Replicating nativity with its essence has been an easy trait for a lot of filmmakers. But, a few like Vetri Maaran have done more than that. They create a universe in their movies within this nativity and tell stories of the soil. Vada Chennai becomes his masterpiece as the creator of Polladhavan, Aadukalam and Visaaranai has reinvented himself in the first instalment of his dream trilogy.
The plot of Vada Chennai is not yet over as it is a 7-hour narration. In this first part, Vetri has set the premise of his trilogy and has shown us what is the prime conflict this geography of ‘Vada Chennai’ goes through. It should be said he has taken a bold move by pointing his fingers directly at the politicians who are responsible for keeping the area as it is now known.
One has to be daring to refer to political icons like Annadurai, MGR, Jayalalithaa and Karunanidhi, and speak about the agenda set against people. Vetri Maaran has done that. In the scene when Rajan (Ameer), in the late 1980s, carries out a talk with representatives of the then ruling party – AIADMK, as MGR and Anna are seen behind on photos – we get a clear idea of what Vada Chennai is all about. It speaks for the people of the land, whose lands are, unfortunately, grabbed by the establishment for the development of corporate and an elite section of society who do not belong to the soil.
At a point, when we see an ordinary carrom player, Anbu (Dhanush), getting dragged into the fray, the entire plot gets elevated to the next level. But, it is not forced, but Vetri Maaran’s screenplay does that to Anbu. For this, Dhanush’s efforts and transition over three different phases of his life are remarkable. Be his physique, his facial structure or his sophisticated emoting methods, everything adds substance to the screenplay.
In its subtext, Vetri Maaran has illustrated the lynchpin theory (for a big target to be achieved sometime in far future, trigger something small in the present) and Dhanush’s character is in the centre of it.
Until the movie breaks for intermission, the plot is kept non-linear and we see a combination of past and present told in chapters. In all chapters, Anbu is on the top while other characters share the titles with him.
Having established all the people in the story and their attributes, the movie shows a clash of mentalities. We see betrayal, leadership and statesmanship in the fights, while revenge is driving them all.
What adds strength to the plot is how the female characters are given prominence. Both Padma (Aishwarya Rajesh) and Chandra (Andrea) are those who become the reason things being on the right track. Aishwarya’s dominance onscreen when she romances Dhanush even makes the male actor go into a blind spot and she stands out.
Andrea has all her emotions on proper scale. It was surprising the perfection she has brought to reciting dialogues in vada Chennai slang. This actress has to be cast in more such roles.
Similarly, Samuthirakani and Kishore have an elegance in their roles and have given life to them with their screen presence. Kishore in the second half has a character transformation in which he still possesses the grip with the Madras accent.
As expected, Vada Chennai 1 ends with a lead to its sequel with a whole lot of story still left to tell. It would likely be the rise of Anbu, who now gets the ‘King of the Sea’ background theme track of Santhosh Narayanan which was initially played for Rajan – the actual king.