Here's the next from the duo — Sargunam, the creator of the sleeper, Kalavaani, and Vimal, its hero. Vaagai Sooda Vaa (U) is not a run-of-the-mill entertainer, yet it entertains! It isn't just a dreary sob story of a working community, but it is poignant. It isn't a mere linear narrative of a stratum that stoically accepts poverty, and allows an avaricious landlord to make them toil for a pittance. But it is a fabric of social consciousness on which is painted a tale of love and levity, affection and apathy. A small favour, and the illiterate lot is willing to be anybody's slave! That such naivety and lack of discernment stem from lack of education is the premise VSV is built on, of course, with significant concerns about child labour and environment degradation.
Sargunam takes you to the hot and dry village of Kandeduthaan Kaadu, in Pudukottai, where the poor work in brick kilns. The milieu is brown and bare, and the heat, unbearable. Yet the children are astute and fun-loving. A social service forum on a literacy drive sends a teacher to the village. His mission, the initial inimicality of the villagers, their eventual change of heart and his empathy for their daily struggles form the crux of VSV.
As Veluthambi, the protagonist, Vimal is apt, and Sargunam deserves plaudits for the way in which the character has been etched.
The setting and the subject offer cinematographer Omprakash much scope to score — and he does. The top angle shots that show the entire village running out in panic on hearing their benefactor is gone, is just an example. Kumaravel, in the part of Kuruvikaaran, whose harmless idiosyncrasies have deep import, proves his mettle yet again. Strangely, talented actors like him don't get enough opportunities to reveal their prowess!
Music is another highlight. M. Gibran's numbers keep ringing in your ears long after you leave the cinema. VSV has a host of lyricists and each is effective.
For a new heroine to sport such a de-glamorised look, calls for guts — Iniya deserves compliments. As Madhi, the tea vendor, she is spontaneous. But it is intriguing that the entire settlement seems to have only one teenager! Thambi Ramaiah is Madhi's dad. His laughter, probably supposed to lend uniqueness to the role, grates on the ear.
Remember the loud and scheming mom of the heroine in Mynaa? She's Poovitha, and she returns as Sivagami, the mother of a physically-challenged son (Neelakantan) in VSV. A natural, she makes a mark once again.
The innocent, helpless school master and the intelligent, mischievous village kids remind you of Bhagyaraj's Mundhaanai Mudichu. And when he actually makes an entry with a bag full of drumsticks, it is a surprise. A role well enacted by the veteran actor-director!
Sargunam could have eschewed the docu-feel that VSV gives at times.
If you are looking for mere fantasy, VSV isn't for you. But if you seek purposeful fare, check it out.
Vaagai Sooda Vaa
Director: A. Sargunam
Cast: Vimal, Iniya
Storyline: In the 1960s, a teacher is sent to a remote village plagued by illiteracy. Is his effort fruitful?
Bottomline: Poignancy with an ample dose of healthy fun