Tamil Reviews

Vanjagar Ulagam Review: An Interesting Whodunit With An Alarming Lack Of Sensitivity

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Director: Manoj Beedha

Cast: Guru Somasundaram, Chandni Tamilarasan, Anisha Ambrose, Harish Peeradi, Ciby Bhuvanachandran

Composer: Sam CS

The most inspired sequence in Vanjagar Ulagam –  A World Of Crooks – neither belongs to the cast, nor is it derivative of the plot. It is owned, without contest, by composer Sam CS. A chase-and-kill sequence, which would have been ordinarily set to a tempo that increases in intensity every second, is dealt with in an almost whimsical fashion. It seems too arrhythmic to be true on paper, alternating between a sinuous Carnatic base and fast dub step, two forms of music that would perhaps sound a little discordant if you were to group them together, but Sam CS toys with the notes just enough; they are not overwhelmingly new, or I-have-heard-this-one-before rusty. The genres blend together in a lovely chorus, and yet retain their authenticity.

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A very romantic krithi set in raga Dharmavathi is worked into the chase sequence. Guru Somasundaram as Sampath, a man with a disturbed past, part of an elaborate drug ring is fleeing his captors who have just realised his identity. And so, in a brilliant subversion of the theme, the composition – ‘Ododi Vandhen Kanna; Unakkum Enakkumulla Uravindru Arindhu…‘ [I come running to you Krishna; I realise what we mean to each other] – twists and turns in tune with the actions; sometimes, Sam CS alters the tenor of what originally is a loving ode to Krishna – so that it sounds suitably sinister, vocals eerily fading into the background. It’s wild, this piece of music.

Even wilder is the premise that Vanjagar Ulagam is built around. It begins with a murder of a woman (Chandni Tamilarasan as Mythili); her neighbour, an engineer with a media organisation, is a suspect. The film, marketed as a romantic thriller, attempts to connect several disparate threads. There’s Guru Somasundaram, in a terrific role as Sampath, a drug dealer who is a victim of circumstances; he has a whiff of Joker about him – eccentric mannerisms, all ruthlessly violent, but at the same time, awkward and kind with the women staff who work at the cartel. During a particular instance, he amiably converses with a lady employee who tells him – just as casually – not to kill people within the factory. Romba sathama iruku saar [it’s too loud], she says. It makes for much hilarity for there isn’t much scope for comedy in the script otherwise.

While VU does begin as a somewhat benign, mildly interesting case of murder – a woman killed under mysterious circumstances, a seemingly clueless husband, a deceptive lover, a bevy of journalists who use the opportunity to pin down a drug lord – it soon takes a turn for the worse.

Guru as Sampath is the friend of Mythili’s husband, and his past, a murky one, is unravelled only towards the end. Just a day after the historic judgment passed by the Supreme Court of India decriminalising homosexuality, and striking down the archaic provisions of Section 377, Vanjagar Ulagam showcases ‘forbidden’ romances – and not in a good light. One, a socially frowned upon relationship between a married woman and her boyfriend, and another, a homosexual relationship which is propped up to be the cause for the former. Sampath and Bala, the woman’s husband, are portrayed as homosexuals who had briefly come out in their adolescence only to retreat into the closet again. Bala is in an unhappy marriage with Mythili while Sampath’s life takes a dark turn. It makes for insensitive, lazy writing that gives voice to opinions that don’t quite belong in an inclusive society. Enough already with films showcasing gay folk being derided for their orientation; yes, the struggles are real, and so is the darkness, but maybe, just maybe if the relationships are painted in flamboyant colours, and treated just the same as heterosexual romances, the theatres would erupt in celebration instead of descending into an uneasy silence at sight of two men in love. It only seeks to point the long road that still lies ahead of the historic moment the country had witnessed recently – of rehabilitation, sensitisation, learning, and unanimous acceptance of sexual minorities.

*****

The Vanjagar Ulagam 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 any commercial relationship with movies that are reviewed on the site.

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