Kireedam is a remake of a Malayalam film of the same name from 14 years ago. The original, inspite of having a star like Mohanlal in the lead, seemed to revolve around a father's dreams for his son and his sadness as the dreams come crashing down. With Ajith in the lead, the Tamil remake is understandably more hero-centric. It is only a small shift, which by itself is a pleasant surprise, but that is all that is needed to dilute the emotional core of the film and make it seem more like a retread of many other rowdy-themed Tamil films than the remake of a classic.
It is pretty obvious that Ajith is pretty confused about the direction his career should take. A bit too old to play the loverboy roles that brought him stardom, box-office success and some of his most memorable roles, he opted for the masala route, playing image-boosting, fan-targeted roles in several masala films. They didn't bring him much success with only a few hits in the middle of a long string of flops. With Aazhwaar being a particularly huge dud, he has opted for a change of pace with Kireedam. It is a down-to-earth story where sentiments play a key part and the film eschews things like punch dialogs and graphics-aided stunts, which have become staple fare in films by our heroes. It is a welcome move by the actor and a step in the right direction to be taken seriously as an actor again.
Rajarajan(Rajkiran), a head constable at a police station in Tiruchi, has only 1 dream in life - to see his eldest son Shaktivel(Ajith) join the police force as a sub-inspector. Shakti seems well on his way to fulfilling his father's dream as he is called for an interview. Things progress smoothly on the personal front too as Shakti falls for Divya(Trisha) and their families accept their romance wholeheartedly. While he is away for the interview, Rajarajan gets transferred to Kodikarai, a troubled area where a local dada Varadhan(Ajay) holds sway. Shakti is forced to clash with Varadhan when he attacks Shakti's father and that sets off a series of events that threaten Shakti's attempts to join the force.
The movie doesn't quite set things in place for the emotional impact it hopes to extract later. There are some sequences that work(like the confusion in Ajith's house as Trisha enters searching for the thief) but the proceedings are never engrossing(the abrupt editing could have something to do with it too). Rajkiran and Ajith do create a likeable father-son pair but the emotions never reach the level needed to draw us in. The romance between Ajith and Trisha is also quite superficial. The effect of this lack of emotional depth isn't seen until much later though. The characters go through a lot of pain and suffering but we watch them with a detached air.
Its quite possible that the story of a man who is forced to turn to violence due to circumstances was new when the Malayalam original was released. But we only recently had a slew of movies in Tamil where the hero was a rowdy. Though most of these had a protagonist who was a rowdy by choice, there were a few(like Thamizh, Agaram, to name a couple) where the unwilling hero was pushed into a life of rowdyism. That's what happens to Ajith here and so everything seems too familiar. The lawless area, the all-powerful dada, the situation where Ajith turns to violence for the first time - everything is completely predictable.
While family always played a part in the other movies where the hero turned rowdy, that aspect is given a much bigger focus here and that's where Kireedam differs from those movies. Rajkiran sees his dream crumbling down a little bit more with each new act of Ajith and that is more effective than Ajith's frustration about things spiralling out of control. And its not just Rajkiran. Though the others in the family get far less screen time, there is a wonderful, wordless scene late in the movie around the dinner table that shows just how much they all love Ajith. This love is in the background whenever Ajith does something that pushes his family's dream further away.
Considering Ajith's star status, the direction the movie takes towards the end comes as a surprise. The fight sequence feels real and is not cinematic and the film manages to end on a powerfully ironic note.
Ajith manages to forget that he is a star and has let the actor in him again peek out. He downplays the role and that is exactly what the role needs. He is especially impressive in the last scene(there is a 'showcase' scene where he cries out but it is in the scene before, where he uncontrollably screams at Rajkiran, that I thought he was excellent). Trisha plays her usual role and doesn't bring anything special to the table. Rajkiran plays almost the same role he played in Thavamaai Thavamirundhu and brings believability to it. Saranya too joins him. Vivek has a few funny lines and so does Santhanam. Ajay, looking a little bit like Surya, is a usual villain, shouting and screaming but eventually not very effective. Vizhiyil... and Kanavellaam... are the best songs on the soundtrack and they earn the top spots on screen also. They both play in the background without any lip-syncing and that works. Akkam Pakkam... is pleasing to the eye with its nice settings and a pretty Trisha.