Vivegam: Promises a Mountain, Delivers a Rock
Movie Review by Trijai Nerthi (Rocheston Certified Movie Critic)
Director Siva’s Vivegam tries to make a name for itself as the Indian version of 007 films. It flaunts high-tech gear, nuclear weapons and a killer counter-terrorism squad. Unfortunately, the film never makes an effort to piece these elements together. This leaves us with a film that tries to be fast in all the wrong areas and lags behind in departments where swiftness is actually expected. Unless you are a die-hard fan of actor Ajith Kumar, you will find the experience of sitting through Vivegam laborious to say the least.
AK alias Ajay Kumar (Ajith Kumar) is the best Counter Terrorism agent in the world. Along with his three partners Aryan (Vivek Oberoi, Rachael (Amila Terzimehic) and Mike (Serge Crozon-Cazin), he solves impossible cases under great pressure. Their well-oiled team gets recognition and fame. But soon, a greed for power leads them to backstab AK and their country as they attempt to kill him amidst a strenuous case. AK pushes through the physical and emotional pain caused to him as he hatches a plan to save the world from his friends-turned enemies.
Director Siva’s ideas appear quite ambitious on paper. But when it comes to translating these ideas onto a visual medium, he disappoints. From constructing Morse codes to staging action sequences in between two moving trains, the director tries to excite the audience with grandiose ideas. Unfortunately, all his efforts go to waste when the weak screenplay starts to fill its plot holes with these supposedly exciting stunts.
Most of the errors in Vivegam arise from its writers’ failure to differentiate between a fast-paced script and fast-paced execution. A fast-paced script does not require a thousand different shots to be squeezed into one scene. Its swiftness can be observed organically through its characters and their journey. Vivegam doesn’t have a fast-paced script. To make up for this, it puts to action a fast-paced staging that most definitely does not work in its favor. Every scene in the film is rushed. Even before you realize what is happening, you are forced to dive into another scene.
The film’s dull dialogues decrease its pace furthermore. Most of Vivegam’s dialogues lack sharpness. Sometimes, they seem completely irrelevant to the occurrences in the plot. Logic also goes for a toss when foreigners in the film begin to speak Tamil. The fact that these foreigners suddenly lose and acquire skills to speak Tamil causes the film’s inconsistencies to appear all the more prominent. This web of believability is further weakened when Akshara Haasan is introduced to us as Natasha, a foreign spy who can speak Tamil naturally because of her recent face-transplant.
Staging too is a problem in Vivegam. Introductory and explanatory scenes resemble advertisements. They completely lack realism and mystery. The romance track between AK and Yazhini (Kajal Aggarwal) mirrors popular jewelry advertisements. High-tech gadgets and Secret Government Agencies are introduced to us in the format of public service advertisements.
In this time and age, it becomes irrelevant to base a story on characters that are either good or bad. A grey area is necessary to ensure these characters come across as actual three dimensional human beings. The hero and villain bear such clichéd characterizations. The hero is a good husband, he is fit, he works for the government and he prays regularly. The villain on the other hand hails from North India, he is an atheist, he doesn’t respect women and he is fraudulent by nature. Why must these characteristics be a preset for heroes and villains? One of the mains reasons behind Vikram Vedha’s success is its ability to merge black and white lines. Vivegam on the other hand succumbs to a clichéd representation.
The clichéd representation extends to Yaazhini’s character as well. She is portrayed as a woman who always understands. She teaches music, runs a restaurant and views anger as a forbidden emotion. Why do directors in Tamil Cinema write female characters that belong to two extremes? Female characters in many mainstream films are either reduced to item girls or placed at divine standards. Why not write realistic character sketches instead? A woman like Yaazhini is bound to get angry at her husband for being away most of the time. She will not just smile, understand and worship her husband. She will most definitely not sing his praises while he fights his enemy. Maybe director Siva should refer to films like Sethupathi, Vikram Vedha and Aandavan Kattalai whose women characters ride bikes, hold successful careers and makes mistakes too.
Since Vivegam so desperately wants to ape James Bond films, one must note that Bond films are implausible too. But the difference is you don’t bother analyzing each and every frame of Bond films because of the fine character development and predominating presence of fun and style. Vivegam’s implausibility could’ve been accepted too, if the film slowed down enough for us to understand its characters and appreciate its smartness.
Ajith Kumar’s physical transformation for Vivegam is undoubtedly impressive. But his efforts go wasted in a film that never gives you enough time to notice or appreciate anything about his character. Kajal Aggarwal’s characterization is unrealistic hence nullifying her screen presence. Vivek Oberoi’s character Aryan is poorly constructed. He is expected to constantly build up the hero. A Villain should never be assigned the task of overly admiring his contender. This mistake costs his character’s credibility heavily, leading us to never take him seriously.
Good cinematography doesn’t rely on tone alone. Vivegam’s color palette is good. But all through the film, the incessant camera movement is distracting. In efforts to create a speedy visual-scape, the camera constantly moves making it hard for you to concentrate even on one frame. This rugged camera motion disrupts the narrative.
Editor Ruben’s cuts are choppy. When the camera is constantly in motion, one shouldn’t slice shots to include more perspectives of the same scene. For example, In Birdman, most of the shots that contain camera movements don’t have immediate cuts. But even conversation scenes in Vivegam have various perspective shots stuffed in them. This draws more attention to the technicalities rather than having the audiences concentrate on the story.
Due to its heavy hero worship and weak screenplay, Vivegam will only be enjoyed by fans of Ajith Kumar. For the rest, it is guaranteed to be quite a tiresome experience.