Vaazhl Tamil Movie Review
Arun Prabu Purushothaman's Vaazhl (Live) starts with an image of a man in the water with his feet stuck between rocks. The scene actually comes later in the movie. What happens before it is a set of events that shows us how that man, Pradeep Anthony's Prakash, gets there. Prakash is an IT guy who seems to be sick and tired of his 9 to 5 job. His romantic relationship with his pestering girlfriend also seems to be going nowhere. So, all of this is a metaphor for a man constrained by such stumbling blocks in his daily life. A limiting IT job and an annoying girlfriend are like the rocks that get in the way for him.
Vaazhl is a philosophical film rather than one driven by a plot. There is little to no plot here, but it has several philosophies. It also has the story about a hyperactive child, who breaks virtually everything he lays his hands on, and his mother. A crucial life event forces TJ Bhanu's Yathramma to hit the road with his hyper child, Aahrav's Yathra, and Prakash. It becomes a road movie when the three characters get together for a trip to an unknown destination.
The title, which means live, is a call-to-action in that it recommends moving forward in life no matter the difficulties en route. This message is also conveyed with a passage about a pigeon with its wings cut out. The movie is about characters who choose to live in a certain way while accepting the consequences that come with their choices. In that sense, Vaazhl reminds one of Sean Penn's breathtaking film entitled 'Into the Wild'.
A bit like the Emile Hirsch character in the English film, Prakash is someone who heads to the wilderness to escape from the realities of his life. And, like most road movies, Vaazhl suggests that what matters most is not the destination in and of itself but the whole experience of reaching it. So, this is another road movie that metaphorizes life as a long journey where characters met and events experienced along the way have life-changing effects.
Not all of it works, though. There is a stretch involving a foreign character, Diva Dhawan's Tanya, who is also escaping from her life's shackles. This stretch does not seem as organic as the one with Yathramma. It comes after a different set of events without giving us enough time and space to think about what is going on. What cinephiles usually describe as breathing space, it is one thing the rest of the movie does so well.
Vaazhl, being a metaphorical and philosophical film, depends heavily on the performances and the visuals to work. Pradeep Anthony is competent enough to convey the predicaments he faces as Prakash. It is a well-named character; you will know why when you watch the movie. TJ Bhanu is superb as Yathramma; the performance does not allow us to fully figure out who the character is or what her motives are. It is an element of mystery that suits a film like this.
On the visual front, many portions of Vaazhl are so spectacular that it is a shame that we get to watch it only on OTT. Shot in the wilderness by cinematographer Shelly Calist, these portions serve as a physical manifestation of what the characters are going through. All in all, Vaazhl is a trip worth taking and a more than worthy experiment.