VADA CHENNAI Movie Review: The Anbu Trilogy …begins!

During the latter half of the movie, we are watching the episode of a good-hearted gangster in the 80s, a smuggler who has won the hearts of the people of his locality with his generous deeds. In one of the scenes, we see the man walk down the dock discussing business as usual, but hands down a pair of binoculars as a gift to a young boy waiting at the shore.  It is much later that it dawns that what we witnessed was also a handover of viewpoints right there, as we find that this boy grows up and stands as a voice of rebellion for the common man against the politicians and scheming corporations decades later much like the gangster was back in his glory days.

Neither of these two men mentioned here though is our lead man Anbu. Anbu (Dhanush) is a goody next door boy who aspires to be a state-level carroms player or ‘flayer’ as they refer in the movie. He always hoped to live the straight forward clean life, but Vetrimaaran’s movie is about how this lad gets sucked into the whole revenge thirsty gangster politics of the hood. And once sucked it, there seem to be no going back.

Of course, the binoculars do come into play. Anbu uses the binoculars to locate the girl he ran into the other night. He spots her, woos her and then, in an attempt to stand up for his love, ends up getting into a scuffle with one of the local gangster. From here on, destiny takes him on a different path where he finds caught between the gang rivalry. And here he opts to stand for the people who helped in the time of crisis.

However, as the  years go by. it all  eventually takes a toll on him and now Anbu, married and matured, realizes that it is eventually time to stand up for what he truly believes in, come what may.

Welcome to Vada Chennai, or simply put –Once Upon a Time in North Chennai. The tale of a young lad who unwittingly ends up being a part of the dreaded gang war of the hood- the very thing he hoped to avoid.

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Director Vetri Maaran who has earlier given gems like the national award winning Aadukalam and Visaranai, has come up with yet another stellar work in the form of Vada Chennai – which is said to be the first of a trilogy. It is an ambitious project and Vetrimaaran has come out with a film that Tamil cinema definitely can be proud of in years to come.

It is the gritty realistic portrayal and firm storytelling skills that comes to the fore. Vetrimaaran smartly employs a non-linear narrative which sees the story slip in and hop from one decade to another without ever getting the audience confused. He weaves the narration around important events of history like the passing away of MGR, or the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi. Also, the movie is narrated in chapter format of various episodes of Anbu’s life which means every time the narration begins to lag, there is an interesting chapter around the corner and you find yourselves hooked back again to the happenings of these people. There is no bowing down to commercial factors, there is no cheap double meaning comedies to keep frontbenchers happy…heck, there is no whistle-inducing entrance even for the lead man.

And yet there is so much happening here. It all begins with the death of Rajan (Ameer). What we are immediately thrust into is a brief update on the various gangsters and characters who are immediately affected by the removal of this vital gang leader. Each of them is interestingly depicted that the director can move into the backstory of any of these characters with ease and we would not raise a complaint. Such is the potential of the world that Vetrimaaran has intricately created, that is warrants for a Netflix/Amazon miniseries.  And why not, because as per the director himself, he has written around five-six hours’ worth of material from which he has narrowed down it to this 166-minute film. Not only does he keep you engaged, he leaves us wanting more.

The plot has ample doses of rich Shakespearean drama as Vetrimaaran lays out his epic tale of betrayal, loyalty and deceit in the narrow lanes of North Chennai. Those who enjoyed those themes in Aadukalam, is certain to get a kick out of this one as well.  The whole thing may play out like a standard gangster fare and does make no attempts to take you by surprise. In fact, you can see where things are headed from miles away, but the scenes are built up in such fine fashion that you are watching it from the edge of your seat in anticipation. One of these sequences is the assassination attempt of one of the gangsters in prison leading us to the interval block. The other is the confrontation scene during a marriage where we watch how things shall unfold, lest it does spill into a Game of Thrones style ‘Red Wedding’.  And of course, the scene where Rajan discovers his gang’s true intention.

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Dhanush has emerged to be a superstar over the last decade, no doubt. But here the actor in him takes precedence. The actor is pretty much relegated to the backdrop for much of the portions and serves us, the audience, as an entry point into the mad bad world of these gangsters. All the performers get ample opportunity to shine in their respective roles be it Samutharakani, Kishore, Pawan, Daniel Balaji as the gangsters or Aishwarya Rajesh as the fiery woman who becomes Anbu’s lady love. Special mention of course to director Ameer  Sultan, who literally becomes the heart of the movie with the flashback portion. Andreah Jeremiah too shines and puts in her best to give depth to one the defining roles of her career.

The real gangsta here is Santosh Narayanan who comes up with a feisty score elevating some moments, and then at some key moments, director Vetri Maaran effectively goes into silence which inscribes the impact even further.

The weakness, if any, is the lack of something innovative in terms of story. The tale of gang rivalry and the scheming politicians who use them for their own goals are as old as the hills. We merely see the same tales being repeated, in various languages with merely a change in the setting, be it the Subramanipurams, or the Wasseypurs. It is only the assured and confident way in which it is handled by Vetrimaaran that makes it truly stand out.

One can also whine about the sudden transformation of Anbu during the corporation meeting and the fallout that immediately follows thereafter. Yes, it does come in a bit rushed. Probably some scenes were left behind on the editing table or was dropped out from the original written script. Knowing Vetrimaaran’s way of dealing with things, the former seems more likely.  Maybe a director’s cut is required, what say?

The leading ladies is also a matter of concern. Aishwarya Rajesh starts off strong and daring but as the movie progresses seem sidelined. I hope she does not go the Tamannah way like we saw in the Baahubali saga. And on a personal note, I thought the role of Chandra required a more senior and powerful actress to play the part. It was the kind of role that I thought Jyothika was headed towards in Mani Ratnam’s Chekka Chevantha Vaanam. But alas, it wasn’t to be.  Anyways, I would only be glad to see Andreah proving me wrong in the sequels to come.

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Technically, the movie is outstanding. Velraj’s cinematography captures the time periods well. Costume from Amritha Ram remains natural without being all filmi. And special mention need to go to the set design (Jacki) especially the huge prison sets where most of the first half is set in. And hats off to the hard work put in by editor G.B.Venkatesh, R. Ramar to get this beast in its current form from the possibly massive material. VADA CHENNAI is indeed a great team effort with some brilliant cast and crew under the guidance of Vetri Maaran and that passion shines through in the final outcome.

VADA CHENNAI is one of those layered movie, one certain to keep the deep analyzers and movie bloggers busy for months to come as they dig in deep into the visuals and themes of the movies. A movie that gets it all so right is a rare sighting in any film industry, forget just Tamil. And watching this offering, the first installment has set up the board perfectly. The striker is ready to knock down the whites or the blacks, and the queen has taken the rightful position- right at the center of the playing field. For the carrom flayer Anbu, it is game on!  Bring on the sequels!

 

Cast: Dhanush, Aishwarya Rajesh, Andrea Jeremiah, Samuthirakani, Kishore, Daniel Balaji, Radha Ravi and Ameer

Directed by Vetrimaaran

Music by Santosh Narayanan

 

 

KAALA Movie Review: Black Dynamite!

Cast:  Rajinikanth, Nana Patekar, Huma Qureshi, Easwari Rao, Anjali Patil, Samuthirakani, Sampath

Music:  Santosh Narayanan

Directed by Pa.RanjithContinue reading “KAALA Movie Review: Black Dynamite!”

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Diwali is the time for movies for people who are MadaboutMoviez like us. So this Sunday a few of us headed to the famous Aurora theatre in Matunga (Mumbai) to watch back to back shows of the 2 new Tamil releases, Kaashmora and Kodi.Continue reading “Kaashmora and Kodi: The Kollywood Diwali”

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Note: This was a write-up which was originally meant to be written as a quickie but has ultimately turned up a few days late. That in a way sums up my state of mind, induced into a state of flux by Prabhu Solomon’s latest Tamil film, Thodari featuring Dhanush and Keerthy suresh.Continue reading “Thodari Movie Review: This Train Leads to Disaster”

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Last year saw some really interesting films across India being made by debutant directors and M.Manikandan‘s Kaakka Muttai in Tamil certainly is one of the important films in that list. Winner of 2 National Awards and popular in the festival circuit as well, the film produced by Dhanush and Vetrimaaran also went on to do well commercially as well. Kaakka Muttai is a good example of the fact that award winning, critically acclaimed films can be entertaining as well. Samit Kakkad, producer of Marathi films like Huppa Huiyya (2010) and Aayna Ka Bayna (2012), turned director as well with Aayna Ka Bayna. He is now making Half Ticket, the official Marathi remake of Kaakka Muttai. The film is being produced by popular Marathi production house, Video Palace.  Continue reading ““Kaakka Muttai” Gets an Official Marathi Remake in the form of Samit Kakkad’s “Half Ticket””

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I have lived across the country in various places, across various states without ever facing any problems in terms of adjusting to the new place. Of course I have been lucky for 2 reasons, for one I have been fortunate enough to be able to blend into any city that I have been part of, without really having any major cultural issues as such to handle. Secondly I never had to struggle for work, accommodation or food wherever I went, which I consider to be an advantage considering that the majority of the people who migrate to other locations, do so in search of better pastures and are not lucky enough to have access to resources easily. So these days when I see hordes of people from Bihar, Jharkhand, Orissa and West Bengal in Kerala or in Gujarat, I do wonder what is it that makes them leave their own home state and go all the way to a totally different part of the country armed with just hope, hope of a better future.Continue reading “Visaaranai Movie Review: Brutal yet Realistic Tale That Leaves You Pondering”

Maalai Nerathu Mayakkam Movie Review: Nowhere as Heady as Promised

There are all sorts of love stories which float around us, some genuine and some not so genuine. There are some relationships which probably confuse you, making you wonder what exactly is wrong with people. Needless to say you are too good to be commenting on other people’s choices in life openly, preferring instead to talk it over in your head. Even if you want to share your opinion with friends there is always the risk of being asked by someone as to whether you are questioning someone’s choice purely out of jealousy and so on. Hence it’s normal to just keep your opinion to yourself, and hope that you don’t really get too distracted by what you feel is an imbalanced relationship; only to actually see exactly the same happening sooner or later. And if ever you wonder what makes you think you are perfect yourself, what gives you the right to pass judgements on others etc., hang on-you are just being normal if you feel or react in a manner like this when faced with such a situation.Continue reading “Maalai Nerathu Mayakkam Movie Review: Nowhere as Heady as Promised”

The Best of Tamil Cinema in 2015

2015 was an interesting year for Tamil Cinema with a variety of topics being explored. Some big films didn’t do well, while some small films made impact. Certain stars did well,while some of them didn’t really do well. Here are the films in my opinion which stood a little apart from the rest of the pack and made an impact this year.The movies aren’t sorted in any order of merit. Sorting is done based on release dates.Continue reading “The Best of Tamil Cinema in 2015”

Naanum Rowdy Dhaan Movie Review: Could Have Been a Swashbuckling Film, but Falls Short

Tamil Cinema seems to be continuously evolving these days, gone are the days when comedy meant just the typical slapstick variety. Today while slapstick and loud comedy might still work, there’s a lot more than that available on display. With horror comedies doing well of late including Kanchana 2 and Darling this year, there is a scramble for making more such films these days. Also thanks to the success of Soodhu Kavvum, Neram and to an extent even films like Jigarthanda and Moodar Koodam, there’s a whole new market for black comedy in Tamil films, we hear of more such films getting made regularly these days. When the teaser and trailer of Vignesh Shivan’s Naanum Rowdy Dhaan (NRD from hereon) were unveiled it looked certain that this was another film in the same category. The film looked promising, especially as Vijay Sethupathi seemed to be enjoying himself, Nayantara has been having a good run of late and the talented Parthiban was also playing an important role in the film.Continue reading “Naanum Rowdy Dhaan Movie Review: Could Have Been a Swashbuckling Film, but Falls Short”