With its fun long way round, Vendhu Thanindhathu Kaadu is crowded but also completely cinematic.
Director: Gautham Vasudev Menon
Cast: Silambarasan TR, Siddhi Idnani, Radikaa Sarathkumar
KGF is essentially Vendhu Thanindhadhu Kaadu (VTK), which is a story about a young boy who does not want to be enslaved, who leads by example to those who are downtrodden around him, and who eventually becomes a powerful gangster. This is a story about a boy who goes from having nothing to having everything.
Muthu (silambarasan), a poor and unemployed young man from a rural hamlet in Tamil Nadu, is the protagonist of the narrative. He relocates to Mumbai, the city of dreams, in order to provide a better future for his mother and sister.
Muthu’s character doesn’t have any heroism in it. He’s portrayed to be courageous in his town, but it’s more like a trapped animal fighting than a hero’s flamboyance. Simbu’s body language shifts as his character journey unfolds, and the actor pulls it off with ease. When his mother (a miscast Radikaa) forces him to remove his shirt to make a point about their hardship to his uncle, you can sense the loss of dignity in his face – and he portrays it without breaking down in tears. He’s also great in single-take action sequences, responding with such speed and agility that the scenes seem unchoreographed.
Every time Muthu (Simbu) attempts to flee, he gets drawn further into the realm of crime. There’s no turning back once blood stained his hands. He allows destiny to transform him into a GOAT Gangster rather than a simple scapegoat by submitting to the world’s cruel law – murder or be killed. Was that, however, the only choice he had? Isn’t it also partly his choice?
To emphasize this point, a parallel plotline involving Sridharan (Neeraj Madhav), who is also trapped in the underworld like Muthu, is employed well. He has similar life-altering events, but finally sets himself free to live a “normal” life.
Siddique portrays Kutty, a perverse and ruthless Malayali mob leader who opposes Garji, Muthu’s Tamil boss. Mumbai is a melting pot of cultures, and Gautham has taken the bold step of allowing the characters to talk in their native tongues. So you’ll hear a combination of Tamil, Hindi-influenced Tamil, Malayalam, and Hindi throughout the film. It’s a risk since the audience could grumble that they didn’t understand a few lines here and there, but it makes the picture sound much more real.
The hero and heroine (Siddhi Idnani, portraying Paavai) meet in a little clothing store where a hesitant Muthu has to buy undergarments, demonstrating how far Gautham has moved away from his past cinema. There isn’t much comedy in VTK, but this sequence will make you laugh out loud. The director’s imprint is still there in the romance: Muthu chases Paavai but stops when she begs him to. In the verbal exchange, the sequence preceding ‘Unna Nenachadhum’ is likewise classic GVM. AR Rahman’s ‘Marakuma Nenjam’ serves as both a song and a chant throughout the film.
Vendhu Thanindhadhu Kaadu’s interval block is as satisfying as the one in Kamal Haasan’s recent smash, Vikram. Because the authors effectively previewed the main part of the film (the unused gun), we know what’s going to happen. They prepare us minute by minute for the film’s most anticipated scene, then thrill us with a spectacular payoff.
Furthermore, the film has several intriguing easter egg-like allusions. For example, the ‘girlfriend older than her lover’ component from Gautham & Simbu’s earlier film Vinnaithandi Varuvaaya and the connection from Maniratnam’s Nayakan to the OG Tamil movie mafia boss, Velu Nayakar.
‘Unna Nenachadhum’s staging didn’t do much for me either. Siddhartha Nuni, the film’s cinematographer, uses a single frame to create the illusion, which the filmmakers likely intended, of a song interrupting what seems to be an everyday dialogue between the protagonists’ romantic interests. They seem to be merely conversing to each other in poetry, yet the audience hears it as if it were music because of the lack of typical embellishments and choreography. While the film as a whole failed to inspire any sense of unity in me, I didn’t mind how Rahman’s fantastic songs were spliced together to connect the various parts. When combined with the very unimpressive sequel bait, these moments seemed like an afterthought and detracted from the film’s fantastic elements.
The second half of the film might have benefited from tighter editing, and the last 15 minutes, which set up the sequel’s idea, seemed very hurried. Scenes are sloppy because they try to convey too much information at once, such as a reference to Nayagan and a personal tragedy in Muthu’s life.
Fans may, however, rejoice at Gautham Menon’s return to form.
Vendhu Thanindhathu Kaadu is currently running in theatres.