Velaikkaran has several things that are fresh. The concept of a community radio in a slum, for example. Right from the name (Kuppam FM), the idea is new and also well presented. There is an ‘aha moment’ when Sivakarthikeyan uses it to report a gang fight live to his community. Asking Charlie, a welder, to cut an iron rod instead of a ribbon to open Siva’s studio is another such moment. Velaikkaran has several such moments buried under pages of well-intended dialogue.
The Velaikkaran’s enemies are many — food adulteration, crony capitalism and also over-indulgent consumerism. Even though interlinked — it becomes a question of too many cooks spoiling the broth. Mohan Raja wasn’t lying when he said that he has asked everything he wanted to for several years. There are so many ‘message dialogues’ that the surplus erodes our emotional investment. However, Mohan Raja’s effort is visible; there is solid research that backs the story. Also, the movie does make you think right from the first scene. A slum kid scratches an expensive car, drawing a line in its exteriors. The voiceover tells us that that he does so because he knows he is never going to own one. The line on the car transforms to a sales chart with figures that are again highly aspirational. The comparison is profound — our aspiration for luxury manifests in ugly ways irrespective of the economic class we belong to. If it is unwarranted rebellion in the first, it is gross selfishness in the second. If the viewer gets some time to breathe in between the lengthy monologues, he would be sure to notice several such juxtapositions made by Mohan Raja.
The story angle around employee loyalty (Viswasam) is again an interesting tangent. The loud cheers that erupted in theaters as soon as the word ‘Viswasam’ (the title of Ajith’s next film) was mentioned is a fascinating example of the kind of loyalty that Velaikkaran talks about. Ironically, the film asks us to question that loyalty. It makes me think about the striking parallels of the film’s core plot with Tamil cinema’s long-running conundrums. Does loyalty mean we lose the right to question?
Velaikkaran truly belongs to Sivakarthikeyan who has delivered his best yet. The actor has truly had a transformation. Several moments of the film work because of Sivakarthikeyan’s earnestness and sincerity on-screen. The film has shown that he can make serious scripts work and yet keep his boy-next-door image intact. Fahadh Faasil’s role doesn’t spring any surprises but the actor makes it work. Also, his Tamil diction is quite clean. A good and unconventional debut for the Mollywood star whom I hope to see more here.
The most disappointing role in the film was of Nayanthara. She has proven that she has the clout to shoulder a movie herself. Why opt for a character that isn’t integral to the story? I sincerely hope this is the last we see of the lady superstar in her conventional avatars. On the other hand, Sneha gets a better deal with a brief but vital role in the story.
Velaikkaran is a film that has its heart in the right place. It asks several pertinent questions but flounders in its zeal to cram too much. If not for the societal inclinations, watch it for Sivakarthikeyan because Velaikkaran definitely marks the rise of a young star.
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