Cast: Ajith Kumar, Nayanthara, Jagapathi Babu, Thambi Ramiah, Kovai Sarala, Yogi Babu
Composer: D Imman
The jokes write themselves, don’t they? Director Siva teams up with Ajith Kumar for the fourth time to deliver a film that looks and feels as aged as their partnership. Not that there was ever any novelty in it. There were a lot of speculations regarding Ajith’s next film following Vivegam, accompanied by a palpable sense of weariness with the Siva collaborations. The announcement of a fourth film drew a lot of tired frowns. There was also relieved, silent jubilation when it was learnt that Ajith’s film after Viswasam is going to be one with director H Vinoth. The self-aware team of Ajith and Siva wanted in on the jokes and memes, so they went ahead and named their film Viswasam – loyalty, trust. Whatever you make of it.
Siva and Ajith leap off their high horses for this one. They went chasing nuclear weapons, codes and international terrorists in European countries for the earlier production, Vivegam, but here, they begin somewhere in Theni with Thooku Durai (Ajith Kumar) always clad in a veshti and shirt so much so that they have a song named ‘Vetti Kattu’. It has Ajith dancing to lyrics that go “cheran cholan pandikellam setthu kattu” inside Cholavandhan’s railway station. Ajith, to go with the kind of film Siva wants to make, is deglamorized to a large degree. From salt and pepper, he’s moved to full salt, the countenance barely registering, not to mention the white and white that dominates his attire in the film. Possibly the result of such a long collaboration stint with Siva.
The mood of the film throws us back by decades, possibly the 90s rural-based action entertainers where the hero is a venerated, almost worshiped feudal lord looking after the affairs of his people. Durai claims to have stopped consuming alcohol after one word of protest from his grandmother and does not allow anyone in his district to drink. Therefore, for Viswasam the moustaches and sickles are important iconography, however terrible the fake ones might look on Robo Shankar and Thambi Ramiah.
Niranjana (Nayanthara), a doctor from Mumbai, arrives in Durai’s village to set up medical camps and then stays a while longer. Long enough to get married to Thooku Durai and have a daughter with him. Niranjana’s role can be a bit confusing. She is introduced as a doctor but later we see her as the heir to a pharmaceutical conglomerate big enough to have business rivalries. Thankfully, Niranjana is not cut of the same cloth as most Tamil heroines are in films of this genre. She has a mind of her own and the central conflict in Viswasam is driven by her actions and decisions. There are also no explanations given for her continuing to have a career, however diminished, even if the pairing and their characteristics make one sceptical of their relationship ever working. It is remarkably free of judgement on both Durai and Niranjana’s part.
The sensibilities may be fresh, even shocking for this film, but the content in Viswasam is still dated, especially when there are two films vying for attention. One is the Ajith Kumar vehicle, screaming for mass dialogues, action scenes and sarcastic remarks about having no interest in politics. The other is a melodramatic family saga which renders all the mass scenes here force-fitted, most of them remaining flaccid when they must be breaking down doors. The filmmaking is at a constant tug of war between these two narratives.
While the major conceit of Viswasam is solid, the way it is brought in has no imagination. This is true for a large part of the film. Stories can be simple, uninteresting and incidental but screenplays and direction exist to make them pop up on screen. Siva has no desire to shake things up. Viswasam could have experimented with a more robust non-linear narrative and brought in some tension. But why bother when you can give a scene pitying Durai’s character followed by some fights followed by praise for Durai’s lovable nature, him breaking down followed by more fights. Rinse. Repeat.
The third act is particularly dire, it’s all about Durai’s largeness of heart and him willing to take all the bullets – real and emotional. Siva and Ajith have tried everything – slacker siblings, anti-heroes, counter-terrorist agents and now, the family man as the protector. Siva might need to look inwards, along with a brush up of filmmaking 101 and Ajith, probably outwards, in need of desperate reinvention.
The Viswasam 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.