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Upperstall Review


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Tamil, Action, Drama, 2007, Color

Cast And Crew

Directed by
Produced by
Art Direction

Three month old twin boys are separated when a sweeper in a train steals one of the children for his gold chain. Having taken the chain, he abandons him where he is found by the matriarch of a large family (Lakshmi), who brings up the boy as her grandson as her family has no heir. 27 years later, one of the boys Vasu (Suriya) is chief officer in a detective agency in the matrimonial department in Chennai and is mostly given cases to find out the true character of intended grooms and brides while the other, Vetrivel or Vel (Suriya again) is the unofficial good Samaritan and protector of his village, Dindukkal, fighting ex-minister Sakarapandi (Kalavbhavan Mani) who is after his family due to an old enmity wherein he had murdered Vel's 'parents' since Vel's adoptive father (Nasser) had exposed his corrupt ways causing him to lose heavily in the elections. Vasu, meanwhile, meets and likes Swathi (Asin), a TV anchor who is being pressurised by her family to get married. She asks him to find out the character about her intended groom who, coincidentally, happens to be Vasu himself. But Vasu is shattered when Swathi asks him to lie about the boy's character since she doesn't want to marry her. Since, he has fallen in love with Swathi, he does as she asked. When Swathi finds out the truth, she regrets her action and reciprocates his love. Out on an assignment in Dindukkal, Swathi sees Vel and tells Vasu who realizes it is his older long lost twin brother. He goes there and manages to work his way into Vel's large family and convinces Vel to switch places with him so Vel can meet their mother (Saranya), who has been suffering for 27 years since they lost them. Looking at the situation in the village, Vasu decides the best way to bring Sakarapandi down is by intellect rather than brawn...

Vel is Suriya's second film with Hari after Aaru (2005) and like Aaru, is one of those "mass entertainer" films he has done to expand his market by reaching out to the front benchers and go beyond the "classes". Suriya succeeds brilliantly carrying off playing the mass hero(s) in style but the film, sadly, leaves much to be desired.

Unfortunately, Vel's story is as old as the hills. Barring the angle of the city bred Vasu using his brains instead if brawn to tackle the villain, the film fails to bring any freshness to an otherwise standard double-role saga in its treatment and style. So, of course, we have the twins separated at childhood, the boys growing up in diametrically opposite environments, enough scenes of mistaken identity, them switching roles at a point before finally getting together to fight the villain. Yes, it's that typical and even the narrative flow is largely predictable with very few unexpected elements. I suppose one could say the ending is a little different but somewhat expectedly so if the idea is to keep everyone happy. Worse, like Aaru, the film numbs you with its violence. Blood flows freer than water, arms are hacked off, women are slapped repeatedly, countless vehicles blown up and what have you. What is really disturbing is that not just the action scenes, but even Vadivelu's comedy scenes are centred on violence and bloodshed and this is supposed to be funny.

On the narrative front, Hari by and large keeps things moving at a rapid pace so that even if the story is creaky beyond repair, its events keep unfolding quickly one after another in a solid masala mix of action, comedy and romance. Undoubtedly, frontbenchers would applaud some of the more chauvinistic dialogue and references made to the great 'Thamizh' culture and tradition.

And then there is Suriya's central act(s). What more can one say about his incredible ability to rise above the script and breathe life into every scene with full conviction? He makes a fine angry man screaming punchy dialogues and deftly handling a sickle as the author-backed, standard action hero Vetrivel but for me, it is as the comparatively more sober city bred Vasu that he really scores. In the few performance scenes he has here, he is absolutely brilliant be it his realization he has fallen in love with Asin or the hurt he feels as she asks him to fudge the character report of her intended groom since she doesn't want to marry, not knowing that he is the man in question. Not only is he perfectly understated, he even manages to prevent the obvious emotional scenes around both his characters from slipping into crass melodrama, no small achievement in a film as unsubtle as this. Still, one cannot help but be disappointed in Suriya's occasional choice of films such as this but then in this line, box office success overrides everything else and with Vel's success, I suppose his stand is vindicated. Oh well...

Of the rest of the cast, Asin suffers from a sketchily written role being there for the romantic track and moral support for Vasu and little more. She is as usual over the top in her lighter scenes and adequate enough thereafter. Lakshmi is actually likeable enough as the matriarch of the large rural joint family but one was most disappointed by the way Kalabhavan Mani's character was sketched. He is even comical (unintentionally) and caricature like and this somewhere defeats the impact of both the Suriyas' victories. Hitchcock always said stronger the villain, stronger the film and hence the hero since he has to overcome a powerful nemesis. Vel fails big time here and Mani too can do nothing with the weakly written role as he is made to ham till it hurts. Vadivelu's comedy too largely fails to be funny. Saranya and Charan Raj are so-so as the biological parents of the twins.

Technically, Priyan's cinematography is efficient; the editing maintains the energetic flow of the film pretty much throughout but Yuvan Shankar Raja's music is nowhere near his best. True, the joint family song Aayiram Jannal Veedu, as Vasu charms Vel's family, is tuneful enough and frankly, easily the best picturised song in the film but the others like Ottraikannale Une Pathe and Kovakkara Kiliye are just about ok enough while watching the film and not something one would want to rack one's brains to recall later. The romantic songs are too routinely picturised with regular not-so-innovative choreography and have no nice moments in them whatever thus ruining the impact of the scenes leading to them. Not only that, they are the specific instances where the narrative comes to a grinding halt and you wish they'd just get on with the story. The action sequences are adequate enough for a film of this sort with enough blood, gore, shattering glass and vehicles being blown up to keep the front benchers whistling.

Overall, the film is not worth watching in spite of Suriya's rising-above-the-script act. Take him out and Vel would collapse like a pack of cards. However, with the box office being king and with Aaru and Vel both being successful films, Suriya has entrusted the direction of his 25th film, Singam (2010), to Hari to ensure they make another massy and bloody action blockbuster. And with Hari reiterating that violence is always the core of his films and making hardcore commercial films being his strength, one better be prepared for another bloody ride. Siggghhhh!

Upperstall review by: Karan Bali aka TheThirdMan

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