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Vettaiyadu Vilaiyadu (2006)

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Written and directed by Goutham
Starring Kamal Haasan, Jyothika, Prakashraj, and Balaji

There are very few cop heroes that sticks to our mind, as far as Tamil film industry is concerned. There was Inspector Choudary, played to perfection by Sivaji Ganesan in Tanggapathakkam. And then, there was Alex Pandiyan, a stylised version of Chaudary played by the incomparable Rajinikanth. After that there were many, but my favourite will be Sathyaraj in Kadamai Kanniyam Kattupadu and Kamal Haasan in Kuruthi Punal. Walter Vetrivel is popular, but he is just another reincarnation of Chaudary, but among the other seniors I think Sathyaraj is the best for cop, he has the built, height and attitude for it. Check him out in Vazhkai Chakkram, Veerapathakkam, and I like the flashback sequence in Unnai Kann Theduthe, and not to forget Malabar Police.

Now, let us welcome another cop icon – DCP Raghavan, with Kamal. Tough, human and a very optimistic veteran, Raghavan is going to be the yardstick for all the future cops in Tamil films.

We all know that Vettaiyadu Vilayadu (VV) went through hurdles to get to the theatre. It was a hell of a wait and worth it. In fact it would have been the crime of the year if it had not been released. Goutham menon, who wrote and directed VV, gave us another super taut thriller with all the makings of a classic that supercedes our expectation, and is capable of putting his earlier excellent effort Kaakka Kaakka in shadow.

A quick recap: Raghavan investigates the disappeareance of his superior and good friend, Arokkiaraj’s (Prakashraj) daughter. She turns up death, and the distraught Arokkiaraj later opts to leave to US, where initially he planned to go with his wife and daughter. Then, a rude awakening for Raghavan when he gets the news that Arokkiaraj and his wife were brutally murdered in New York, ‘execution style’.

New York PD requires his assistant (all the procedures, jurisdiction issue are explained nicely in voice over phone conversation), and Raghavan packs his stuff and arrives in the Big Apple.

From here a subplot involving his acquaintance with Arathana Jyothika) who is going to a traumatic personal episode. We are then in a ride (slow and fast paced) with Raghavan investigating and encountering more deaths, as well as a certain closeness with Arathana (romance or not?).

Cinematography was one of the highest point in Kaakka Kaakka and its prevalent here too. I was pleasantly surprised with the way they showed New York, which was much more colourful than the usual black and grey manner Hollywood used to show (even natives like Woody Allen and Martin Scorcese are not interested in showing the colourful side). While sometimes it calls attention to itself, the camerawork is ample enough to be handled well with good editing.

The pace can be uneven at times, if you are not paying attention well enough. The ‘romance’ scene, like in Kakka Kaakka is handled beautifully. This is matured, adult love, and it takes time to bloom. Actually, that was my favourite part in Kaakka Kaakka, kind of reminded me of Rajini/Sri Devi romance in Johnny. Slow, thoughtful, painful and very intelligent.

But when the action kicks in, phew, I have no words. There are two major hand to hand fight sequences. They are furious, bloody and Kamal gives us a lesson or two on Policekaran Adi (policemen’s beating). The action scenes are not overdone (a weakness usually with Tamil films) and need not be. Yes, there are other gory stuff, like corpses, severed fingers, and bloodied faces, but they are all parts and parcels of a cop thriller. Not to mention the language. I need to see the DVD version, which hopefully will have lesser or no cuts.

Goutham needed a lot of help with his performers, since his script is not terribly original (almost reworking of his Kakka Kakka) and he gets plenty of help. Prakashraj appears briefly and you will remember him when you think of this movie – heartwrenching performance. Newcomer to Tamil, Kamalini appears in flashback and there is not much she can do, since they were brief. Then, there’s Jyothika (with Rohini’s voice). Her character is heavier than that in Kaakka Kaakka and she pulls it off well.

The bad guys are a surprise…you don’t see this couple (yes, couple) in Tamil film before and would be another yardstick. Their motivation is blurry, but they are serial killers who kills revenge and for fun. There is a long explanation sequence that could have been removed – same thing the James Bond bad guys do, explain, give everything away and let the hero escape. Oh well, this is new in Tamil film, so be it. Balaji as Amutha stands out and I am looking at more contribution from this young man.

Now, we come to Kamal. What can we say? His forty odd years of experience is put into well use. This must have been a breeze for him. Yes, Raghavan, like most screen cops, has an issue with his past (murdered wife with unborn child) but he is ‘sleep tonight, tomorrow will be okay’ philosophy fits well with his reputation as a tough, good cop. This is an opposite of Sathyaraj’s drunk, womanising cop in Kadamai, which Kamal himself produced almost twenty years ago. We can believe that Raghavan reached his level with sheer dedication, even if in the corner of his heart, he is a widower nursing a great loss. Kamal looks old (he is fifty two this year), and is justifiably so as it makes his seniority very credible. It’s the age that makes his Raghavan believable as an intelligent, resourceful cop who always keeps his emotion in check. This is a layered performance, that looks easy, but one that can only come from a veteran actor of great calibre. Another milestone in achievement in Kamal’s resume.

If there is one party pooper, it has to be Harris Jeyaraj. I have no comments on the songs, which I disliked when it was released; it sounded like last minute job done while having a severe hangover, but I could be wrong. The background score sound suspiciously like some of A.R. Rahman’s from other films (Thiruda Thiruda keeps popping in my mind, and my brother identified some from other ARR composed films), but again, I could be wrong. At times, the music tend to be loud, screaming for attention, but then it is not Harris’ fault, Goutham could have tweaked it down or just be done with it. I am sure Harris is an original, creative and hardworking composer, ahem.

To summarise, VV is one hell of a ride, with added pleasure if you are a Kamal fan. I am and, boy, I am gonna go for second viewing.