Trust. It can move mountains.
The name ‘Vetrimaaran’ invokes a similar faith in film buffs and actors alike. The National Award-winning filmmaker, known for critically-acclaimed films like Aadukalam, Visaranai, Vada Chennai and Asuran, has a penchant for pushing the envelope.
So, when he cast actor Soori, who is best known for comic roles in Tamil films, as the lead in Viduthalai – Part 1, people knew Vetrimaaran had seen something in him that others had missed. In fact, Soori had revealed in an interview that they came close to working together twice in the past, but the projects had to be shelved. He went on to add that it was the director’s nampikkai that helped him realise the actor in him.
And it shows in the film, which is based on B. Jeyamohan’s Thunaivan - he doubles up as the scriptwriter, along with Vetrimaaran. Soori, as police constable Kumaresan, arrives at a remote forest base camp on the Tamil Nadu-Karnataka-Kerala border, known for violent and bloody confrontations between the police and guerrillas (named Makkal Padai, or people’s army). The police are after the outlaws and their leaders - the main target being Perumal or Vaathiyar (Vijay Sethupathi in an extended cameo).
Life in this part of the world is not all black and white, and Kumaresan learns it the hard way. A simple man with unshakeable principles, Kumaresan is drawn into the eye of the storm inevitably.
The name of the film – Viduthalai means liberation – couldn’t have been more apt. Soori is finally freed from the shackles of the comedian stereotype. He ditches his slapstick humour and mannerisms to slip into the character of Kumaresan – both physically and otherwise - and shines like never before. It’s as much a conflict of emotions as it is of ideologies and powers, and Soori essays it all beautifully.
Soori isn’t the only surprise element in Viduthalai – Part 1. Vetrimaaran has mostly associated with actor Dhanush as the lead and music director G.V. Prakash Kumar in his films so far. (Interestingly, Kumar’s sister Bhavani Sre plays Tamilarasi, Soori’s love interest). But, this time, he not only opted for Soori as the protagonist but also brought on board legendary music director Ilaiyaraaja. The move seems to have paid off.
Viduthalai stands out for other reasons, too. One, for the brilliant cinematography by Velraj, capturing the Sathyamangalam forest in all its rustic beauty. Then, the opening scene itself is a piece of art. The tracking shot, which takes the viewer in and out of a train accident setting, is as gripping and captivating as perhaps the iconic shot in Joe Wright’s 2007 war drama Atonement. Once can see the genius that Vetrimaaran is, at work in moments like these.
Viduthalai is a multi-layered film, held together by a gripping narrative. It’s as much about police brutality, as it is about politics and ideologies (though it may seem one-sided at times). The film meanders a bit early in the second half, before picking up pace towards the end. The pulsating finish sets the stage for the next part of the film, and the post credit scenes promise more revelations and a meatier role for Sethupathi, who shines in the limited screen time he gets in this one.
Will Perumal be able to liberate the land from the clutches of the mining mafia? Which side will Kumaresan finally find himself on? Will politics prevail or will the people’s movement bring the powers that be on their knees? Will Viduthalai – Part 2 deliver a resounding answer to all these questions?
In Vetrimaaran, we trust.
Film: Viduthalai - Part 1
Cast: Soori, Vijay Sethupathi, Bhavani Sre, Gautam Vasudev Menon and others