Namma Veettu Pillai is the spiritual sequel to Pandiraj’s previous film Kadaikutty Singam. It has all the elements. The central star (Sivakarthikeyan here) and his huge family who seem to be getting along well in the outset, but are at loggerheads with each other whenever necessary. There are other similar elements too, such as marrying within the family. The first cousins are kind of vying for each other based on the long existing moraponnu staple. But, the magic is in how Pandiraj crafts the tensions and bonding within the large family of four brothers and a sister, over four generations (Bharathirajaa as the patriarch named Arulmozhi, the director winking at us), with equal vigour. There is always a joke or two just around the corner. The performances across the board are first-rate (even Soori is good, first time in a million years), the ensemble gelling so well with each other that the energy can be infectious enough to forego and forgive every fault. Isn’t that what one looks for in a “family entertainer”?
At the centre of this ensemble are Arumpon (Sivakarthikeyan) and his sister Thulasi (Aishwarya Rajesh). The family is at once simple, but also complicated. Like all families. The details don’t matter, not to mention that they could spoil the film. In this family, every person has a quirk or two. Arumpon finishes his grandfather’s sentences. His nephew (a rollicking Anbukarasu, Pandiraj’s son) is developing the habit of finishing Arumpon’s sentences. You see, it all runs in the family. One of the brothers has a penchant for whispering hard truths to the person physically closest to him, and speaking out only in platitudes. Another brother is parsimonious to a fault. A cousin, a policeman, has a peculiar laugh that he unleashes upon everyone, every second. A host of characters written so colourfully goes a long way in keeping us interested and invested in a family that is not interested or invested in each other, save for two or three oddballs. Arumpon and Thulasi dote on each other, but it isn’t made to be saccharine, for the references invoked are ironic in flavour. Both Sivakarthikeyan and Aishwarya Rajesh bring their comedic talents to the fore, the latter shining in a canvas rarely provided to actresses in a mass hero-based Tamil film. More filmmakers must tap into this comic gene in her for we are short on both talent and films in the genre.
Namma Veettu Pillai is a breath of fresh air that way, its comic timing and lines clicking, minute after minute. Every performance — from the older actors to the youngsters, including Anbukarasu — is calibrated to work towards this purpose. Pandiraj manages to avoid the pitfalls of the genre in every way possible. His women — Thulasi, Maangani (Anu Emmannuel) and Archana, who plays Arumpon and Thulasi’s mother — are not uni-dimensional. They are living, breathing people with a history that informs their present or, in the case of Maangani, a future ambition that affects their present. Maangani is also the dictator in her romance with Arumpon.
The film fields Yogi Babu as a wise lawyer advising adversaries while being deadpan, possibly the first film in years where his features are not the butt of a majority of the jokes. As if fashioning a comeuppance, Yogi Babu gets to make fun of another character’s face.
Namma Veettu Pillai is also not your garden variety village film where a world outside of its 10 square kilometers setting does not exist. The families might be feuding for old-school (but, very much relevant even today) reasons but they are all doing well for themselves, and the village is carved of out a reality that is influenced by ubiquitous technology. Maangani’s father is a trader — he’s either in front of a laptop, buying and selling online, or the television playing a business channel, all day. Rarely do two characters talk in a normal call, it’s all video. I am sure Anbukarasu is a TikTok star. It’s almost as if Pandiraj wants to rewrite the village-based family film template of the 90s (that some filmmakers still force feed us — Sandakozhi 2 anyone?) to reflect the current times. And then, he goes ahead and winks some more by putting Bharathirajaa right in the thick of things. Rarely has a filmmaker managed to subvert so many clichés in recent times.
But, can’t Sivakarthikeyan do a single film without a Rajini reference? It’s not asking for much. Namma Veettu Pillai does test our patience towards the end, when it deviates into action territory, but the emotional punch stays intact. The film goes in circles a few times before it sticks its landing to the underlying philosophy that Pandiraj wants to convey. This might sound blasphemous to some, but there is a Godfather streak to the whole thing. Family is paramount, and, therefore, Arumpon and Thulasi can go to any lengths to keep it intact. The film’s universe might be problematic, but it is always consistent. Never go against the family, Pandiraj seems to say.
The Namma Veettu Pillai review is a Silverscreen original article. It was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the film. Silverscreen.in and its writers do not have any commercial relationship with movies that are reviewed on the site.