The Tamil film Viduthalai Part 1 is now playing in cinemas across the UAE. It is directed by Vetrimaran and stars Soori, Vijay Sethupathi, Bhavani Sre, Prakash Raj, Gautham Vasudev Menon, Rajeev Menon, Chethan
Tamil film Viduthalai Part 1 Review
If director Vetriman had been a fan of lame wordplay, he would have probably titled his Viduthalai Part 1 as Soori – The Surgical Strike (an obvious takeoff on the Uri film title). And it would be not just for punny effect, as Viduthalai Part 1 stands alone on the performance of Soori, who was hitherto known for coarse-voiced comedic roles.
To have thought up someone like him for such a character is a leap of faith. Vetriman’s imagination in this regard has got a rich payback as Soori practically transforms himself into the role of novice cop. Soori performs the role of the everyday lowly constable who has to operate at the mercy of powerful higher-ups by infusing him with dignity and integrity. Soori’s show stands the film in good stead, which is nothing new or novel regarding politics and polemics.
Viduthalai, thought to be a companion piece to Visaranai — Vetrimaran’s earlier gritty and dark movie on police brutality — is at best twice removed cousin of the same. Of course, Viduthalai has a second part; unless we see that, the final word cannot be said with any certainty. But on the evidence of the first, Viduthalai part 2 has a lot of ground to cover.
Viduthalai, as is known, is nominally based on a Jeyamohan short story (Thunaivan) and is about police operations to flush out the naxal extremists in a remote village. The short story is about the larger question of where the cops who come down on public uprisings come from. The answer is simple. Those cops come from the same society. The story, in a sense, tracks the coming of age of a cop who is poor, diffident and hails from the same ecosystem and ends up as one who uses the gun to silence the protest of people similar to him (and his background).
The film focuses on a police team’s bid to capture leaders of a naxal group named Makkal Padai, which is against the government’s development project as they fear it would harm their village and its ecosystem.
The gang’s leader is Perumal (Vijay Sethupathy) – his role in the first part is minimal. He is a do-gooder, and the police are out to nail him. Kumaresan (Soori) is one among the many in the police team. The story arc is his transformation from a naive, sincere and honest constable to one who becomes part of a violent system.
Jeyamohan’s is a nuanced short story. But this intricacy is lost in translation on screen. We see more in Vetrimaran’s screen version: systemic police brutality on hapless villagers and how the policemen are corrupt and violence-prone while the people are innocent and victims. The shades are blurred to just black and white. For a director of Vetrimaran’s calibre, this is a bit surprising.
It’s not that the film is not without interesting bits, but the narrative is mostly predictable. The casting, which was out of the box in Soori’s case, is otherwise on expected lines. Vijay Sethupathi as a naxal leader, Prakash Raj as a Communist, Gautham Vasudev Menon and Rajiv Menon as senior cops, have nothing new to offer.
Soori steals the show with his honesty and diligence (which is what a cop is expected to exhibit). Right from the looks to bodily mien, Soori nails it. He practically overshadows everyone else. The love portions with Bhavani Sre are organic and don’t offer much for long. Maestro Ilaiyaraaja’s songs, which were so good outside, feel generic inside the film. R Velraj’s camera work is top-notch (the train accident at the beginning is terrifically filmed).
In the end, Viduthalai rides on Soori’s inspirational performance. But the expectations on Viduthalai part 2 will be a lot more tempered.
Viduthalai Part 1
Date Created: 2023-04-04 21:46
An engineer-turned-journalist, K Balakumar’s career began in print publications as a sports writer. That also opened doors for other journalistic avenues like films, music, finance, technology and politics, which nobody can escape in India. After 30 yrs in mainstream journalism, now a freelancer for various digital publications.