Velaikkaran: A Remarkable First Half Let Down by a Preachy Second Half
Movie Review by Trijai Nerthi (Rocheston Certified Movie Critic)
Velaikkaran isn’t your run of the mill ‘mass’ movie. It doesn’t overwhelm you with a thousand conventional hero introduction shots. It takes a smart approach and presents it in a creative narrative that is half-filled with interesting screenplay gimmicks. Most importantly, the film ensures that its heavy handed message is never shoved down your throats.
Arivu (Sivakarthikeyan), a hot-blooded young man from the ‘kolakaara kuppam’ is determined to uplift his community youngsters by procuring dignified jobs for them. But stuck in the midst of a greedy corporate jungle, he meets with the realization that the job he is expected to do is indirectly responsible for poisoning millions of people across the nation. A devastated Arivu then cracks a plan to bring about a massive moment of change across the factories of all the corporate giants. Whether or not he succeeds in bringing about this change forms the crux of the movie.
The topic of food adulteration isn’t new, but director Mohan Raja packages this alarming social issue in a hard hitting manner. The way this story begins with a community radio backdrop is quite refreshing to witness. In one remarkable scene, Arivu delivers a running commentary on a neighborhood gang war. It beautifully captures the many emotions one has while witnessing such a fight. His observations start of on a comical note, but as things get serious, Arivu gets emotional and is eventually left to fend for his friend. This hybrid feeling that the scene brings about is impressive.
One of Velaikkaran’s strongest aspects lies in the fact that it has something for everybody. Its cross-cutting narrative will appeal to those of you who look for an innovative presentation, the songs and the way Arivu deals with the social concerns surrounding him, will strike a chord with Sivakarthikeyan’s fans and the references in the film are sure to bring about laughs among the younger crowd.
In one scene, Kasi extensively explains why a corporate salesman is no better than a gangster. Director Mohan Raja uses a set of montages to bring alive this comparison. This particular montage leaves an impact on you and makes you want to do your bit for your community too. A creator’s highest form of compliment is when the audiences respond to his work. Mohan Raja receives this compliment when the entire theatre shines their mobile torches in a scene where the characters in the film are expected to do the same.
Velaikkaran’s series of flaws arises in the second half. As the film slowly piles on more concerns to address, the screenplay becomes heavy and preachy. For instance, Kasthuri’s story track fails to move you due to the heavy approach it takes. It’s overly moralistic tone never establishes an emotional connection with the audience. ‘
In the midst of a crucial scene, Arivu and Mrunalini break for a duet. This sort of poor song placement waters down the impact of the motivating story. The emotions and sentiments of characters in many scenes appear exaggerated. The ambitious and smart treatment of the first half is brought down to many unnecessary ‘mass’ scenes that only re-establish the message the film has already conveyed. For example, the first time Arivu says “Ulagathin Thalai Sirantha Sol, Seyyal”, it is admirable. But when he keeps repeating the same, it becomes boring. Many such repetitions in the film could’ve been scraped off. This way, the film’s tiring three hour running time could’ve been cut down to a crisp and sharper two hours.
One of the significant reasons responsible for the faltering of Velaikkaran is due to audience’s lack of emotional investment in the second half. Whatever sentiment the film binds you to in the first half, it leaves halfway in the second. Initially, the scenes involving Arivu’s efforts to bring factory workers to his side are motivating but as the sequences drag on, the emotional investment of the audience too, slowly grows weaker.
As Arivu, Sivakarthikeyan delivers the best performance of his career. He fits into the role effortlessly with his boy next door looks and charisma. Furthermore, the actor’s toned down approach to comedy in this film has helped him immensely. In many challenging scenes, he is able to hold the frame and immerse the audience in his emotional journey. It is also satisfying to note that, unlike the glorification of stalking in Remo, Arivu in Velaikkaran dismisses the slut-shaming his love interest faces in the film.
Nayanthara doesn’t have much to do in the film. But her portrayal in this small role is mostly graceful. Some key characters in Velaikkaran played by Rohini, Prakash Raj, Charlie, Vijay Vasanth, Vinodhini and Thambi Ramaiah stay with you for hours after the film. Considering Fahadh Faasil’s previous body of work, his portrayal of Aadhi cannot be deemed brilliant. In comparison to his character Prasad in Thondimuthalum Driksakshiyum, Aadhi is quite forgettable.
Muthuraj deserves a special mention for his spotless production design. He has impeccably brought alive the director’s vision by constructing the ‘Kolakara Kuppam’ from scratch with utmost accuracy. Not for a minute does the set appear artificial. Every little home feels lived in. Muthuraj has to be applauded for such extensive detailing.
Cinematographer Ramji’s subdued visualscape has helped the film shed the conventional and over-the-top color palette of ‘mass’ films. Due to the cinematographer’s mindfulness, the tone in Velaikkaran is subtle yet stirring.
Anirudh’s music gives the film a satisfying local flavour. From the first song ‘Karutha Vellam Galeeja’ to the back ground score, everything packs an extra punch. It elevates the director’s vision and leaves a deeper impression on the audience.
On the whole, Velaikkaran isn’t perfect. But as far as conventional entertainment goes, this film is definitely above average.