Vetrimaaran’s Aadukalam (Arena) is about literal and spiritual contests, whether it is a cockfight between rival gangs in Madurai or the battle for a woman’s soul.

Rooster trainer Karuppu (Dhanush) falls fast and hard for the shy Anglo-Indian Irene (Taapsee Pannu). When his friend tells Karuppu that he cannot get a woman like Irene, Karuppu makes it a point to prove him wrong. Does Irene reciprocate his feelings? It doesn’t matter for Karuppu.

All the romantic songs in Aadukalam (2011) are from Karuppu’s perspective. In the mellow Yaathe Yaathe, we get an insight into Karuppu’s entranced mind after he sees Irene properly for the first time. En Vennilave echoes Karuppu’s thoughts after Irene tells him that she does not love him. Ayyayo marks the moment after Irene has had a seeming change of heart, rekindling Karuppu’s feelings towards her.

The song that stands out in terms of its visuals is Oththa Sollala. Apart from Karuppu, Irene is also endlessly stalked by Dinesh, a neighbourhood rowdy. She is cornered on the street and asked to choose between Karuppu and Dinesh. She reluctantly points towards Karuppu.

Irene’s answer sends Karuppu into a ecstatic victory dance through the streets of Madurai. Dhanush is brilliant in the song – he hears Irene’s reply, turns, walks two steps, turns back, chuckles at his opponents and then walks off again before being gripped by a mad dancing fit. Barefoot and clutching his lungi in his hand, he matches the energy of GV Prakash Kumar’s composition. Velmurugan’s rustic voice captures Karuppu’s spontaneity perfectly. Yegathasi’s earthy lyrics – a butterfly flew and got stuck to my shirt, I’m bursting like a fire cracker, I’m going to get a ration card and tell the rest of the village the good news – describe Karuppu’s state of mind accurately.

It is a different matter that Irene picked Karuppu simply because she was more frightened of Dinesh. But in Oththa Sollala, at least for a moment, Karuppu has won.

The official Tamil version of the song is not available on YouTube, but the Telugu version is.

Ee Chitti Guvvena from Pandem Kollu, the Telugu version of Aadukalam.