exactly like Aishwarya! Does he do the voice’s bidding? Is there more to his predicament than meets the eye?
Conceptually, Saithan is quite similar to Anegan, which also involved past life regression, mind-altering drugs and revenge; even the heroes’ professional background is similar. And both owe the pulpiness in their premise to writers — the latter involved writer-duo Suba, while this one is loosely inspired by Sujatha’s Aaaah. But this film has a tone that is very different from that one (which was unabashedly over-the-top). For almost two thirds of its run time, Pradeep Krishnamoorthy treats it more like a psychological horror film. He is also more interested in mood-building, narrating his tale with a minimal set-up and solid production values. By casting veteran actors like Y Gee Mahendra, Charuhasan and Kitty, he sidesteps the need to establish their characters.
It is only when he gives us the answer to the mystery surrounding Dinesh that Saithan starts to feel like a lesser film, with caricaturish antagonists (a comic bit between Dinesh and the villain almost ruins the climax), over-the-top stunts (which feel like the result of Vijay Antony’s rising star power) and rushed-through revelations. The shift in tone is jarring, but thankfully, it doesn’t derail the film.