Aadukalam (Eng: Arena) is a 2011 Indian Tamil drama movie written and directed by Vetrimaran. The film stars Dhanush, Taapsee Pannu, V. I. S. Jayapalan and Kishore. The film was released on 14 January 2011 to positive critical feedback. The film won six awards at the 58th National Film Awards, including Best Director, Best Screenplay and Best Actor. The film was also felicitated with five awards in 59th Filmfare Awards South – Best Film, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Music Director and Best Cinematography. Based on an online poll by The Times of India, Vetri Maaran was chosen as the best director for Aadukalam. The Telugu dubbed version Pandem Kollu released on 30 January 2015.
In Madurai, veteran rooster trainer Pettaikaaran (V. I. S. Jayapalan) and police inspector Rathnaswamy (Naren) are tough competitors in cockfights and it is often Pettai who wins because nobody knows his way of maintaining the quality of the birds.
Karuppu (Dhanush) and Durai (Kishore) are the favourites in Pettaikaran’s team. Karuppu is very talented in breeding and training roosters. Durai is very rich and he owns three bars in Thiruparangundram town. He is also talented in cock training. Rathnasamy keeps insisting on having one last fight to win and satisfy his old mother’s wish but Pettaikaran declines to have any more fights with him because he feels Rathnasamy has lost faith in his roosters and will be using nefarious methods to win. Rathnasamy keeps insisting and tries to make him accept the challenge through cajoling, threatening, bribing and other vile acts.
Karuppu falls in love with an Anglo-Indian girl Irene (Taapsee) who dislikes him. He does not recognise this initially and keeps following her. One day the residents of Irene’s colony confront him and ask Irene to tell who she is in love with – Karuppu or Dinesh (Attakathi Dinesh), another man in the locality. She points her finger at Karuppu and he goes into rapture. She explains later that she had to lie in order to avoid Dinesh who has been bothering her for a long time. Later, Irene too falls in love with Karuppu.
Meanwhile, one of Pettai’s associates, a doctor-like for roosters, is killed in a hit and run accident. In a rage Pettai, suspecting Rathnasamy of the murder, agrees to the rooster fight and it is decided that their roosters will compete in the following tournament. If they fight against each other, the loser will get his head tonsured and must quit rooster fights. The grand state tournament is arranged by Pettaikaran’s team, getting funds and official permission. In the crucial fight, Rathnasamy brings high breed roosters from Bangalore. Karuppu asks Pettai to let his rooster fight against Rathnasamy’s but Pettai puts his rooster down and says he will choose the best competing rooster himself. Karuppu surreptitiously enters the contest before Pettai can choose the rooster because he needs to repay Irene for the loan he took to prepare his rooster for the fight. Pettai does not believe in Karuppu and his rooster and announces that Karuppu will not represent Pettai and the result of Karuppu’s match will not affect him. The ‘underdog’ however emerges victorious in three consecutive rounds even when the opponent has spiked his rooster to scald the other rooster. Karuppu gets best coacher award of the tournament and his bet money of 10 lakh (equivalent to 11 lakh or US$16,000 in 2013).
While initially Pettai is happy that Karuppu won, he is overcome with anger and jealousy by the end of the day. His ego is hurt by the fact that Karuppu earns both popularity and money, by refusing his judgement. Karuppu is not aware of the changes in his mentor’s mind. Pettaikaran is so jealous of Karuppu that at first he refuses to speak to anyone and then starts scheming. The money from the competition that Karuppu gives to Pettai for safe keeping, that he plans to use to start a business, suddenly goes missing. Pettai also starts spinning stories about his associates and makes everyone suspicious of each other. He incites Karuppu and Durai into pitting their roosters in a fight. Meanwhile, Karuppu’s mother dies of the shock of losing all the money. Pettaikaran meanwhile poisons all of Durai’s roosters making him suspect Karuppu, who is arrested for this. Pettaikaran then lies to Irene that his wife was in an adulterous relationship with Karuppu. Irene’s family also pressure her to move to Chennai which pushes her into attempting suicide. Pettaikaran meanwhile calls Karuppu to a location near a temple and informs Durai about his whereabouts. When Irene gets better, she calls Karuppu and informs him that Pettai is badmouthing him. So Karuppu, who puts 2 and 2 together, goes to find Pettai to confront him. Karuppu finds that Pettai was the one who stole his money, and Pettai kills himself. Karuppu does not want to reveal the fact to the public that his mentor was the criminal who stole his money and schemed against him, so he flees with Irene to start a new life in another city leaving the money with his friend.
Directed by Vetrimaran
Produced by S. Kathiresan
Written by Vetrimaran & Vikram Sugumaran (Dialogues)
Screenplay by Vetrimaran
Story by Vetrimaran
Starring Dhanush, Taapsee Pannu, V. I. S. Jayapalan
Music by G. V. Prakash Kumar
Edited by Kishore Te.
Production Group Companys & Five Star Films
Distributed by Sun Pictures
Release dates 14 January 2011
Running time 156 minutes