Tamil Reviews

Vedalam Review: The Slow-Motion Satan

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A white commander divides his men into two groups. He wants them to take over a plane on a runway; one team rushing it from the front, the other from the back.

They fly in helicopters and land alarmingly close to the plane. The commandoes guarding the plane must have been either dead or deaf or some combination thereof. They stand there doing nothing, and get killed.

The teams board the plane. Victory is in sight. But they forgot something important: this is Tamil cinema. White guys never win. Time now for a contrived twist.

It’s a recurring pattern throughout Vedalam. Intriguing situations are set up, only to get resolved lazily. Like the writers suddenly realised half-way into every scene that this was an Ajith movie and decided to take collective smoke breaks.

*****

It’s the curse of contrasts. The blacks have to be really black, the whites really white. Otherwise, goes the curse, the audience will mistake black for white, white for black. Mayhem will ensue. No nuance for them, please. Never mind that the same people made a big hit out of the very grey Soodhu Kavvum.

In this cursed world, brothers and sisters cannot merely love each other; they have to suck the oxygen out of each other with love. They have to tear up over nothing and look at each other with a permanent expression of bewildered gratitude. Ajith, for whom expressions are still a struggle, and Lakshmi Menon, duly check the brother and sister boxes.

There was once a movie with a brother. His sister wanted to get into medical school. His name was something, but he had another name too. That brother never fawned over his sister. He was just an everyday brother who acted like everyday brothers do. Until that day.

Not in Vedalam. The moment you see Ajith bring his sister Lakshmi Menon to Kolkata to seek admission for her in an art school, you know something is up. Even if he has an innocent smile and fair skin. In case you ever forget the fact, pretty much the entire cast takes turns reminding you. He has fair skin. An innocent smile. Also, he has fair skin.

*****

Shruti Haasan has the loosu ponnu market totally cornered these days. She is a criminal lawyer with a leering assistant, and is forever one heart-to-heart conversation away from falling in love with Ajith. Who has fair skin and an innocent smile.

The conversation happens, spoilers be darned. An extended courtroom gag is funny, but does nothing to establish her as a serious character. Nor does the random throwing of objects at family members, to gain their attention.

So naturally, the director banishes her from the movie for extended periods of time.

*****

There is an extended flashback where Ajith – the stubbly one from the first-look posters – plays a thug. Only money matters to me, he tells all and sundry. This one is fair-skinned too, we are reminded a few times. Pains are taken to establish that this version only likes money. Pay him, and he’ll do what you ask him to. No sentiments. He only likes money and old Tamil songs.

Thambi Ramaiah is blind. So is his wife. Ajith, the heartless (but fair-skinned) thug treats them like clowns. And then one day, he discovers he has thanmanam, which is a uniquely Tamil quality. Twist number one. And then later that day, he discovers that the clowns are more than clowns to him.

Smoke break.

*****

As punchlines go, this is unexpectedly sensible. Leave women alone, Ajith tells men. Let them study, let them work, let them play, let them walk. If you like them, talk to them. If they don’t, leave them alone.

*****

My mama was a smoker who didn’t want anyone to know he smoked. After every meal, he would walk as far as he could, to the farthest possible store so his mom – my grandma – would not find out.

One day someone is looking for him after dinner. My paati – over 75 and hard-of-hearing by then – yells to them, go check this store far away from here. He’s out there smoking.

For Ajith, guns are the cigarettes. His sister is the paati.  And he goes through an elaborate charade to make sure she doesn’t see how well he can shoot. Or fight.

*****

In Anniyan, Vikram did this frenetic character switching – from good to bad to evil to good to bad. It was disconcerting, but novel.

In Vedalam, Ajith, like he does everything else, does things slowly. Here is Mr Goody Two Shoes. Then slowly, he shakes his head to the left. To the right. Bares his teeth. Then speaks lines, in slow motion. When he is done with it all, you aren’t sure what he was at the beginning.

*****

By the way, Shruti Haasan had an innocent smile too. Not that anyone in Vedalam bothered to mention it. Soori and Rajendran, Kovai Sarala and Thambi Ramaiah. And yet, the comedian is Shruti Haasan?

A friend’s mom was watching with us. In the end, she tells me, I liked it because I pretended it was Rajinikanth. Vedalam is that kind of movie.

 *****

The surprise then is that the movie works. Vedalam is entertaining enough; the fans clapped at all the right moments. The premise is interesting, the music and stunts are adequate, and the technicians were good enough.

Plus, it stars Ajith. Who has an innocent smile and fair skin. Lots of it.

*****

The Vedalam review (aka the Vedhalam Review) is a Silverscreen original article. It was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the movie. Silverscreen.in and its writers do not have an advertising relationship with movies that are reviewed on the site.

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