Personally, Mani Ratnam even at his worst (Kadal) ended up on a cinematic high. Lately (rather for a decade), Ratnam’s writing hasn’t been convincing, even though it’s cinematically enthralling and visually enchanting where visuals spoke in-depth than the writing (Kaatru Veliyidai). In the first act itself, we’ve Mani Ratnam’s patent element: mirror. A bandage is being peeled off while a heated discussion takes place simultaneously – it establishes a duality. With Chekka Chivantha Vaanam, we too witness Mani Ratnam’s other side, a commercial venture about unappealing or not-so-exceptional yet engrossing characters. And the commercially cut trailer which supposedly revealed everything is a fine example of how a dynamics of film semantics and understanding of craft works.
Chekka Chivantha Vaanam lurks beneath the surface, the underworld – revolves around the bloodthirsty brothers (Arvind Swami, Silambarasan, Arun Vijay) tracing and seeking revenge on Senapathy’s (Prakash Raj) assassination attempt. The gangster drama spreads its wings, parallel stories of the brothers who are handling Senapathy’s business across continents (Serbia, Dubai and Chennai), the family and a suspended Police Officer Rasool (Vijay Sethupathi).
It’s a visual experience mounted with detailing of characters – plot closely works on the lines of The Godfather (1972), but its instantly dismissed as shades of characters are simmered. Mani Ratnam’s most straightforward film sets a bar high on the three-act structure while engaging in a semantics approach. His ability of tackling complicated relationships and unfurling the drama in an interesting way shines, it’s a collaborative process – Editor A. Sreekar Prasad helps propel the drama by intercutting a normal sequence which makes it more rhythmic. With many characters and sub-plots, it’s difficult to contemplate about what should’ve chopped off – as far as I speculate, Sreekar Prasad has given enough breathing space and grading the shades for each character within 143 minutes.
Santosh Sivan, who teams up after Dil Se.. (1998) and Raavanan (2010) strokes the canvas with shades of blue, green, red and yellow denoting the graph from sadness, jealousy and rage. Title translates as Crimson Red Sky, it stands for power and royalty – every character possesses a royal power which Mani Ratnam-Santosh Sivan propel with royal frames. Unlike Iruvar (1997), where frames spoke a cinematic language; here, it merely shows. Not a wasted frame, each frame speaks in layers whether it’s about tenderness, concern, love, friendship or violence – stating the existence and hierarchy of the character’s conflict. With engrossing characters, there’s an emotional disconnect, I so wanted to feel the individual characters and scenes but Mani Ratnam acts like a chameleon, provides a longlasting cinematic sting. While the background score seamlessly blends into the drama – while it’s a complete surprise package where Rahman’s songs back a backseat in a Mani Ratnam film.
The stellar ensemble cast caters to every arc and aspect of the character-driven plot, Chekka Chivantha Vaanam‘s hook lies upon all the phenomenal actors who convincingly add depth. Suave Arvind Swami, meaty Silambarasan, Vijay Sethupathi with wicked humour and a scene stealer, composed Arun Vijay, delightful Jyothika, blazing Dayana Erappa, emotionally vibrant Jayasudha, crude Prakash Raj, restricted Aishwarya Rajesh and glorious but unnecessary Aditi Rao Hydari.
Chekka Chivantha Vaanam isn’t devoid of flaws; it definitely manifests the prowess of Mani Ratnam. While doing so, at the root level it is a generic offering which may or may not work for those who aren’t familiar with the Tamil Cinema of 80s-90s. But, it never fails as a whole; it leaves with the longing, cherishing, rejuvenating taste you always wanted to savour post-Mani Ratnam film in past decade. And I’ve often come across, “Mani Ratnam makes only intellectual films” – the crimson red sky awaits the presence.
Release: 27 September, 2018
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