Making a trilogy or coming up with sequels is not just about repeating themes.
It is not about replaying the original plot with new actors, recycling names of characters from the previous films or casting the same actress is a similar role.
Gautham, in spite of adding a serial killer thriller feel to the regular cop flick, ends up repeating quite a bit from what he introduced to us in his first re-invention of the cop flick genre that was earlier limited to ‘Aanest Raj’ and scores of other Captain Vijayakanth avatars: Kaakha Kaakha.
But wait, Vettaiyaadu Vilayaadu is a pretty decent film (compared to the likes of Thimuru and such celebrated crap that comes out of Kodambakkam) but that’s not what you would expect from the guy who made a reasonably well-paced police story ‘Kaakha Kaakha,’ which was memorable for a super tight script, a refreshingly fresh and subtle sensibility, an underplayed romance and a super cool long-haired gangster mouthing profanities.
First, where does Gautham succeed?
a. With Kamal Hassan. Gautham’s done it. We see a much restrained Kamal slipping under the skin of a pretty well-etched out character in Raghavan — the instinctive cop. A man who trusts his instincts so much that he’s willing to gamble his logic and reasoning.
Never mind that one such act leads to the death of a NYPD detective who plays by-the-book, at least the character is consistent. Unlike Anbuchelvan, he talks quite a bit. Raghavan is impulsive to the point of being stupid (I mean which experienced cop would break into the house of one of the suspects without a back-up watching the door?) and lucky (towards the end, the script takes the most convenient route for the confrontation between good and evil). ‘Vettaiyaadu’ surely will be remembered as one of Kamal’s classiest performances.
b. The cinematography. Very few cinematographers have captured New York the way Ravi Varman has. It’s not the picturesque-postcards we saw in KANK and Kal Ho Na Ho. He presents NYC teeming with energy, the hustling-bustling metropolis (guess the hidden camera used sneakily due to lack of permissions actually works to the film’s advantage) with the finest time-lapse and aerial shots of the Manhattan skyline. The stylised shots superbly pieced together by Antony make Vettaiyaadu one of the most technically sound movies made in this part of the world.
c. Credibility of the world it is set in. Be it characters or locations, they seem incredibly authentic. The detailing is pretty good and if at all there is any fault, it is too much of it. A whole lot of those supers telling us what time and date things happen were quite redundant.
d. Jyotika. Yet another fine performance.
Where it doesn’t quite work:
a. What’s with long-haired villains? Serial-killers need a strong enough trigger to become what they have. In Vettaiyaadu, he addresses the need for a reason from childhood but does not flesh it out enough. As a result, we have sketchy villains who’re quite weak. Having juvenile villains does no good to a cop story where the policeman is supposed to be much more experienced than Anbuchelvan. Having ‘Hannibal’ posters in the room does not make them evil. To be truly evil, you need to be smart and cunning. Here, the bad guys are stupid, inconsistent and are probably confused about their sexuality. Even if they aren’t, Raghavan clearly is, when he asks one of them if they are homosexual. Dude, they raped their victims! They’re probably bi-sexual. We do not know. That’s the problem with the villains. We do not know enough about them. They are cardboard cut-outs. The silver lining is Daniel Balaji’s stylised performance bordering on hamming (which should go down well with all those who thought Vikram was brilliant flexing every single muscle on his face in Anniyan), passable for a serial killer. And his friend, lesser the said the better. He could’ve just worn a T-shirt that said ‘I am a Uz boy’ throughout and it would’ve made no difference to the plot.
b. The pace. Bad enough he takes his time to take us into the romantic angle of the middle-aged cop with a suicidal wreck, Gautham also unleashes upon us an item song with an all-seth bunch of dancers and models doing sethji-steps, so much that it looks like a song from some random Hindi flick dubbed in Tamil. There is no place for the intracies of romantic sub-plot or an item song in a serial-killer thriller.
c. Repetition of sub-plots. There is a distinct Kaakha Kaakha hangover throughout. Some of it might be intentional (like the song picturisation and all), but the crucial bits (like the climax — the kidnapping of the love interest) makes you feel cheated. You walked in thinking Gautham is going to tell you a story about a much more challenging, complex case from the police files. Instead, you get a case of two extremely stupid, juvenile serial killers who are no match for a man who was once Anbuchelvan, the young cop who took on the most powerful and dangerous of gangsters almost single-handedly.
d. Fine filmmakers, unfortunately, are not compared with the rest of the mediocre bunch. Their work is compared with their own work from the past.
And when you do that, ‘Vettaiyaadu’ is found wanting. It suggests he’s running out of ideas for character prototypes, sub-plots, character names and song picturisation.
After all, there is a difference between creating a signature and rehashing a few old ideas.
If Ram Gopal Varma made a Satya as the story of a gangster, he followed it up with a macro look of the underworld in Company and a cop’s perspective in ‘Ab Tak Chappan’ (directed by Shimit Amin) and paid his hurried homage to Godfather in ‘Sarkar’. They were all gangster films, not as good as the other but very different. They need to deviate from the central idea at least a little. After ‘Kaakha Kaakha,’ we already know that the loved ones of the police officer are targetted.
Something Gautham should keep in mind while coming up with the third film in the trilogy he was talking about.
Gautham, tell us more. Tell us something you haven’t told us before.