Vada Chennai Review
The first thing that struck me before watching 'Vada Chennai' was how different would it be to 'Pudhupettai' that released 12 years back. How different will Dhanush's 'Anbu' come across when compared to the cult 'Kokki Kumar'? So, unconsciously there was a debate at the back of my mind, putting up with various analogies. However, one thing was sure - that director Vetrimaran would have his signature deeply imbibed into every frame, as he is one of the few filmmakers in India who has the potential to give his films a transnational appeal, no matter whatever the plot may be and wherever it may take place.
As the film's name indicates, it's all about the gang wars that happen in the underbelly of North Chennai that is considered or at least portrayed as an island that is cut off from the 'mainstream' Chennai in every aspect. Anbu (Dhanush) is used as the vehicle to narrate the story from the perspective of different characters, during various episodes that intertwine at various points in time.
As was expected from the movie, there was some brutal violence and bloodshed, laced with explicit slang to give the film a raw appeal. The movie's 'A' rating stands justified for the way in which various characters converse and the gore that gets staged at multiple junctures. Of course, every killing had its underpinning, and the crude language came with its justification for the mood, adding to the mise en scene.
The movie is the first of the 3 part series and is set in the early 90s. Director Vetrimaran managed to drill down into the psyche of the individuals who belong to that ethos, their cravings, aspirations, frustrations, lust, thrills, uncertainty and some basic emotions that the urbane literate crowd couldn't even relate. Also, while watching the movie, another parallel that ran in my mind was Anurag Kashyap's 'Gangs of Wasseypur'. The two movies explore the underdog rising to power. In fact, at the end of Vada Chennai, it was mentioned that the next one is going to be about the 'Rise of Anbu'.
Coming to the characters, director Vetrimaran has pulled off with ease a casting coup with Dhanush and Andrea playing the anchor role - incidentally, in the film, there's a dialogue that a small anchor manages to hold a large ship - happens to be so true. Samuthirakani and Kishore were naturals, while Daniel Balaji was somewhat like a filler. Amir, in a brief flashback, had a substantial screen presence. Aishwarya Rajesh as the 'local' girl had given Dhanush a run for his money when it came to performing and having a strong screen presence. Her dialogue delivery and body language were so natural and plausible.
Santhosh Narayanan's score was one of the best in recent times. Though the songs had largely his signature croons, the background score compensated for it, especially the theme that gets played at the crucial junctures brought in a sense of discomfort even among the viewers. Velraj's cinematography was littered mostly with dark frames that were lit carefully, not only to convey the mood but also the establish the characterisation of each character.
Two things that made me cringe in the movie - shoddy costumes and makeup and the stereotypical exhibition of North Chennai as the breeding ground for everything and everyone antisocial. However, let's call a spade a spade. The movie's story augurs well with the ethos and justifies the backdrop. Director Vetrimaran's beautiful staging of scenes and some powerful performances made the film a terrific watch. So, I have no reasons to complain about the gut-wrenching and gory violence.
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