Vada Chennai Movie Review: A Riveting Narrative of Entangled Lives

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Vada Chennai, which revolves around Anbu, is a consuming, gripping, ghastly and an exhilarating gangster movie… Spoilers ahead

Above everything else, it’s your ‘land’ that matters the most. It’s where you carve a life for yourself and your own people stand shoulder to shoulder. It is also where some of your own people can go against you and that’s where life can get as challenging as it can be. Director Vetrimaaran’s Vada Chennai (North Chennai) is a gangster film that takes us through an epic journey. And we see it all unfolding through the eyes of Anbu (Dhanush).

Vada Chennai narrates the story of the lives of few people in the northern part of Chennai over a period of time. It does not follow a pattern in its way of storytelling. It keeps juggling between two parallel stories that connect at some point and again goes back to a story in the past that finally culminates connecting all the dots. This is such a riveting style of narrative which keeps us on our toes, never has any humdrum moment of whatsoever and keeps us engrossed in the film.

It is a film which has given astronomical importance to each and every character so much so that every character has a scope of having a separate film based on their own life. No matter how much screen space a character has in this film, every other character leaves an indelible imprint on our mind. Thanks to the incredible performances by all the actors who made every little scene of this movie look brilliant. Rajan (Ameer Sultan) is a puissant character and does not have much of screen space but is the most potent in the context of the film. As a matter of fact, Rajan’s fall eventually leads to the rise of Anbu.

At 2 hours 44 minutes, Vada Chennai never feels like a banal and leaden film. Everything happens at a fast-clip with such an engaging manner leaving no room for you even to blink an eye. You keep thinking about brilliance in a scene and the very next moment another important scene pops up and it continues the scene after. After a while, you stop thinking about one particular scene and revel in the way nimble Vetrimaaran stitches different pieces together.

There is so much vehemence when Rajan, who is a smuggler and controls North Chennai, stands up for his people. He goes against the will of Muthu (Radha Ravi) and the industrialists by not giving the ‘go ahead’ signal in the land acquisition issue. It is reminiscent of the time Anbu raises concern for a similar issue and goes against the will of Guna (Samuthirakani) and Velu (Pavan). When Rajan gives a binocular to an eager kid at the seashore, it reminds us of the one Anbu uses on the top of the water tank to see his girlfriend Padma (Aishwarya Rajesh). And such things keep the interest factor intact among the audiences as we get absorbed more and more by it.

Another stupendous achievement of this movie is the different emotions that it successfully brings out. When Rajan is killed by his own men, including Senthil (Kishore Kumar G.) who planned everything, we sense the feeling of dolefulness through Rajan’s brother Thambi (Daniel Balaji) and his wife Chandra (Andrea Jeremiah). Just the sounds of billhooks being used to kill Rajan gruesomely gives a hair-raising feel. The movie actually opens with this very billhook covered with blood creating a spine-chilling feel in the very beginning.

We see the greed for power and authority when the conflict between Senthil and Guna builds up. There is a feeling of strangeness in the air when we see Anbu in the jail caught between the men of Senthil and Guna. There is a weird feeling when we see smuggling of drugs and alcohol happening inside the jail with drug-containing packets stuffed inside the anus, alcohol injected into coconut through syringes and cocaine powder inside the bathing soaps. We sense a feeling of trust developing between Senthil and Anbu inside the prison through the games of carrom board. And the next moment, we are caught off-guard and are completely taken by surprise when Anbu attacks Senthil. We sense the feeling of vengeance when Chandra, the ex-wife of Rajan, later goes on to marry Guna to take revenge against the men who killed Rajan.

With so much happening, the film is not just about gory violence. There is an immersing romance that blossoms through Anbu and Padma. When someone jocularly suggests Anbu to stand like a singam (lion) before Padma, he casually denies that he can’t. One may recall a popular dialogue of Rajinikanth from his movie ‘Sivaji – The Boss’ where he says – singam single ah thaan varum – that he is like a lion who handles things single-handedly. But again, this romantic angle gets caught in a violent turn of events and we feel the chills while Anbu and Padma’s brother wind up killing a man who is teasing her.

While Vetrimaaran has done a magnificent job of keeping us intrigued with this gripping story, the superabundance of cuss words used in the movie actually renders more originality to the film and makes it all look more real. Santhosh Narayanan’s background score and the songs fabulously capture the mood of the film and exemplify the impact of those brilliant performances by the actors.

The only slump which I felt slightly was the changeover towards the end when we see the heroic transformation. Anbu fights out goons single-handedly and even threatens Guna in a dauntless way that we have seen in Tamil cinema from time to time. I am not sure if Vetrimaaran did that on purpose keeping in mind Dhanush’s fans who may expect to see the elements of masala or commercial movie. It was disappointing to see something like that in a movie so original in all its essence. We do not see any dramatic metamorphosis in Vetrimaaran’s masterpiece Visaranai probably because it did not have any big star.

Well, Anbu reiterates in the film that he is like an anchor of the ship which keeps it from drifting away. Vada Chennai, which revolves around Anbu, is a consuming, gripping, ghastly and an exhilarating movie which makes an intricate and entangled story look so simpler. Written and directed by Vetrimaaran, this is the first instalment of the planned trilogy and only time will tell if we are going to see more of Anbu’s heroism or will the movie keep its realism intact. Nevertheless, this will go down as one of the most influential films of Indian cinema.