wogma rating: Watch, but no rush (?)
Vettaiyadu Vilayadu translated in Tamil means Hunt and Play, which is a unique title for a film that I assumed could more suitably be called Hide and Seek (a more conventional title for a suspense thriller?). It’s a tad bit more indulgent as the details take their own time to reveal the killer, who is evidently playing with his victims. The murders are vile and the hunt then becomes even more frustrating. It’s an engaging film, even though one might not agree with certain choices. You will be hooked.Read more
Let me begin by saying Vettaiyadu Vilayadu is not Gautam Menon’s best work. Lauded for making content-heavy “different” films, Menon has a pressuring reputation to live up to. This 2006 film starring Kamal Hassan seems like a sequel to his hit film Kaakha Kaakha, with a similar theme of portraying the turbulences of a cop’s life. While I still think Minnale is his best film so far, Vettaiyadu Vilayadu is an enthralling watch because of its performances.
Kamal Hassan plays a tough, brutal and courageous cop Raghavan, and his larger than life courageous persona is established in the first few scenes itself as he single-handed tackles a bunch of criminals. Hassan as Raghavan is the kind of cop through whom nothing can escape, and even though this is a stereotypical portrayal, you wouldn’t expect anything else coming from Hassan. Almost like seeing SRK play a passionate lover.
The film carries forward as a series of murders take place in a similar manner – slitting throats, brutally disfiguring young women. Raghavan takes personal interest in the case as his colleague (played by Prakash Raj) Arogyaraj’s daughter Rani is one of the deceased victims. After a brilliant performance by Prakash Raj as a grief-stricken father. Here we see a similarity to Kaakha Kaakha, however since the flashback that follows is short it serves as merely an informatory scene.
Interspersed with this, is Raghavan’s relationship with Aradhna (Jyothika), a girl he meets in his hotel. They have a mellow, engaging chemistry in the film, and Jyothika’s de-glam avatar brings out her beauty like never before. You get suitably engrossed in their conversations and it serves as a respite to the fast-paced on goings in the film.
Uptil this point, you are thoroughly gripped to the film: calculating your guesses and being cynical trying to figure out who among the people around Raghavan could really be the killer (you’ve seen enough thrillers to know the killer is always someone you knew and saw through the film). However, halfway through the film the killer is revealed and simply put, you are disappointed. I won’t say who or where, but I kept wondering if I was more disappointed with the choice of villain, or whether it was revealed much too early in the film.
The thrilling chase then between Raghavan and the killer becomes predictable and largely one-dimensional. You know exactly how the climax is going to be, and at times the predictability gets to you as a viewer, but you are easily distracted by Hassan’s screen presence. With all his muscle (some fat too) his brute, over-powering presence convinces you of the scenes nonetheless. Mostly you can’t take your eyes off him.
The DVD of the film only has a separate compilation of the songs in the film and no other additional features. Music is a trademark pathway to success in most Gautam Menon films; however the music of Vettaiyadu Vilayadu by Harris Jayaraj is mostly confusing – it’s neither here nor there with its assortment of overtly westernized beats and traditional melodies to culturally relevant lyrics. This is quite a pity because the Jayaraj-Menon combination has worked extremely well in the past (Kaakha Kaakha and Minnale).
I’ve always held the notion that Gautam Menon’s films don’t age particularly well because it focuses too much on what is considered to be current and contemporary: be it the background score/music, dialogues or structure. It would have been a better film had it stuck to the age-old tried and tested structure of a murder-suspense. Watch Vettaiyadu Vilayadu however, not because you want to be blown out of your mind but because the film has its moments; best manifested in Jyothika and Kamal Hassan’s connection and the performances. It makes for a perfect late-night indulgence film.
This article is by guest author Swetha Ramakrishnan. Swetha Ramakrishnan is currently living and working in Mumbai. She's a self-confessed film enthusiast and can most likely be found talking to anyone and everyone about popular cinema and her love for SRK. Swetha Ramakrishnan also blogs at http://swetharamakrishnan.blogspot.com/.
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