TW: distressing scenes
Since his debut with 2007’s ‘Polladhavan,’ Vetrimaaran has been steadily improving his filmic craft, which cannot be said about many of his peers. His films place equal importance to maintaining artistic integrity and showcasing social injustices, resulting in some of the best films of the 21st century. His latest film, ‘Viduthalai,’ continues the director’s impressive streak. Viduthalai is the first half of a two-part film.
The film depicts the frictions between a revolutionary group called the ‘People’s Army,’ led by Vijay Sethupathi’s Vaathiyar Perumal, against the enforcers of the national regime. We see these tensions unfold from the frontline, through the eyes of policeman Kumaresan, played by Soori, an honest and upstanding officer who wishes solely to serve the public. Kumaresan struggles against his superior officers in their handling of the local community amidst the search for Perumal. The film explores power, how it corrupts and the manifestations of these corruptions. I would like to warn the potential viewer that the film contains many distressing scenes featuring blood and gore depiction, torture and sexual violence.
The cast is fantastic. Soori is a revelation as the conflicted Kumaresan, transitioning from his usual comedic roles to a heavy dramatic one seamlessly. Chetan is brilliant as the easily detestable OC. Bhavani Sre turns in a nuanced performance as Thamizharasi, Kumaresan’s love interest. Vijay Sethupathi, for the little time he is onscreen, stuns with his sensitivity as usual when working with great material.
The epistolary screenplay narrated through voiceover is interesting - adding a constant sense of foreboding discomfort. Velraj’s cinematography is wonderful: whether it be the landscape of the hills - with its ant-like inhabitants - or the jagged and narrow infrastructure of the local settlement. The film opens with an impressive feat of cinematic brilliance, which almost goes unnoticed from the devastation of the scene. The lighting department require special commendation during the ‘Onnoda Nadandha’ song sequence. There are a few hitches with the filmmaking, but these can be mostly overlooked. Vetrimaaran’s notorious sound mixing and dubbing rear their head here too. There are certain moments of questionable editing, especially right at the interval.
This is Vetrimaaran’s first collaboration with the veteran composer Ilaiyaraaja, and the two complement one another very well. Both songs ‘Onnoda Nadandhaa’ and ‘Kaattumalli’ are soothing love songs, using the forest imagery to poetically illustrate the blossoming love between Kumaresan and Thamizharasi. The accompanying score is also memorable - the swelling violins of the main theme latch onto one’s heart and replay in one’s mind.
Overall, Vetrimaaran delivers a rousing feature film, which will disgust and enrage the viewer. He continues to lead the pack by creating the most important films from the Tamil industry. If you liked this film, I would recommend watching Vetrimaaran’s filmography - my personal favourites include his most recent two ‘Vada Chennai’ and ‘Asuran.’
Krishna's rating: 4 stars
Official trailer for the film below.