Vada Chennai review: Vetrimaran-Dhanush’s gangster drama is as good as it gets

It is not the story that stands out in Vada Chennai. It is how beautifully Vetrimaaran has captured the lifestyle of a place, which is so close and yet so far away from the advancement of modern civilization.

Rating: 5 out of 5
Written by Manoj Kumar R | Bengaluru | Updated: October 17, 2018 7:00:04 pm

Vada Chennai review Vada Chennai movie review: Anbu is a tailor-made role for Dhanush and his physical features make his job easier.

Vada Chennai movie cast: Dhanush, Ameer, Aishwarya Rajesh, Andrea Jeremiah, Samuthirakani
Vada Chennai movie director: Vetrimaran
Vada Chennai movie rating: 5 stars

In 2003, director Vetrimaaran stumbled upon a goldmine of content in North Chennai when he was researching for his directorial debut Polladhavan (2007). The story he chanced upon was Vada Chennai. For over a decade, the story of this epic gangster drama was just lying in the bundles of screenplays. The one thing that was evident in the series of interviews that Vetrimaaran gave in the run-up to the film’s release was he was always hesitant to convert the screenplay into a motion picture. It was probably because he was afraid that he may not do justice to its scale and intensity. But the fact remains, no other filmmaker in India could have captured the true essence of Vada Chennai so precisely.

It is not the story that stands out in Vada Chennai. It is how beautifully Vetrimaaran has captured the lifestyle of a place, which is so close and yet so far away from the advancement of modern civilization. Vetrimaaran, who is also the writer, keeps you trapped in the underbelly of the city’s dark corners that is crawling with bloodthirsty criminals.

In the very first scene, a blood-soaked knife with tiny pieces of human flesh sticking on it is thrown on the table at a bar. Four men, also fully soaked in the blood of their victim, sit around the table and feel overjoyed by imagining a bright future for themselves. “For the next 25 years, we can do business here in peace,” Guna (Samuthirakani) tells Senthil (Kishore). These gangsters are anything but unrealistic. They know 25 years is the maximum period of time they can reign unchallenged before their might is challenged by a more sharp and skillful player.

Vada Chennai story begins in 1987 with the murder of Rajan (Ameer) by the hands of his most trusted lieutenants, Guna, Senthil, Velu (Pawan) and Pazhani (Sai Dheena). Senthil convinces Guna and Velu to take responsibility for Rajan’s murder by promising to get them out of jail soon. But he betrays his friends, leaving them baying for his blood. Anbu (Dhanush), a National-level carrom board player, gets mixed up in the bloody gang war and comes out of the conflict as a seasoned ‘rowdy.’

A fortune teller predicts that Anbu is destined to become the top dog of Vada Chennai. But, Anbu’s gradual progression into the criminal world is more by design than destiny. The black hole in Anbu’s neighborhood suck him in and eats away the future that he planned for himself. Not just Anbu, most kids from his neighborhood don’t stand a chance at a better life.

Anbu is a tailor-made role for Dhanush and his physical features make his job easier. He just had to shave his face to play a teenager, and grow a stubble to play a man in his 20s. With a thick beard, Dhanush makes us believe that he has reached another stage in his life. Other members of the cast have also inhabited the screen space with fabulous conviction.

Andrea Jeremiah’s Chandra carries a great importance in the trilogy and is easily the strongest female role in part one. However, the director could have spared us a few details of Chandra’s game plan as he had already given the audience enough clues. The weight of the character and the air of mystery around it could have been preserved for better payoffs in future films.

Overall, Vada Chennai is the closest you can get to unforgiving underworld filled with insecurity, revenge, destiny, rage and insatiable urge for bloodshed. I am convinced this is the most immersive gangster movie that I have ever seen on Indian celluloid.

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