Let’s face it – it was basically Chandramukhi, Aparichitudu and Ghajini. Only 3 movies from Tamil that worked big-time at the Telugu box-office in the last maybe 10 years. Not because we had suddenly developed an appetite for living through sorry dubbing or unintelligible scribbling in an alien language in our films, but since each of them had something really out of the ordinary in the tale which you simply did not get from Telugu directors (all 3 involved supernatural stuff); since each was really slick; and since each starred outstanding actors.
That experiment, however, seem to have impressed local businessmen enough to use the AP market like the last run of a sugarcane machine on a cane - to squeeze whatever little is possible from here out of a Tamil film that has already delivered the primary goods. So you have films like Aaru, Mazaa, Maha, Manmatha, Dhoolpet and more regularly hitting the screens, even if they are just the same run-of-the-mill stuff delivered by Telugu directors.
The deal is, if you have to sit through an alien starcast and Tamil written all over the place, the stuff needs to be something you cannot get here. Gaayam is certainly not that. It is, yes, just another Tamil dub (of Pattiyal). A film that might have had a good run in Tamil since it has some professional filmmaking and visuals, but provides nothing for a Telugu audience to persuade them to sit at one place for 150 minutes.
Siva (Bharat) is a deaf-and-dumb professional killer. He is best friends from childhood with Koti (Arya), a rugged drunk who’d adopted him when both were 6-year-olds. Together, they work with Swami (Cochin Haneefa), someone who gets them assignments to their hangout at a corner teashop.
Siva falls in love with Sandhya (Puja), an attendant at a pharmacy shop, and she too reciprocates unaware of his background. Koti is being pursued too, by Saru (Padma Priya), who takes long to manage to win the misogynist’s affections. The first half has all the characterization you need – nothing is happening except Siva courting and Koti spurning.
When Sandhya inevitably discovers what Siva does for a living, she simply cuts him off. The heart-broken Siva loses interest in everything, including his profession, and all of Koti’s attempts to get him to forget the girl do not work. Siva however agrees to do one last assignment which promises them big money – the murder of a high-profile person at Coimbatore.
Koti cannot make it with Siva since he gets into a problem locally, and the impaired Siva has to find his way around an unknown city. And Swami, who’s gotten them the contract, gets more money to add an extra specification to the feature-list for this assignment – both the killers have to be themselves killed after the assignment.
As just a stand-alone movie, Gaayam is good in parts. The relationship between Koti and Siva is done quite well, so much so that you are moved to tears when Koti is killed and Siva goes back to the place they lived, now all alone in the world. For a brief moment, it makes you think of a world where the person dearest to you, with whom you have so many memories, is suddenly no more .
However, the world of a deaf-mute – which is the one thing special about this film – is not brought out well enough. The courtship is too simple, and the situations for character-development too ordinary. How can he read and write? Why doesn’t he do it much more to communicate if he can read and write? How does he know in the end that his victim has a second wife? There are too many questions. Also, his eventual justification for being a murderer rings too hollow.
If you are making a key character deaf-mute, there has to be a reason to do it. Little makes the film different since Siva is impaired that way, which makes it just an unrepentant move to bring in some sympathy, and a lost opportunity to delve into the deeper corners that the premise has to offer.
Arya is quite good, and Bharat puts in a logical performance – this is certainly not Sanjeev Kumar of Koshish or Rani of Black, and it’s hard to say if it was the writers’ fault or the actor’s. All performances are good, and this is a film that might have worked if it were made in Telugu with Telugu faces. Being a dubbed film, it just becomes another story of cold-blooded killers who finally pay the price - which you know from the beginning they will, and which makes this a film that you are not eager to watch till the end.