Language : Tamil
Director : Gautham Vasudev Menon, Lee Whittaker (Action Director)
Writers : Jeyamohan.
Cast : Silambarasan Rajendar, Neeraj Madhav, Siddhi Idnani, Radhika Sarathkumar, Siddique
Genre : Action | Crime | Drama
Streaming in Theatres near you.
It’s been a little over 20 years since Gautham Menon made his directorial debut with Minnale. During these two decades, Gautham has made several films, whose genres predominantly oscillated between romantic dramas and cop thrillers. But being an ardent fan of the maker, I have been waiting to see him direct a film around characters that are alien to him. While he did try exploring a dark world with ‘Nadunissi Naigal’ in 2009, the landscape was still very much ‘GVMesque’ (yes, it’s a term now). But in Vendhu Thanindathu Kaadu, he pushes his boundaries and successfully explores the rise of a gangster story with characters who bear zero resemblance to the ones from his previous ventures.
Gangster drama is a genre that I feel has little scope in being inventive. Numerous classics have been made across languages that explored the life of gangsters and hence the novelty of the premise is no longer a selling point. But the advantage of the genre is, irrespective of its familiar beats, the audience can still enjoy these films if they can root for the characters and their journey. Additionally, if the making can provide a slightly unique approach to telling this story, it can make up for an entertaining watch. Vendhu Thanindathu Kaadu manages to tick both these boxes, and despite its shortcomings, leaves you satisfied.
Gautham Menon has consciously stayed away from his usual filmmaking style and gives this known tale a unique visual aesthetic that gravitates the audience into the life of the protagonist – Muthuveeran. His focus is on keeping us extremely close to the character where we are much more than just spectators. The extensive use of single shots and cramped spaces to narrate the story works in favour of the film’s tone as it metaphorically represents, I think, Muthu’s suffocations in his new surroundings. Right from the colour palettes to the costumes, the film maintains an earthy touch that enhances the overall visual experience. I was also impressed how the story parallelly showcases the life of another character belonging to a rival gang; Sreedharan, played by Neeraj Madhav, lives a life that mirrors Muthu’s although destiny takes them on different paths, at least in this part.
Probably VTK would have benefitted largely had it decided to cut down on the romance bit and emphasised more on the journey of Sreedharan, resulting in a better exploration of its characters and their situations. I generally adore the way Gautham Menon depicts romance in his films, but unlike his other flicks, the love portions here largely stay at an arm’s distance from the core plot. The quick nature of their relationship doesn’t allow you to be emotionally invested in their bond. Additionally, the idea to give this tale a second instalment was a good one since VTK only encompasses a short period in Muthu’s life. But the way the shots that build up the plot for the sequel were added to the existing script, looked odd. For someone who was sitting at the height of watching an exciting work, the tail-end portions were off-putting. The sudden tonal shift coupled with the larger-than-life transformation of a character who was so grounded and relatable till then was hard to digest. It might work for the fans but sticks out like a sore thumb to others.
AR Rahman’s music and background score are terrific. They complement the mood of the film and there are moments when the score single-handedly elevates crucial sequences and generates a much-needed euphoria (the interval and climax bits being prime examples). And I feel this is Rahman’s most wholesome album since Chekka Chivantha Vaanam. The placement of the ‘Marakumma Nenjam’ track throughout the narrative was impressive. The team’s decision to add the Malayalam rap bit at some crucial junctures deserves a special mention.
Jeyamohan’s script is laced with familiar tropes, yet it feels different. The making, as mentioned above, plays a huge part in selling this story as a distinctive one. The dialogues are sharp and quirky in places, especially the one revolving around a gun and another, between Muthu and his boss. All the other technical departments also put up a solid show.
Simbu deserves credit for preparing himself perfectly for the role. We all know that he can play the part but he also convincingly looks the part. From a boy with a confused outlook to evolving into a man with a more carefree and lethal attitude, Simbu gets into the skin of the character and delivers a stellar performance. Neeraj Madhav and Appukutty also get meaty roles and have played their parts well.
Overall, Vendhu Thanindathu Kaadu is a commendable attempt from GVM at retelling a story that feels familiar. He gives it his touch and, in the process, proves to the world that he’s more than capable of presenting stories and characters out of his comfort zone. It’s been 7 days since I watched the film and it still hasn’t left me; guess that’s the best testament to its success.
Verdict : 4/7 stars