‘Vada Chennai’ review: a masterful tale of power and deceit

Dhanush in 'Vada Chennai'.  

The year is 1987. Vada Chennai opens with a brutal murder scene involving the central character, which, in turn, becomes the defining point of a larger and violent drama that follows. The first half, which is set inside a prison for the most part, is paced leisurely and may remind you of a similar episode from Virumaandi. Vada Chennai, however, is about two friends-turned-rivals Guna (Samuthirakani) and Senthil (Kishore), who are at war for power and revenge.

The year is 2000. Following a series of unwarranted events, Anbu (Dhanush, in yet another remarkable performance), a State-level carrom player, ends up in jail. The film is told through chapters; spanning over decades, thereby establishing a strong relationship between the characters. The narration goes back and forth, giving importance to every story; every character, without taking a patronising tone. Ameer as Rajan, a small-time smuggler who fights for the rights of his neighbourhood, anchors the entire film. He’s married to Chandra (Andrea Jeremiah). What’s the connection between Anbu and Rajan? What does Chandra have to do with Guna and Senthil? How Padma’s (Aishwarya Rajesh) character leads to the eventual fate of Anbu? These are some of the knots that Vada Chennai untangles over its course.

Vada Chennai
  • Cast: Dhanush, Aishwarya Rajesh, Samuthirakani, Kishore, Ameer and Andrea Jeremiah
  • Director: Vetri Maaran
  • Storyline: A carrom player becomes a pawn in a revenge saga that spans over decades

What sets Vada Chennai apart from usual gangster films is how well-rounded the characters are. They’re real and honest. Both men and women are far from perfect and never hesitate to use cuss words. Women are not just bystanders to the proceedings, but exhibit their own selfish motives. Men, on the other hand, don’t easily forgive the past crimes. The film, however, takes a political detour in the second half to make a loud and necessary statement about protecting one’s identity.

A case can be made that the film is an extension of Vetri Maaran’s previous work. While Polladhavan dealt with the conflict between two gangster brothers, Vada Chennai depicts how cunning and bloodthirsty relationships can be. If Visaaranai was a powerful portrayal of police brutality, this film exposes how inmates smuggle drugs, mobile phones and alcohol into prison. There’s also an Aadukalam-styled tournament scene that becomes the central thread of the narrative. The obvious political overtones that have been built throughout will have its relevance in part two. If anything, Vada Chennai reiterates why Vetri Maaran is a master storyteller.

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Printable version | Oct 22, 2021 3:33:02 AM |

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