COBRA (2022)

Chiyaan Vikram and Srinidhi Shetty in a still
  • Platform: SonyLiv
  • Release Date: 31/08/2022
  • Cast: Chiyaan Vikram, Srinidhi Shetty, Roshan Mathew, Irfan Pathan
  • Director: R. Ajay Gnanamuthu

Brimming with energy and non-stop entrainment, Cobra scores with its leading actors, able direction and investing screenplay

— Ambar Chatterjee

Cobra chronicles the story of Mathi (Chiyaan Vikram), a mathematical genius who uses his mastery over numbers to devise elaborate and complicated assassination plots and takes down people who are considered untouchable. He is also a master of disguise and uses his skills to the best of his advantage. Things take an interesting turn for Mathi when he starts believing that he might be hallucinating some of the most important people and events in his life. His world is further torn between his job of assassinating people and his bottled-up love for Bhavana (Srinidhi Shetty), a beautiful and talented professor who loves him unconditionally and would not take “no” for an answer from him. Things are further complicated when an equally smart and resourceful Interpol officer, Aslan (Irfan Pathan) starts pursuing Mathi and keeps getting precariously close to him and his scenes of crimes.

Films like Cobra have been a norm and high points for someone like Chiyaan Vikram. It feels very similar to films like “Anniyan”, “Irumugan” or even Shankar’s blockbuster “I” superficially. Thankfully it turns out be a very different film in its nature and treatment and proves to be interesting, investing, and exciting almost throughout its runtime. The film is nearly 3 hours long and thus to have a few moments where the momentum dips is not a big deal. What was important was for the director to ensure that the dip in the momentum was not prolonged and that the film bounced back with gusto from every single one of these dips which it does consistently.

The story is simplistic in nature but the execution of it is complete with flashbacks, diversions, and a cerebral world created around the mental state of Mathi that ensures that there are twists and turns at every nook and corner of the storyline and that the film maintains a sense of urgency, freshness, and surprise throughout. Most of the surprises are also tied in with emotional and dramatic angles involving the characters leading to increased audience interest in the proceedings. While the over-the-top nature of the plot, storytelling, and character development might make many raise questions about the credibility of the story and the screenplay, I was able to suspend my disbelief and be on the same page with the characters and the story. This ensured that I had a consistently good time with the film.  

Chiyaan Vikram is sensational as the titular character. He has a way around roles like these and he brings his A-game to the fore in the film. There are many aspects of his character that I don’t want to spoil here since many haven’t watched the film yet but these aspects not only add gusto to his performance but also make his realization of the character of Mathi unique and different from his other essays of similar nature. I loved his camaraderie with the other characters in the film that felt natural and increased the likeability of the character along with that of the supporting cast.

Chiyaan Vikram (center) in a production still

While many are sighting the romantic angle between Chiyaan Vikram and Srinidhi Shetty to be half-baked and inorganic, I thoroughly enjoyed their give and takes. Srinidhi Shetty was especially forthcoming in her essay and finally got a chance to emote and go a little over the top in her essay after remaining quiet for most of the time in a film like KGF 2. Her frustration at not being able to reach out to Mathi and not understanding what he wanted was expressed exceptionally well. I thoroughly enjoyed the small portion where Mathi finally agrees to marry her and her reaction to it during the different ceremonies and rituals of their forthcoming marriage. Her expressions were so life-like and reminiscent of someone who had finally disarmed a man who eluded her forever, that it immediately struck a chord with me and appealed to a finer sense of fulfillment and satisfaction in me. It must also be added that she has a screen presence that is worthy of holding up to someone like Chiyaan Vikram who has the habit of eating up the scenery and everyone else in it.

Irfan Pathan in his film debut is given a generic character that goes nowhere. While he is spelled out to be brave, intelligent, and resourceful, his character ends up doing very little. The character of Aslan spends most of his time pursuing Mathi and never being able to catch up to him. While his essay leaves little to be desired, it is the character that doesn’t let us appreciate his performance as much as we would have liked to.    

Roshan Mathew as the primary antagonist of the film is the most one-dimensional villain that I have seen in a Tamil film in recent times. It has to be agreed that if it was not for Mathew’s charisma and deft touches, the character would be unbearable. This character needed to be written better and it would have done a world of good for the film if that was the case. Unfortunately, that is not the case and this liquidates a lot of the good work that Mathew does from a performance point of view.  

The action of the film is scintillating. While Vikram’s age and his inability to do many of his own stunts prove to be a stickler for the editor to edit the action sequences in a manner that he would have liked to, the director, cinematographer, and the VFX team more than makes up for these lacking using dramatic execution of the action sequences complete with over-the-top expression and a constantly changing but effective background score that elevates the hand-to-hand combat sequences to a higher level. One of the best examples of these is the sequences where we see Mathi fight off a gang of men sent after him by the primary antagonist. The final bits of this action take place on higher ground with Mathi single-handedly killing off all the goons in an emphatic fashion.  

a poster of the film

The cinematography of the film was beautiful. The combination of good cinematography and proficient VFX make some of the scenes laudable. I was surprised by how good the makeup of the film was, especially for the different avatars of Mathi as he leaped from one character to another. My favorite of the lot was the Priest and the Russian journalist. Vikram was nearly unrecognizable in these avatars. Even the other avatars of the character were almost equally convincing.

I had a great time with Cobra and would not mind watching it a few times more to get all the nuances of the film. It is a very dialogue-heavy film and most of the dialogue is spoken at a pretty fast rate. Thus, until the Hindi dubbed version of it is out, it will continue to be a chore to sift through all the fast dialogues using subtitles. It is, however, an effort that is well rewarded by the sheer entertainment quotient that the film has to offer. Vikram and Srinidhi’s performance, an interesting and investing plot, smart use of VFX and different storytelling troupes, and able direction by R. Ajay Gnanamuthu make Cobra an investing and entertaining watch.

Rating: 3 out of 5.


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