Dr Anjali (Revathy) and her husband Muralikrishna (Rao Ramesh) are at a theatre watching Sagara Sangamam for their 30th anniversary. It is the first film they watched together as a couple and they're here to re-live their memories. When Kamal Haasan appears on screen and breaks into his fiery dance, Dr Anjali blows him a kiss and giggles like a schoolgirl.
It's in moments like these that debut director Krishna Marimuthu's Yuddham Sharanam comes alive. At the heart of the film is this middle-aged couple - kind and generous but not irritatingly saccharine. For once, the parents of the hero are beyond the Amma-Naana stereotypes we're used to seeing. We know more about them, through a few deft strokes, than their usual concerns for the offspring's diet and marriage.
The romance between the film's hero Arjun (Naga Chaitanya) and Anjali (Lavanya Tripathi), too, is believable and grown-up. There is a warmth between them that doesn't quite match up to what Revathy and Rao Ramesh bring to the screen, but they are likeable and we begin to care about them.
However, the film is not about the family - it's about revenge with the family thrown in as the excuse.
It's here that the writing fails. We have a brutal villain (Srikanth) but other than knowing he really wants a lot of money (and which villain doesn't?) and that he has a big network, all we get is a few brooding expressions and pools of blood. Murali Sharma, as a corrupt investigating officer, and a minor villain who threatens the family earlier in the film, get better character arcs than Srikanth's character, who fits the one word description of 'thug'.
The narrative style keeps up the pace with swift flashbacks and little revelations but without a strong adversary, Yuddham Sharanam meanders to a predictable end for which the audience has to sit through plenty of violence and a loud background score.
There are logical loopholes, too. Sometimes the characters want no eye-witnesses at all and do things hush-hush and other times, they don't seem to care about the body count in public.
Parts of the film remind one of Saahasam Swaasaga Saagipo, and Naga Chaitanya gets enough chances to display heroics (including some impressive night vision fight sequences). But it's also his elevation from Mr Nice Guy to Mr I-know-Chinese-torture-techniques that proves to be the film's undoing. It just looks too easy and convenient in a film that looked quite believable in its first half.
As it stands, Yuddham Sharanam is a not-bad thriller. Just that one wishes Krishna had taken all his characters and made a romcom instead of getting them all beaten up for no good reason.