It is after a long time that a Tamil movie has done a detailed portrayal of a gangster. We have had gangster movies by the truckload over the last few years, some have had the biggest stars, and some have been helmed by the best directors. But, none of these have cared to show us what the gangster actually does. Vettrimaran infuses that detail into his screenplay, pits rival gangs against each other and begins a saga of vengeance and vendetta.
As the opening card of the movie says, this is not a story of Vada Chennai, no attempt has been made to completely document the life and problems of the people from this part of our city. This is the story of two rival gangs and the tussle for power and about the rise of Anbu. In fact, the ‘rise of Anbu’ is the title for the second instalment of Vada Chennai, as shown at the end, but in Vada Chennai, Anbu has already risen. How and through who he rises is what you have to watch in theatres.
Spanning more than 20 years; the earliest time point shown in the movie is the end of the MGR era; Vada Chennai s narrated in a non-linear way, starting off inside a prison and traversing the decades back and forth. With the multitude of characters and the back and forth nature of the screenplay, there was ample scope for the audience to get confused, but Vettrimaran’s taut screenplay allays all those fears as we are hooked to the screen for almost the entire duration of 3 hours, which doesn’t feel a very long time for this movie.
The best portions of Vada Chennai are set inside the prison. The amount of detailing that has gone into the screenplay is really praiseworthy. Vettrimaran is not interste in just showing the straight back and forth dealings between members of the two opposing gangs inside the prisons. He shows us how drugs are circulated inside, how outsiders smuggle in beedis and cigarettes, how gangs plan a ‘sketch’ of a member of opposition, how policemen cunningly side with the gang that gives better payouts. This is the kind of scripting detail that would have made for a gripping jail drama in Hollywood. Really, I bet Vettrimaran had enough material to make a 2 hour jailhouse drama but chose to cut down because he had a bigger story to tell. The first half is as raw as it can get. Gangs ready to fight out their guts in prison, women willingly plundering shops at the slightest opportunity, girls not backing off from saying cuss words (whether or not the situation demands it). It is quite brutal, in a very Vettrimaran way. Even the re-recording is kept that way, unobtrusive, as if careful not to spoil the raw and real mood the movie. The ‘veiled’ or ‘curtained’ confrontation at the interval point is masterfully captured by the camera of Velraj – showing us enough detail without overriding the element of the unknown that is so crucial to this fight.
The second half feels a lot more like cinema, unlike the raw undiluted action of the first. We are taken back to the point where it all began, to the days of Rajan, played with stoic intensity by Ameer. The BGM sounds a lot more prominent here, the dialogues feel more scripted, and that basal aggression in the movie is lost for a bit. But, perhaps that was necessary to portray the bigger picture and the nature of the conflict between three key characters. The scene in the hotel with 4 people is tense, shot masterfully, especially a shot with a guy washing his hands in the sink while watching the three guys behind him through the mirror. The depth of the conflict, how far back it goes, the intensity of the motivation behind the vengeance – it’s all shown, not hurriedly, Vettrimaran cooks it over a low flame, to perfection.
Vada Chennai does end with a few unanswered questions. But that is expected of a trilogy. Maybe we see more of these characters in the next two instalments. The casting in Vada Chennai is spot on. Right from the subtle expressions of Dhanush to the lingering anger in the eyes of Kishore, the best people for the part have been chosen. Maybe, Vettrimaran could have thought a bit differently while casting on particular character, because it is a clue to something huge that is unravelled quite late in the second half.
Vada Chennai lives in the small details. The actors chosen, the extras in each frame, the sets for the jail, the accent, the lingo chosen (so that you get the North Madras feel while not alienating an audience that does not understand it), the conflicts. Everything is well thought out. This is Vettrimaran in complete control of his craft! Vada Chennai will be talked about for some time to come!
TalksOfCinema Verdict : Vettrimaran shows his control over the craft!
TalksOfCinema Rating : 4/5
Vada Chennai Movie Review Retrospect