The detailing and the palpable tension that is built around the cock fight tournament are brilliant and very cleverly done. This makes Aadukalam a rather unique film. In trying to weave in a parallel narrative of the people involved, the film is literally split into 2 parts. The first part introduces and brings about the intricacies of the rivalry between Rathnasamy and Pettaikaran and ends with the climax of the cock fight tournament where Karuppu becomes the hero and Pettaikaran, who has groomed Karuppu, feeling sidelined. The second half of the film deals with how Pettaikaran tries to destroy Karuppu, rather laboriously one might add, climaxing on the absurd. Also, the forced repetitive cock fighting motifs make the film suffer from total overkill. Though the cock fight itself is banned in India, the director cleverly uses graphics in the real cock fights to keep away the censors and also to bring about more dramatic effects.
After the big success with his last film Polladhavan (2007), director Vetrimaran, has retained almost all the cast and crew for this film. But the new face Jayabalan playing the role of Pettaikaran, as the scheming, wily owner of the cocks, steals the show with an amazingly rooted performance. In a way, the film script largely centers on him. With excellent dubbing by Radha Ravi, his character really stands out. Dhanush as Karuppu, fits the role snuggly probably as he is the only established actor who can still carry off a role like this with some finesse, even though the script does not really support him. His love angle and dances are typical Dhanush style. The cocks in this film have absolutely no character other than fighting. I felt Dhanush's special relation to the cock that he is secretly grooming should have been properly built in the film along with the excitement of him falling in love. It would have brought a humane angle to the treatment of the animal and at the same time would have lifted the film immensely. New comer Taapsee, fits the bill as the Anglo Indian girl, but she is not convincing at all as Karuppu's lover. The scripting and motivation in this love angle is also pretty weak, so also the fleshing of other characters in the film, like the role of Rathnasamy who simply vanishes in the second half or Karuppu's mother (the sentiment factor), who is only there for emotional manipulation of the audience. At another level, the film did remind me of Na. Muthusamy's Tamil play - Padukalam (Battlefield), where the characters playing the warriors of Mahabaratha end up having real fights because of various issues that are brewing within the family of actors. As a strange coincidence, the actor Murugadas, who had played one of the lead roles in the play, also plays an important role in Aadukalam as Karuppu's close friend.
Cinematographer R Velraj has excelled in the nights scenes but his work is otherwise inconsistent. Music director GV Prakash Kumar's song number Aathey is rocking the charts already and the best composed song in the film. The editor too has excelled in thecutting of the cock fighting and other chase sequences but the pacing and the structuring of the film on the whole is inconsistent and problematic.
I really wonder what was the real motivation for Vetrimaran in making this film. It appears that he is merely cashing in on the excitement and popularity of cock fighting and feels that bringing in a novel idea is enough. But a film needs to go beyond that. Apart from the treatment of the cock fight tournament itself, the scripting and the structure are pretty weak in terms of building characters and plot points. The second half of the film, in particular, is like any other chase thriller film one has seen hundreds of times. I felt it would have been a better idea to weave in the cock fight and rivalry between the people together, thereby layering the film rather than making it look like two separate films.