Velaikaran Review - On the right path
The best thing about Velaikaran is that that when you come out from the movie you aren't exactly sure on what verdict to give your friend. That you are not merely saying 'superb' or 'great fun while it lasted' or 'trash' but recollecting whether the film worked as a whole and was it treated more seriously than you expected are actually good signs from a mainstream movie staring a popular hero. This is probably Sivakarthikeyan's biggest film in terms of scale but the fact that it is his least commercial is a pleasant surprise.
Mohan Raja's follow up to Thani Oruvan is an interesting film. That it was going to be message heavy was obvious but what we have here is a definite intent to not come across as extremely preachy. Intent is the key word here. The oft repeated dialogue in the film about 'action (seyal) is what matters' comes across in Mohan Raja's narrative too. He wants to showcase that change is definitely possible and the hero of the film is the agent of this change.
The film makes the correct moves right at the start and the subtle tone is hard to miss. The main theme or conflict arises only in the interval but where Raja scores is that whatever happens till then is crucial to the narrative and in fact some of the better portions of the film are to be found here. Preachiness does creep in often but the absence of loudness left me pinching myself. Yes the corporate bigwigs are the big villains in the movie. But not the sort of villains you are accustomed to. They don't mouth dialogues like 'you poor are bound to suffer' or ' this is what the big bad corporate world is' nor are they shown ordering henchmen to finish off the hero. You understand why Fahadh Fassil has been cast here. He is brilliant but it is going to be interesting to see how the audiences react to his performance. Here in our mainstream space a suave or cool villain is dubbed as being subtle but Fahadh brings in the real deal here. While you expect this from him the surprise package is Sivakarthikeyan's portrayal of Arivu. He might not be as effortless as his counterpart in underplay but Velaikaran proves that he can be convincing in serious roles.
I will come to what did not work to me later but there are enough reasons apart from what I have stated so far to reiterate that Velaikaran warrants our attention. The cat and mouse game is unfussy. Both the hero and villain have more important things to do than belittle the other through silly dialogues or prove the one-upmanship of each other. I liked how their ideals were what are pitted against each other and not their characters as such.There is this scene where Rohini (who plays the hero's mother) sort of motivates him. But what caught my attention here was how during this scene she casually informs him about how her bosses in the past have glanced at her inappropriately. You are not used to this sort of exchange in our films. Sivakarthikeyan gives an instant shock and the scene moves on without harping about it. You just can't thank Raja enough for this.
Where Velaikaran stumbles is how its solutions come across as simplistic. It is not about the idea which sounds logical. The film wants to say that if people realized on what harm they were doing unintentionally, atleast some of them would rectify their actions. It is at this point that the film finds itself in a tricky position. These scenes in a typical masala would be treated with either melodrama or heroism. So while some of us might laugh off at those scenes we would also buy into them because they existed in the masala universe. But what happens here is that while the scenes are devoid of both melodrama and heroism, the sudden changes of few characters are not extremely convincing in the universe that Velaikaran exists. But I am also not sure as to what else would have worked here and given the constraints of these big mainstream films, Velaikaran atleast makes an attempt to stay grounded. All said there is this definite lack of tension for most of the second half which is the film's biggest issue. It is not as though you are guessing what is going to happen but the problem is that we aren't really engaged to the extent that we want to know what is going to happen.
With minimum deviation from the core and negligible commercial compromises, Mohan Raja delivers another film that warrants our attention. Agility or more tension in the drama is what is lacking.