Chennai, 20 Oct 2018 17:10 IST
Updated: 20 May 2019 20:44 IST
Vetrimaaran lays the base for a fantastic story in the first of a three-part series. He does such a good job that you wish he had made the second and third parts as well.
As I sit down to review Vada Chennai, I struggle to arrive at a decision on how to describe it. Should I call it a film with an interesting and innovative style of narration — one that Tamil audiences are not familiar with? Or should I describe it as the story of a woman who manipulates situations, individuals and conditions to exact revenge for the death of her husband?
Or would it be better if I called it a story that shows how a murder can have far-reaching consequences not just for those involved in it, but also for those who are in no way connected with it?
Whatever I choose to describe it as, I am sure I will not be able to define it in its entirety. I could think of scores of other definitions, each valid in its own way. But then, Vada Chennai is all of these and more. That is the depth of the plot of this film which Vetrimaaran has handled with the skill of a master craftsman.
Vetrimaaran, who has already proved his class with films like the National award-winning Aadukalam (2011) and the spine-chilling Visaranai (2016), breaks the regular pattern of storytelling by opting for this new and brilliant narrative style.
The film begins with four people, Senthil (Kishore), Guna (Samuthirakani), Velu (Pawan) and Java Pazhani heaving a sigh of relief after committing a murder. They truly believe the murder is a solution to all their problems and will ensure a peaceful life for all of them for the next 25 years or so. Little do they know that the murder is not only going to change their lives and haunt them forever, but also the lives of scores of others who are not directly connected with it.
I am not going to breathe even a word more than what I have said as doing so will only take away the joy of watching a masterpiece. Instead, I will say that the film is unique in the sense that it is told in portions that focus on two or three characters at a time and the equations among them and how their relationships with one another and those around them affect the overall story.
Each portion might have other characters from the film strolling in, but it dutifully follows in detail only the thought processes, decisions and moves of the characters it is showcasing. The net result is that you get an exceptionally interesting, intensely intriguing plot that leaves you wondering who is right and who is wrong and what is going to happen next.
Be it Anbu’s interpersonal relationship with Chandra, or Anbu’s relationship with Padma and Rajan, or Rajan’s relationship with Guna and Senthil, or Chandra’s equations with Rajan, Senthil, Guna and Velu, each segment of the first of the three-part franchise elaborates in detail and style the history of each character and its personal traits and characteristics.
For instance, Senthil is ambitious and has a preference for power and leadership over loyalty, while Guna rates loyalty over power and position. However, as the film progresses, you begin to realize that these preferences can change.
With the passage of time, the priorities of the characters begin to change, and in this ever-changing, dynamic equation, the lives of those who have no wholistic view of the situation get affected.
Each character has a unique thought process with its own motives and ambitions. Each uses a trait or skill it believes is its strength to achieve its motives.
The film beautifully showcases how each character uses one of the many factors — money, power, position, sex, loyalty and trust — to alter the situation to its benefit. The film also points out how loyalties can change in a matter of minutes.
In other words, the film has a plot that is deeply layered and bound to be a delight for anybody looking to understand human behaviour.
It is a mind-boggling equation that Vetrimaaran puts out for our consumption in Vada Chennai. Each aspect of the film is well researched and showcases what goes on behind the walls of the prison. Vetrimaaran narrates with authority the happenings inside a prison like he was actually there.
It is not just in the storytelling department that Vetrimaaran scores. He scores in four other crucial departments. The first is casting. Every person chosen for a role in the film is so apt that you can't think of a replacement.
Take Andrea Jeremiah, who plays Chandra. Who would have thought of picking Andrea, an actress who has until now been seen as an urban, upper-middle class, Anglo-Indian woman, to play a slum dweller and smuggler? Well, Vetrimaaran has, and he has been proved right.
Be it Ameer Sultan as Rajan or Aishwarya Rajesh as Padma, every character comes to life because the artiste playing it is so apt.
Dhanush as Anbu is just brilliant. He showcases different time periods in his character's life with ease and elegance. Be it as the youngster whose life revolves around carrom and whose dream is to land a central government job someday through the sports quota, or as a determined young man who will do anything to repay an act of generosity, or as a naive individual whose loyalties are exploited, or as a leader with an understanding few thought he would gain, the actor is just perfect, showcasing each trait and emotion perfectly.
Aishwarya Rajesh as Anbu's girlfriend also delivers a commanding performance. She plays the role with such authority that one cannot imagine anybody else in her place. Her chemistry with Dhanush is so convincing that you really take them for lovers.
G Kishore Kumar is magnificent as Senthil. Initially coming across as a traitor, then assuming the role of gang leader, and finally going on to portray a badly wounded gangster confined to a wheelchair, he is a delight to watch.
Andrea as Chandra is equally amazing. The transformation she has undergone for this character takes your breath away. Samuthirakani, Daniel Balaji and Pawan are also all impressive. Each artiste is a class act and offers you a treat.
Cinematographer Velraj, who has been Vetrimaaran's trusted lieutanant, does not disappoint this time either. His shots and angles are spectacular and so is his lighting.
In sum, Vetrimaaran has laid the base for a fantastic story in the first of a three-part series. He does such a good job that you wish he had made the second and third parts already.
Vada Chennai was screened at the 14th Habitat Film Festival at New Delhi's India Habitat Centre on 19 May 2019 at 11 am.
Related topicsHabitat Film Festival
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