Just like in the game of chess, how a move by your opponent might totally catch you off guard, the proceedings in Magilzh Thirumeni's impressive action film "Meaghamann" achieves that. Interestingly, most of the film's characters are inspired by chess pieces -- king, rook, bishop and pawn. In the climax, when Siva (Arya) locks horns with the villain, Jothi, played by Ashutosh Rana, he slyly whispers in his ear "checkmate". Both Siva and Jothi are kings in their own world and that's what makes them equally strong, unlike stories in which the hero always has the upper hand.
The chess reference in the story is quite evident and Magilzh uses it very effectively to highlight some important moments. For instance, when we see the villain's close aid, Chitti, for the first time, the camera zooms in on his phone's back cover which has the image of a rook.
In chess, rook is considered the most important piece, a heavy piece to be precise, after the king. In the film, Chitti is next in hierarchy after Jothi. In another scene, Jothi is shown playing a game of cards on the road, and he repeatedly ends up picking up the king to symbolically highlight that he's the king. A small character of that of a Bollywood actor, who appears exactly in two scenes, wears a t-shirt reading 'pawn' the first time we see him on screen. These touches by the director are impressive and it shows Tamil filmmakers are gradually avoiding regular cinematic stereotypes.
Arya plays an undercover policeman in a drug cartel. A man on a mission, he has no distractions even when the heroine desperately tries to know more about him. The film would've worked better even without a romantic track but this is Tamil cinema, and we're used to the idea of having a heroine just for the heck of it even if it's not necessarily needed.
Hansika plays Usha, whose father runs a hotel named 'Usha Bhavan', and this joke is probably the dumbest moment in the film. In an impressive action film devoid of the genre cliches, instances such as these really makes one wonder what's wrong with the director. But Magilzh makes up for his silly mistakes by keeping the romance one-sided. Arya is an extremely busy man, so he doesn't waste time in singing duets with Hansika. But there's one intimate number as part of a figment of Usha's imagination.
The action is realistic; especially the pre-interval scene. But Meaghamann is more brain than brawn. In a standout scene, when Arya's operation is called off by the police department and he's wanted for the killing of over a dozen people, it's quite natural to think it's all over or expect the story to follow the path of a regular hero-centric action film.
What follows is the exact opposite and that's where I think the director proves he doesn't like to follow the herd. Magilzh impresses in similar fashion at regular intervals and almost lets us down in the climax, at least to an extent. But there couldn't have been a better climax.
Magilzh's narrative style isn't the best, considering how many times he goes back and forth to reveal crucial moments in the story. Although he does it convincingly, it isn't easy to appreciate the screenplay without pointing out a few flaws. It's a fresh approach and it's perfectly alright to not appreciate if one doesn't like it but he can't be discouraged.
It's such a relief to see Arya in a serious role after a slew of comic characters in recent times. He plays his part subtly without trying to be an action hero for once. Rana and Sudhanshu Pandey are decent in their respective roles, and the best part is that they don't speak Tamil in some fake accent even though the film is set in Mumbai and Goa.
"Meaghamann" is an almost satisfying action film going by Tamil cinema standards.