During the late 80s and 90s, Tamil cinema saw surge in village based subjects and the stories will be built on family feuds or inter-village feuds. Somehow, during the late 90s, we saw a dearth in such stories and we are looking at a resurgence of such stories in Tamil. Although, we see a lot regular masala movies, sometimes you get to witness some little gems like Vetrivel.
The biggest strength of Vetrivel is that it doesn’t pretend. There is nothing new in the movie but Vasanthamani (the director) scores his points through his impeccable storytelling. The movie is about a family feud that gets aggravated due to a love affair between two people from different castes/villages. Rajamanickam (played by Prabhu) becomes the President of the panchayat defeating his brother-in-law (husband of his step sister played by Viji Chandrasekhar) in an election. After 20 odd years, the focus shifts to Vetrivel (played by Sasikumar) and his family. His brother Saravanan (played by Ananth Nag) falls in love with Rajamanickam’s daughter Subha (played by Varsha). When Rajamanickam doesn’t approve, Vetrivel decides to abduct Subha in ‘Nadodigal’ style. A mishap during the process changes everything for him and his family.
I will be frank; you need a lot of patience to cross the first introduction song of Sasikumar. It’s more painful than funny to watch him doing a Rajini style dance but if you cross that hurdle, the gripping screenplay takes you over. Apart from few stunts and extended screen presence, Vetrivel’s character blends in with the larger story in which he is just the creator of the conflict. The supporting characters make an enormous impact in the movie. Be it the dignified portrayals of Ilavarasu and Prabhu as fathers or Viji Chandrasekhar’s cunning role of step sister, Vasanthamani has crafted his characters with a lot of finesse. All the three leading lady characters have minuscule screen presences but their roles are well balanced, beautifully portrayed by Mia George, Nikhila Vimal and Varsha. Each one has their moment to score and they use it perfectly. Renuka, the other important lady in the movie plays the mother and shows her mettle when she encounters her daughter-in-law.
There are regular stereotypical village movie scenes, comic sequences and stunts but the story telling is gripping and keeps you interested throughout the movie. For instance, the interval block is one of the best in recent times. And there are some compelling dialogues that will stay with you even after the movie. There is a scene in which Vetrivel says “Idhu En Appa, Idhu En Amma, Idhu En Pondati” (This is my father, this is my mother and this is my wife) to introduce each other. The scene comes at a tense moment in the movie, but you will end up smiling. These kind of scenes are sprinkled along the way to your bliss. Even the comedy sequences that involve Thambi Ramayaa and his wife have a sweet surprise. The director even takes potshots at the ‘Nadodigal’ and it has been used perfectly to move the story ahead. These are things that differentiate Vetrivel from other movies from the rural milieu.
It does not imply that Vetrivel is sans problems. The biggest grouse that I had was the way in which caste issues were handled superficially in the movie. Probably, commercial considerations and debut movie jitters could have put him off from addressing the problems related to inter-caste love stories. Nonetheless, it should have been addressed in such a movie because of the situations in Tamil Nadu.
Of late, Tamil cinema lacks story tellers. People who can take simple stories and weave an interesting screenplay around it. Now a days, directors are searching for interesting premises and when they have it, they probably botch it because they are incapable of writing a good screenplay. As I said earlier, Vetrivel doesn’t have anything new but you will not be bored even a single moment (you definitely need to cross the first intro song) and that’s what makes Vetrivel an endearing watch.
A 3/5 for Vasantha Mani’s Vetrivel for making a decent enjoyable rural movie. Watch it once and leave your prejudices about rural emotional drama back at your home.
PS: A special thanks to the cinematographer SR Kathir and the director for showing the beauty of rural Thanjavur.