Tamil Reviews

Vai Raja Vai Review : A Bet Too Safe

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vai-raja-vai-tamil-movie-stills-033Aishwarya R. Dhanush’s directorial debut 3 rode on a strong romantic track in the first half and that one song that took the country by storm. She handled the school-age romance with such deft delicacy, it was hard to believe 3 was her first film.  Vai Raja Vai  – starring Gautham Karthik, Priya Anand, Taapsee and Vivek – is the director’s sophomore effort.  Unlike 3, there is no romance or strong character interactions in Vai Raja Vai for Aishwarya to showcase. She chooses instead to employ a plot device that is rather too convenient: a hero with a superpower. But like 3, Vai Raja Vai  fares better in the initial exchanges.

When we meet Karthik (Gautham Karthik), he is already in a steady relationship with Priya; has a steady job,  a loving family and a set of friends. An overdone narrative then introduces us to Karthik and his superpower, some sort of ESP that lets him predict events.  There are some nice touches though: the showing happens before the telling. How the baby Karthik cried for the first time, so his dad would pick him up before a ceiling fan fell. And how he is forced to suppress the superpower for his own good.

That sets the stage for the comic portions to takeover.

Vivek plays a call centre employee called Pandiyan – Panda, when he’s cool – who Karthik is fascinated by.  That Vivek  – at least a generation older than Gautham Karthik – was picked for the role requires one to suspend disbelief; and the writing does nothing to help that disbelief. Unless that is the point. Because the comic track itself is a winner.  Especially the scene where Panda and Karthik talk gibberish to drive Sathish (Sathish) away from the table; as is the one about No Smoking cards in films and the censor board.

This is Aishwarya at her most commercial; and yet she isn’t all mainstream. Has there been a Tamil movie where the women are plant pathologists and mathematicians (even if they aren’t well used)? This Aishwarya wants a little bit of everything in her movie; sometimes it is almost like the whole film was on Tamil commercial cinema autopilot.  It shows in the casting, and in the writing.

Vai Raja Vai Movie StillsThe plot is half interesting and to its credit is never boring; but the treatment is so bland that we warm up neither to the story nor the characters. Everything is so convenient. As soon as Karthik finds a way to monetize his power he realizes he needs money for his sister’s wedding. His clairvoyance is never used in interesting ways. It exists merely as a plot device to introduce the audience to Panda; and then for gambling.  If it could’ve been employed in different everyday settings, one could have had a far more interesting movie than the one Aishwarya ended up making.

The second half of Vai Raja Vai alarmingly becomes its own parody. There is Manobala in one of those roles where people laugh nervously when he first appears on screen and barely move an inch of their facial muscles afterwards. He trains Karthik on something. What? We really don’t know.  Maybe how not to look awkward inside a casino. Perhaps his one instruction was to “Just do everything that I am not doing.”

Along with him is Shreya (Taapsee) the mathematician. Again a role of no consequence but at least Taapsee breathes some life into the frame. This is the second movie this year where she kicks the life out of a few guys inside a hotel. Why can’t we get more of that?

*****

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