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Movie Review: Vettaikkaran (2009) Back to Movie
Rate movie A movie review by Balaji Balasubramaniam
Fans Rating: 83%%83%% 83% (158 votes)
Movie Still After the huge success of Pokkiri, Vijay went with a new director Bharathan for Azhagiya Thamizh Magan. With the film performing poorly, he went back to two directors who had given him the biggest hits of his career - Dharani(who directed him in Gilli) for Kuruvi and Prabhu Deva(who made Pokkiri) for Villu. With neither of those films replicating the successes of the earlier efforts with the same directors, Vijay has once again turned to a new director Babu Sivan for his latest film Vettaikkaaran. The director for his part does a marginally better job than his seniors with a film where the cute romance manages to even out the weak action.

Ravi(Vijay) lives in Thoothukudi and is trying to pass XIIth standard for the fifth time. His aim is to follow in the footsteps of Devaraj(Srihari), the tough-as-nails Chennai cop, whose goal is to exterminate rowdyism from the city. After finally getting passing grades, Ravi heads to Chennai, having enrolled in the same college that Devaraj studied in and like Devaraj, manages to rent an auto he can drive to earn money for college. He runs into Suseela(Anushka), who he met first at the Thoothukudi station, and tries hard to impress her. When a rowdy Chella misbehaves with Uma, a classmate and close friend, Ravi steps in to teach Chella a lesson. And that makes him the biggest enemy of Chella's dad, Vedanayagam(Salim Ghouse), a rich and powerful businessman.

Vijay's recent films have been unapologetically formulaic, masala films that were targeted primarily towards his fans and it shouldn't come as a surprise that Vettaikkaaran is no different. But in the current post-Subramanyapuram environment, where serious themes, raw and gritty violence and downbeat endings seem to be the order of the day, the film does work as a guilty pleasure.

Considering its a Vijay film, we are primed for a chauvinistic romance where he insults the heroine and she falls for him after seeing his heroism and kind-heartedness. Instead we get a sweet romance where its Vijay who falls for Anushka first and is kept waiting a bit for her to reciprocate his feelings. He is very likeable as he tries hard to impress her and his enthusiasm and eagerness lead to some very funny sequences, the pick of which is the one where she visits him at his college. Like most Vijay film heroines, Anushka too does the disappearing act once the focus shifts to action, reappearing only for the duets, but the romance is charming while it lasts.

The romance works also because the action takes a while to make an appearance and that's a pleasant surprise. But there are no surprises once it does as we get a standard-issue villain without any new tricks up his sleeve. So Vijay's bouts with him are rather bland. But based on the cast, it is pretty clear that he is not the main villain and so there is hope that the main bad guy poses enough of a challenge to make the contest between Vijay and him more interesting.

Salim Ghouse gets introduced late and with a lot of hype. But when he can publicly blind a top policeman, set fire to his house and kill his family with impunity, it is never clever why he doesn't simply kill Vijay at the first chance he gets. Instead, he opts to give him a tour of all his businesses, spelling out exactly what he does so that Vijay doesn't even have to work to figure out how to destroy him. And he continues to leave Vijay untouched even when Vijay seeks him out to warn him. This marks him as not just powerless but stupid. And when the villain is weak the hero looks weak too and that's what happens here. Vijay goes through the motions delivering threats and crippling Ghouse systematically but its never exciting or thrilling since Ghouse comes off as totally limp. He too has his share of warnings and villainous laughs but it doesn't take long to figure out that he is all bark and no bite.

The other problem once the movie switches to action mode is the tone. Vijay's directors and Vijay seem convinced that his movies should be action-comedies and that's the case here too. So Vijay's encounters with the bad guys are tinged with comedy because of his dialog delivery, body language, etc. This also contributes to the lack of intensity apart from affecting the tonal consistency since the proceedings(like Ghouse's attack on Sathyan) are brutal and violent. The pure action sequences(like Vijay's visit to one of the rowdies where he literally breathes fire) and the overt comedy segments(like Shayaji Shinde's frustration with an overzealous reporter) work but when they are mixed, the result is weak.

Vijay is his usual energetic self. His now-familiar facial expressions and antics work pretty well during the romance and he has developed enough of a screen presence to make the punch dialogs and finger swishings work. Anushka looks pretty but has little to do, even during the first half, which is when she has some screen time. Salim Ghouse's vacant expression, constant leer and distinctive voice create an impression initially but they work against him as the movie proceeds since they give the impression of a lack of emotion during some key scenes. Srihari gets an introduction befitting a hero but is relegated to the sidelines soon enough. He finally gets to play a somewhat important role towards the end but his inclusion actually makes for a rather weak climax. Song sequences follow the usual template seen in Vijay films with an introduction number in Naan Adichaa..., a folksy dance song in Karikaalan..., a melodious duet in Oru Chinna Thaamarai... and a fast dance song in En Uchi Mandaila.... They are adequately staged but Vijay's steps in none of them make a special impression. Puli Urumudhu... plays in the background but is another aspect that is affected by the weak action in the second half.

Rate movie A movie review by Balaji Balasubramaniam