Red Sandalwood is a well-intentioned film, which loses steam within a few minutes into the narration, due to the badly executed screenplay
Story: A youngster from north Madras goes to Tirupati in search of his girlfriend's missing brother, but ends up uncovering a major scandal that threatens people's lives. Will he be able to get back home safely?
Review: The very mention of red sandalwood might conjure up the images of Allu Arjun's blockbuster Pushpa : The Rise. While Allu Arjun played a coolie named Pushparaj, who goes to become a top smuggler of the red sanders in the Sukumar film, in Red Sandalwood, Prabha (Vetri) tries to save a bunch of vulnerable Tamil people who get lured into smuggling of the wood due to their abysmal financial condition.
Red Sandalwood (earlier titled Red Sandal) begins with an animation on how people in the days of yore used the wood to their advantage, including reaping the plethora of health benefits. It also throws light on how red sanders emerged as one of the most smuggled woods in the forest, so much so that even a forest minister sells them for triple the price.
Red Sandalwood is an interesting idea on paper, but it is completely let down by poor writing and execution. The film's runtime is hardly 1 hour and 32 minutes, but despite that, it feels like the story is stretched beyond limits.
This is because none of the characters are etched well and hence, the audience is unable to connect with any of them. Moreover, majority of the dialogues are in Telugu considering the film is set in Tirupati. Even the important supporting characters like that of Ganesh Venkatram's end up speaking only in Telugu, which brings in a certain disconnect to the narrative.
When it comes to script choices, Vetri has always opted for interesting ideas, be it 8 Thottakkal or Jiivi. The film begins on an interesting note when Prabha is on the lookout for the person who credited a whopping amount into his account at a bank in Renigunta. Later, when his friend Karuna (Kabali Vishwanath) goes missing and Prabha goes in search of him, we expect things to get interesting, but the plot soon loses steam.
The arrival of MS Bhaskar piques one's curiosity and we expect a repeat of 8 Thottakkal, but the veteran actor's character only ends up as an extended cameo without adding any depth to the narration. The scenes involving the red sandalwood smuggling kingpin Harimaran (Garuda Ram), too, are mundane, typical of the villains that we have seen dime a dozen. The clash between Prabha and Harimaran, too, is uninteresting and begins to test our patience after a while.
Vetri tries to salvage the film with his earnest performance but the weak writing pretty much lets the entire narration go for a toss. The film's director Guru Ramanujam tries to strike a balance between stirring up empathy for the many characters, be it Marimuthu or MS Bhaskar ( who are all killed off in a jiffy) and weaving in certain commercial elements to up the entertainment factor, but ends up invoking none.
Verdict: The weak characters and poor narration relegates Red Sandalwood to a below average fare.