| 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.