Gautham Menon is one of the best (and perhaps most successful) directors in the Tamil film industry. His long track record of eclectic successes range from sleeper-hit Minnale to an intense Kaakha Kaakha. An enthralling ‘Vettayadu Vilayaadu’ to an endearing ‘Vaaranam Aayiram’; the auteur has a habit of doing an encore of his spectacular successes, growing with each movie that emerges from his stable – ‘Photon Factory’.
When a movie like Vinnaithaandi Varuvaayaa is released and promoted with a barrage of PR, even the average joe has half a mind to drag his/her ass to the theatres, just cause it’s a Gautham Menon movie. Yeah, this is a movie which sells because of its director, not to mention other myriad factors – a long list topped by A.R. Rahman’s soulful music.
At the outset, the story seems mundane and hackneyed. Aspiring director, mechanical-engineer, Tam-dude Karthik (Silambarasan) woos landlord’s daughter Jessie (Trisha) who happens to be a Mallu Christian, and a year older to make things worse. He’s smitten by her at the first sight, follows her and speaks his heart out, only to get summarily rejected. He follows the female all the way to Kerala (with a movie-cinematographer for company) and meets her in the church to apologize. Spending a day with Jessie in Alappuzha (where Jessie’s native place is located), love starts blossomming between the two. What follows is a series of cascading events that are complemented by Jessie’s parents’ disapproval of the duo, a bitter physical exchange with Jessie’s brother and Jessie herself getting cold-feet. It all culminates to a very pragmatic and compelling climax that comes totally unexpected. And shocking.
As I said earlier, the two high points of the movie are Gautham Menon himself and A.R.R.s music score. Menon has moulded what is cliched story into total perfection and compelling awesomeness. The movie’s execution is taut and brilliant. Menon has a way with nuances, so we’ve attention to the minutest of details right – from Simbu’s check shirts to Trisha’s cotton sarees; no stone has been left unturned. Menon’s mastery of the language deserves special attention – the movie has some VERY classic lines, most of which are quotable. There’s one line which repeats itself all through the plot: “Ulagathille yevallovu penngal irunthum naa yen Jessie love panne?” (The world has many beautiful girls, yet, why did I choose Jessie? ) Plus, the movie has its share of goosebump-moments. The chemistry between the protagonists is again perfect, and this adds on to the beauty of such scenes. The subtle way Simbu collapses onto the gate of his on seeing the girl of his dreams, the first kiss in the train, the ‘central park’ scene towards the end… all are worked out wonderfully.
We see parallels with other Gautham Menon movies in this film. Menon himself plays a Cameo (the role of a spotboy in a shooting set), something he’s done in all his movies. He’s even dubbed the voice of Jerry – Jessie’s (Trisha’s character’s) brother. There are some references to the director himself, when Simbu’s protege cinematographer – the self-proclaimed cameraman of Kaakkha Kaakha mentions Gautham’s name. The frequent use of flawless English (and the F word) is also a Menon exclusive. Of course, there’s the Kerala connection as seen in previous GM movies (namely, Surya’s Kerala registration jeep in Kaakha Kaakha, the ‘Kozhikkode scenes’ in Vaaranam Aayiram) with Jessie being a Malayalee. There are two songs in Malayalam too; all of which leads to Gautham’s roots in Kerala; his dad hails from the state. Besides, the romantic scenes seem to be a direct transition from Vaaranam Aayiram and Kaakha Kaakha – an area where Menon excels supremely. As I said earlier, the ‘goosebump moments’ are just perfect, making Kaakha Kaakha’s intensive-passion and Vaaranam Ayiram’s whimsical-affliction seem puny in comparison. It requires significant foresight and creativity to do justice to such minutiae. Plus, at some point in time, one tends to suspect whether the movie has parallels with Gautham’s life. He too was a Mechanical Engineer and did a paradigm shift to movies, very soon. Menon’s first movie, incidentally, was a love story which went on to be a smashing hit – Minnalae (Simbu’s character goes on to direct a movie, later on in the movie). Which, perhaps, explains the extra mile.
Special acknowledgement goes to A.R. Rahman for the music. The oscar-winning musical prodigy needs no further mention and the soundtrack will go down in history as one of his best compositions ever. My picks are “Aaromale” – for its intensity and feel (sung by Malayalam Music director Alphons – his voice deserves plaudits) and a feel-good Hosanna. This is one album in which each song outperforms each other to such extent that it’s hard to pick out winners. The music has actually gone a long way to help the movie do brisk business.
Simbu and Trisha get applauds for their acting skills. Especially Simbu, who has carved a niche for himself with this understated acting. His expression of silent excitement and frustration, the unabashed, but controlled anger, the thinly-veiled hitting-on – all are classy, to say the least. Trisha also excels with her understated expressions. There are no flowing emotions/dramatic outpours in the movie. Everything is controlled, although the same cannot be said about the co-stars, who fade into oblivion as mere props, masked by the sparkling performances by the lead actors. At one point in the movie, you feel the movie has just two actors!
Realism is another striking feature of this movie. Perhaps, this is one singular accolade that every spectator would unanimous agree with. There’s no supernatural element whatsoever – not even within the stunt scenes. The plot, especially the climax, shines with stark realism that hits you straight in the gut, leaving you with an elegant depression of sorts as you walk trudge out of the theatre. I say elegant, because the sensation is actually enjoyable. Apart from the climax, every scene of the movie lacks hype/super-realism, which is typical of Tamil movies. Even the stunt scenes are natural to the core; although Simbu escapes unhurt after the two-odd stunts, there’s the redeeming explanation that he’s the boxing champion at college.
Editing by Anthony is taut, and makes what would’ve been an insanely long movie, concise and watchable. So are the frames by Manoj Paramahamsa, which are rich in visual aesthetics.
Yet, Vinnaithaandi Varuvaaya is not a movie that would be loved by all. Not everyone would be equally endeared by the movie; many would tend to shun this flick, citing it worthless. Sad fact, since, most of us are hypocrites, escaping from reality, hence the ostracization – that’s the only explanation I can offer. There’s the evident con of a hackneyed story, which even makes you yawn at times. Even with Antony’s editing, the movie does drag. There aren’t many funny moments within the flick, and certainly you wouldn’t feel good once you’re out of the theatre, even though it does leave an indelible impression within your psyche. The portrayal of Kerala too, has drawn brickbats. There’s a fleeting glimpse of a ‘Sagar Alias Jacky’ flex board, which has let Mammootty fans down. 😐 (Dumb, I know!! 😐 ) Trisha’s character speaks appalling, stuttered Malayalam, which would’ve been worked out by using a better dubbing artist. Besides, the plot has a tad too many complications – which means, you’d have to see it a couple of times to properly comprehend the entire movie.
All said, the movie is certainly watchable, and is VERY STRONGLY RECOMMENDED. This flick is a total-must-watch. Pay a deaf ear to the negative opinions and give it try. The pic would be a refreshing addition to the clique of movies one should watch just for the ‘experience’ of it. Even if you’re brainwashed by the negatives, watch it for the music, watch it for the goosebump-moments, watch it for the chemistry, and the best of ’em all – watch it for some of the best, quotable, pick-up lines!
My Rating: 4.5/5