Sunday, September 10, 2006

Vettaiyaadu Vilaiyaadu

Though I expected nothing much out of Vettaiyaadu Vilaiyaadu, like any self-respecting Kamal Haasan aficionado would do, I watched the film on the first day. (And like any self-respecting bachelor software engineer would do, I watched the night show.)

Note: Some minor spoilers ahead.

Vettaiyaadu Vilaiyaadu, Gautham’s follow-up to Khaka Khaka, is a grisly thriller about a cop on the hunt for a serial killer, and it turned out just the way I had expected.

Firstly, I knew that I had to come to terms with the Gautham’s idea of an episode in a police officer’s life. An episode of Good vs. Evil battle, a battle between a superhero and an equally powerful villain, while the rest of the helpless souls may fall dead at different times and that’s not really the point [1]. Having done that, it still didn’t work as a neat thriller of sorts for me.

The film does start off well, quite serenely, with the investigation of a brutal murder; despite the heroic introduction of DCP Raghavan (Kamal Haasan) and the following “Karka Karka” song sequence filmed with dazzling reverence by Gautham.
But, the script simply fails to sustain enough interest, as the film proceeds on with mayhem of murders, Raghavan travelling to New York to unravel the mystery behind them, an angle of love interest with a divorcee Aradhana (Jyothika), an unnecessary flashback (reusing some elements of Khaka Khaka), every song serving as a hindrance.
Once we are introduced to the serial killer, the film goes completely haywire in the second half with more murders [2], as Gautham tries really hard and fails to engage us in a sort of cat-and-mouse game. And, it was surprising to see some of the plot elements of Khaka Khaka being directly reused in these segments of the film.

Technically, the film carries all the baggage that Khakha Khaka did. Among the actors, Kamal Haasan and Prakash Raj are the only face-saving entries. If songs were hindrances, the background score was so mindlessly awful. And what was with those shots that go upside down and then rotate back doing a 360 degrees turn?

Gautham is evidently heavily inspired by a host of Hollywood serial killer films [3].
One can see what he is trying to do here. Just like the Indian serial killer in his film (a figure much similar to the ones Gautham and we have seen in many Hollywood films) committing series of murders in their own territory, Gautham, an Indian director, is making a film on “their” genre set in their own place [4]. But, like his previous film, this also turned out to be a wannabe-slick film that goes astray instead of an engaging thriller.

[1] - Check out [via] Gautham’s commentary on the alternate ending of Khakha Khaka and why the other “very positive ending” was chosen over it. Well, an ending with Maya (Jyothika) saying, “Ennanga, paathu…” in a “Look! I am so much like Smita Patil in Ardh Satya” manner, just as Anbu Chelvan (Surya) leaves for the day’s work, would have been just as horrible, but killing her just for the sake of “the larger good” is ridiculous.
I’ll definitely become guilty of reading too much into these films, but Gautham’s way of portraying the hero’s suffering by putting his ladylove in a dreaded predicament and the consequent “indifference” towards the woman herself is evident.

[2] - Honestly, how many of you remember one of the Raghavan’s subordinates hanging high tied to a lamp-post or something near a fly-over?

[3] - Here, it’s at least more befitting than Khaka Khaka, where we had a dreaded gangster almost prototyped as a psychopathic serial killer, in a completely undiscerning fashion. (It is one thing to kill one’s parents at an early age and entirely different to sever the head of a policeman’s wife, pack it in a parcel for him to take and place it in a no man’s land, which, of course, was so inappropriately taken from Seven.)

[4] - And, Raghavan, reveals some nuances of Indian police too a couple of times; when he tells his NYPD colleague, “We do this all the time, in India.” and at some other point, “Back home, it’s called the Raghavan instinct.”