There was a lot of interest around this week's dubbed release PULI, because of the presence of Sridevi in this big budget fantasy movie. Though Sridevi doesn't disappoint in the film, this big budgeted fantasy drama falters on many fronts. One can't help but compare it with S.S. Rajamouli's BAHUBALI because of the period setting and the cavalier father-son brave-heart-story; though PULI ends up looking like an ordinary cousin of the magnificent giant that created a rage few months back. Will Sridevi's much talked about comeback film be successful in 'PULI-ing' the audience to the theatres or will it just fizzle out at the box-office... let's analyze.
PULI begins with a back story that explains how 'Vetals' (evil vampire like beings) attacked and took over a number of villages in South India, which became their kingdom and they also got a similar base in North India. Soon the Vetals started looting their peace-loving human subjects. Now after years of being beaten down by Vetals, Magadheera (Vijay) is the only hope of the poor villagers for he's the only one who can put up a fight against the evil Vetal leader Jalatharangam (Sudeep) and his band of monsters. Queen Yamanadevi (Sridevi), to whom Jalatharangam reports to, is know for her magical power and seems to allow all the evil activities carried out by Vetals in her kingdom. However, there's more to her story than what meets the eye. Gorgeous Pavalamalli (Shruti Haasan) is the love of Magadheera's life, but then, there's Princess Mandakini (Hansika Motwani) who also has the hots for the macho Good Samaritan. Vijay dances on the insipid beats of listless songs with Shruti as well as Hansika and it is difficult to really understand his romantic inclinations. He is equally at ease with both of them. To add more 'fun' to the proceedings, you shall also be treated to a desi concoction of Gulliver's Travels with a scientific spin in the choice of names for the dwarfs. There are Einstein, Newton, Alpha, Beta and Gamma in this pre historic tale of 'unbelievable-ness'. And yes, there is the talking bird with a penchant for frequent wisecracks too. Phew! What ultimately happens to Queen Yamanadevi, is she really the wicked queen, whose love does Magadheera ultimately accept and does he manage to beat the evil Vetals and avenge the death of his father... is what forms the rest of the film.
Writer-director Chimbu Deven is best known for his simple, unorthodox films. But, when he attempts to make a big budgeted fantasy adventure film in the form of PULI, he fails and how. The biggest liability that he faces is the fact that BAHUBALI has been such a humungous success and the comparisons will make his efforts look pale. The problem with PULI is its weak screenplay. It lacks surprises and logical storyline. Add to the presence of too many bad songs that slow down the sagging pace by several notches. The overall pace of the film is extremely slow. The film's first half is a bewildering experience as to 'what-the-hell hit you'. The story picks up in the second half as Sridevi gets the momentum going. The persona of Magadheera and his brave dad reminds one of the dynamism of Dharmendra in DHARAM VEER. Everyone knows how big a hit that film was, despite its silly premise.
In the acting department, Vijay has attempted the fantasy genre for the first time and he looks at ease. He is one of the biggest stars of South India, but, somehow, even he can't save this film with a poor script. Shruti Haasan doesn't do much other than looking pretty. Hansika Motwani looks pretty, but surely needs to lose some weight if she plans to wear revealing dresses in a costume drama like PULI. Sudeep is a fantastic actor and displays nice venomous chops, which are sufficient enough for you to despise his onscreen persona. Prabhu puts in a fine supporting role. Sridevi towers above them all with her star presence. She has dubbed her own lines in Hindi (though a few lines in the end were clearly dubbed by someone else). Even though she looks magnetic, she really deserved much better character graph.
Devi Sree Prasad's music is a total let down. There's no songs that remains with you after the film or for that matter even add any value to the storyline. A. Sreekar Prasad's editing is lackluster and the long duration of the film is an absolute torture. Natarajan Subramaniam's cinematography is probably the best thing about PULI. He has made the scenic locales come alive in a big way. PULI is a VFX heavy film and the special effects are absolutely incredible. Sadly, there are certain portions that seem to be ignored where the VFX work looks tacky.
On the whole, PULI is a strictly average fare. Watch it if you are a Sridevi or a Vijay fan. Otherwise, this fantasy is a bore fest.