VADA CHENNAI: sprawling narrative of uncertainty

Once Upon A Time In North Chennai. At first, Vada Chennai may look like just another feather in the gangster drama, but as it gradually progresses – there’s much to dig.

Vetrimaran’s Vada Chennai falls into the league and universe of Pudhupettai (2006), Polladhavan (2007), Aadukalam (2011), Visaranai (2016) and even Virumandi (2004). Ultimately, Vada Chennai is a bible for Vetrimaran who has by-hearted it from years, in an interview he stated, “Certain scenes in Polladhavan are from this. Characters I left out of Vada Chennai have made it to Aadukalam. Even the relationship between a mentor and his disciple was originally meant for Vada Chennai. In Visaranai, the encounter scenes too are from that material.” Here, the well-rounded characters and detailing in terms of characters (backstories) and production design shapes the layered drama which has a rusticity into its nerves. Vada Chennai isn’t just another gangster film, it’s more like a writing exercise and a masterful director at his craft.

Anbu (Dhanush), a carrom player falls as a pawn to the gangsters in North Chennai – set over a sprawling narrative of more than a decade, numerous characters are entwined resulting a toll over Anbu’s life. Vada Chennai relies on uncertainty which comes as a thrilling factor, as Anbu gets sucked into a revenge saga – Vetrimaran pens down a character(s) story and juxtaposes with the political backdrop of Tamil Nadu. MGR, Jayalalitha and Rajiv Gandhi act as a political backdrop yet are evidently mirror to happenings around and leading to Anbu. As well as the carrom, which symbolises the events unfolding with a slick striker (in form of a surprising character revelation). And a simple straightforward script is broken down in a back-and-forth narrative, which makes the juxtaposition and revelations meatier. One may need sometime to contemplate about the proceedings, given numerous subplots – while at times, Vada Chennai looks rushed and pre-climax portion feels dragged.

Vetrimaran’s characters unravel in an evolving manner, he stands loyal to the genre without catering commercial elements as characters are engulfed into vengeance, greed and whatnot. It can possibly be termed as Gangs of North Chennai, what Anurag Kashyap has attempted with Gangs of Wasseypur (2012) – Vetrimaran attempts with a terrific gangster drama. Cinematographer R. Velraj capture the tragic and uncertainty mostly with black and grey, at times blue symbolising impoundment of Anbu. Even though, at certain places it did came across as a gimmick of cinematic pleasure. Santosh Narayanan’s elevating background rages while being at-low yet underneath chilling the bone. Vada Chennai rightly serves a dark enrichment of fear, a fear which is known by the name of uncertainty and destiny – how convoluting it may come across, it settles down in a thoughtful manner leaving us to speculate about the motives and actions.

The Duo, Vetrimaran-Dhanush always add memorable gangster feathers in Tamil Cinema. Here, Dhanush delivers a restrained performance, his gradual transformation leaves with powerful enactment. Although, Anbu’s character is tailor-made given Dhanush’s instincts with Polladhavan (2007) and Aadukalam (2011) – here, he almost sleepwalks but with prowess. It’s the ensemble cast featuring Samuthirakani, Ameer, Daniel Balaji, Kishore and Pawan add finesse to the locale taste and tragedy of the brooding ground of gangsters, North Chennai. And in a gangster narrative filled with egoistic men, Vetrimaran etches fine women characters more like a chameleon. Andrea Jeremiah is a surprise package who leaves with a smirk while Aishwarya Rajesh (as Anbu’s love interest) manages a punch.

Vada Chennai ends on a high note, while it deals with political overtones in a hullabaloo manner – underneath it’s a people’s film about displacement and development. Vada Chennai is best described in a dialogue mouthed by a gangster with MGR’s political stance – “a tiny anchor that holds the massive ship in place”; anchored meticulously by Vetrimaran.


Language: Tamil
Release: 17 October, 2018
Rating: 3.5/5


Copyright ©2018 Ninad Kulkarni. This article may not be reproduced in its entirety without permission. A link to this URL, instead, would be appreciated.

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