Chennai, 27 Sep 2018 23:00 IST
While the filmmaker might have lost the plot in Kaatru Veliyidai (2017), he more than makes up for it in his latest presentation, starring Arvind Swamy, Vijay Sethupathi, Prakash Raj and others.
Director Mani Ratnam is back and how! Chekka Chivantha Vaanam aka Nawab in Telugu is a fascinating gangster story narrated at a brisk pace from start to finish, leaving no room for boredom to set in.
The ace director handles this powerful gangster plot with elegance and care and keeps you guessing till the end. The film has perfect casting, brilliant characterization and exceptional performances. In short, the movie is everything fans have come to expect from the famed filmmaker.
The film begins with Senapathi (Prakash Raj, Bhupathi in the Telugu version), a powerful industrialist cum businessman, who is also the head of a feared gang, paying a visit to a temple with his wife on the occasion of their wedding anniversary. On their way back, an attempt is made to kill Senapathi and his wife. The injured couple is rushed to a hospital and they are eventually saved.
The attack on Senapathi leaves his family rattled. Varadan (Arvind Swamy, Varada in Nawab), Senapati's eldest son and the one who takes care of the family business in his absence, is both scared and furious. He wants to know who plotted the attack and gets down to tracking the hitmen.
His brothers Thyagu (Arun Vijay), a streetsmart smooth talker who lives in Dubai, and Ethiraj aka Ethi (Simbu, Rudra in the Telugu film), a brash and rebellious youngster who has settled in Serbia, are informed about the attack. Both decide to return home, although at their own pace.
Senapathi has only one enemy who can dare to plot against him — Chinnapadas (Thiagarajan), who heads a huge gang himself.
Varadan realizes that the local police does not know who the hitmen were. So, he requests an old friend, sub-inspector Rasool (Vijay Sethupathi), to help him investigate. Rasool is under suspension for using brute force on an individual in another case and agrees to help Varadan.
Using unorthodox methods, he learns that the two men who attacked Senapathi are in Pondicherry. He informs the three brothers and they unite to nab them. Unfortunately, one of the hitmen gets killed and the other runs away.
Though Varadan has no proof, he is certain that the attack was the handiwork of the rival gang headed by Chinnapadas. despite Chinnapadas's repeated clailms that he had nothing to do with the event, Varadan kills his son-in-law in a tit-for-tat measure.
Meanwhile, Senapathi and his wife recover and are brought back home. The old man is troubled, for he knows the attack was planned by a family member. He senses trouble as he also knows that his sons secretly nurture dreams of occupying his chair after his death. He chides Thyagu and Ethi, and tells them to return to their respective homes abroad and they obey.
Senapathi broods over the future of his family but soon passes away. His death ends the peace and harmony that prevailed in the family. Soon, the war for his chair begins.
Mani Ratnam could not have asked for a better cast. Every single artiste seems to have been made for his or her character. What's more, all of them deliver. In fact, the performance of each artiste is so good that one is compelled to think there was a friendly competition on to see who outperforms the rest.
If indeed there was such a competition, it is Arvind Swamy as Varadan who emerges the winner. This is by far the actor's most powerful performance and it is also the best performance in the film. Every single expression he showcases is measured and accurate. He also seems to have a range of expressions in his arsenal, choosing at will which to use and which to hold back.
The anger, the power, the fear and the confusion — all of these are so beautifully brought out by Arvind Swamy that it transforms him into a person we have never seen before. In particular, there is a sequence in the film in which he bashes one of his gang members. The merciless beating removes any memories one may have harboured of the sweet, charming personality Arvind Swamy is normally associated with. Here is a determined individual who is not only ruthless, but also equipped to handle a gang of hard-core criminals.
The next best performance comes from Vijay Sethupathi as Rasool. Sethupathi’s performance stands out because of his dry, sarcastic and witty dialogues. Further, he delivers his lines in a nonchalant manner, adding value to the film. Also, Sethupathi's character does not stand out like that of Arvind Swamy from the start. He comes across like any other character in the film initially, but then starts to show his class as the story progresses. By the time the film ends, his performance is almost as good as that of Arvind Swamy.
Simbu as Ethi also comes up with a good performance. He plays the intelligent but whimsical and, at times, impulsive Ethi to perfection. His scenes with Sethupathi are just great. Both actors have distinctive styles of delivering dialogues. So, it is a treat to watch these contrasting characters meet in a situation of conflict.
Thiagarajan as Chinnapadas is also impressive. The veteran is just perfect for the role. Soft-spoken, firm, convincing and fair, Thiagarajan as Chinnapadas is a towering personality who carves his own space in this multi-starrer.
Aditi Rao Hydari as Parvathi comes up with a sterling performance. She just sizzles as the television journalist having an affair with Varadan. She appears only in a few scenes, but that is enough for her to leave her mark.
Aishwarya Rajesh and Jyotika Sadana, too, come up with excellent performances. Aishwarya as Renu, a Sri Lankan Tamil, has a limited role as opposed to Jyotika who plays Varadan’s wife Chitra.
If his artistes have delivered 95% through their performances, Ratnam's techinicians have delivered 100%. The director seems to have got the right people in all departments.
Cinematographer Santosh Sivan takes the film to an entirely different level through his lighting and shots. The colours are vibrant and make the visuals a treat for the eyes. The aerial shot he uses to showcase Chennai makes the city look so beautiful that you wonder if this is the city you have lived in all your life.
There is one other scene in which Varadan meets Rasool for the first time in the film. The scene is set in a building that is under construction. The manner in which Santosh Sivan places his shots is so beautiful that one cannot but observe the symmetry in them. In all, the cinematographer is impressive yet again.
AR Rahman’s music adds a whole new dimension to the film. The songs of the film might not have been very appealing when they were released separately earlier. But when you watch the film with the songs and the background score, you understand their significance.
Mani Ratnam might have lost the plot in his earlier Kaatru Veliyidai (2017), but he more than makes up for it with Chekka Chivantha Vaanam. All in all, there is only one word to describe this action-thriller — brilliant!
Watch the film's trailer below:
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