Vada Chennai

As the end credits rolled over and I started walking down the stairs to exit the theatre, I had a “wierd” feeling. I wanted to probably stay for a few more mins till the credits completed to “consume” the movie completely. But at the same time I felt there was something missing in the movie that wanted me to start walking out. When I reflect after a day now, I think I would probably say this: Vada Chennai is a tipping point for Tamil Cinema and would even go one step further and say “Tamil Cinema has arrived”.

I had always felt bad that I was not old enough when directors like Mani Ratnam and Balu Mahendra were young enough making movies like Anjali, Nayagan, Moondram Pirai that fundamentally changed the movie landscape back in late 80s and early 90s. I missed seeing those movies in theatre (I was just old enough to watch Mowgli in DD :)) and I still imagine what it would have been to be immersed in those movies for 3 hours in a theatre. With Vada Chennai, I now have a sense of satisfaction that I am witnessing that fundamental change again. And I can imagine 30 years from now, someone is going to say “How I wish I was in the times when Vada Chennai and Vetrimaran was happening”.

Towards the middle of first half, I felt I was completely lost. The narrative was non-linear and I was wondering where all these are going and if I came to another “hyped” movie. It was in the second half I realized what Vetrimaran was doing – he was laying out a vast landscape in front of us and beautifully connected everything in the second half. That’s when you feel that there was not even a single shot that existed in the movie without a reason. That’s when you pause for a moment and you are not able to digest how he would have written all of these and what would have gone through in his mind. And suddenly the respect for this writer just goes up manyfolds. He is different, a great thinker and a great writer and is slowly changing the landscape of Tamil cinema.

Another reason why I feel that we are witnessing a tipping point in Tamil cinema is because of the “A” certificate for the film. Unlike every other Tamil cinema which looks for a “U/UA” certificate for producer’s tax benefits and attracting famil audience, here’s a movie which is for the Adults (I would rather say “grown ups”). Hats off for the production house (Dhanush in this case) for not comprimising on this one – this movie will not have certain type of audience and the producer/director is OK with it and its a big deal today.

Beyond the producer/director, I have huge respect for the censor board on this one. You typically get a U/A for uttering a “cuss” word (which also gets muted) or showing a murder scene with blood/body blurred. However in Vada Chennai, the opening scene itself had enough explicit blood (and I think I saw skin too) that indicated that this movie is definitely “A”. And then you hear the characters frequently using a cuss word that refers to mother. It’s when the female lead uses the same cuss word (I think it’s the first or second word she utters in the movie) you settle down and accept the fact that this movie is going to be a different experience altogether. Btw, the audience (including me) went crazy when she said that word 🙂 And just to be clear, I am not celebrating citation of cuss words in mainstream cinema just for the sake of it. But what was more satisfying was that here’s a movie which did not compromise anything.

Dhanush: Let me admit this. When I he did movies like “Sullan”, I was like “Here’s an example of what industry background can do. If you have money, you can back anybody and make them a star”. But as he did movies like Kadhal Kondaen, Pudhupettai and later Mayakkam Enna, there were signs about his potential. But I was thinking it as more like the “Selvaraghavan” effect. With Aadukalam and commercial ones like VIP, it really showed up that this guy has some genuine talent as an actor. And Vada Chennai, really brings that talent out. There are many scenes where he has pulled off effortlessly. Specifically, the scene where Kishore’s wife and Samuthrakani’s wife (Andrea) have a conversation in a family function about revealing the identity of the person (Dhanush) who stabbed Kishore. Dhanush is in the backdrop and figures what’s actually going on around him. He has no dialogue and just silently emotes. That was just enough. I would watch that scene many times over; what a true performance that was.

It isn’t that I don’t have complaints about this movie. One of my major complaints is about the length. I felt the movie “rushed” things. With a running length of close to 3 hours, it still wasn’t enough to consume the movie. For example, there were so many characters introduced in the jail episode that you didn’t have time to put all of them in your mind. Similarly in the second half when things are explained by Andrea, it was rushed (with pretty bad dubbing too). I wish this movie had another 30-45 minutes of runtime (Vetrimaran says it was originally shot for 5.5hours!) like GodFather. I am sure Vetrimaran would have loved too but had to remain within the constraints of theatres (they need to run 4 shows with breaks and all). May be in near distant future, someone will break this too.

I and my friend are great fans of Martin Scorcese and Tarantino movies and the collaboration he had with Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci and Leonardo Di Caprio. We had always discussed how Scorcese and De Niro would have collaborated, what it would have been between them, how it would have been in the sets. Well, I didnt live in those times, but I think they changed Hollywood movies forever. I think Vetrimaran + Dhanush + Kishore combination is doing something very similar for Tamil movies now. Something tells me that this is a beginning of a different era where movies that are “raw”, that doesn’t even have one wasted scene, that does full justification for the script are going to be made. We are going to respect the writers more than the actors. And sense will prevail in the movies. And personally, I am going to go back to theatres more 🙂

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