First impressions of Vada Chennai: A gritty peek into a fascinating world

Early morning shows are a phenomenon intrinsic to Tamil cinema. But to witness packed houses for multiple shows at 4:45 am, despite mild rains, is a sight that our theatres have been yearning for in a while. For the second time within a month (after Mani Ratnam’s Chekka Chivantha Vaanam), the crowds had set their alarms not just to watch their favourite stars first on the big screen, but also to witness their favourite filmmaker weave his magic. The applause that Vetri Maaran’s name received at the end of Vada Chennai, was such a gratifying sound. Quite exciting times for Tamil cinema, indeed.

If you’re someone who has been following Vetri Maaran’s interviews for Vada Chennai, you walk out of the film with a sense of holistic comprehension. Through these interviews, he has given us a guide to grasp Vada Chennai and all of his creative decisions. Entering the hall, we already knew that the film would move at a quick pace due to the five-hour-plus footage now reduced to two hour forty-six minutes. We knew ‘he finds his films’ on the edit table and during dubbing, which explains the erring lip-sync, the explanatory voice-overs and choice of shots. We also knew of the unplanned songs that he received from Santhosh Narayanan.

However, none of this mars the solid, intense narrative Vetri Maaran has whipped up for his audience. The stellar writing and the research that has gone into Vada Chennai shine through in a gripping story that is fascinatingly convoluted. Loads of characters whose stories are entangled in an intricately layered story, but he ensures we are always in the loop. The strength of Vada Chennai lies in the fact that he doesn’t resort to surprises to keep us involved. When the plot twists happen, not only are they organic (like the cuss words used), it is something you actually could sense coming. His writing is so good that it doesn’t matter if you guessed it or not — they just are incredibly effective. He ups the ante and pushes the cyclical story of love and revenge beyond a guessing game and that to me is the success of Vetri Maaran. Some incredibly smart filmmaking from the National Award winner and this is the same person who says that he is just ‘trying to make films’.

And boy, has he chosen his actors well. Despite the film being condensed and cushioned with voice-overs, every single one of Kishore, Samuthirakani, Aishwarya Rajesh, Andrea, Pawan and Ameer, with Dhanush leading the way, sell the moments convincingly. We don’t really need to see the footage that Vetri Maaran was forced to cut, his writing and the performances do the trick.

This was originally written for The New Indian Express. You can find it here.

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