Vetrimaaran’s ‘Viduthalai’ is riveting and grabs your attention from the word go.
In the very first scene, Vetrimaaran trains his lens on the tragic aftermath of a train bomb blast, with the camera capturing the pain of the victims and the chaotic atmosphere from every possible angle. This particular scene shakes up the viewer and transports them almost to the bomb blast site on the big screen, ably backed by sound design and Ilaiyaraaja’s haunting score.
The bomb attack on the train was executed by a separatist group called Makkal Padai fronted by Perumal Vaathiyar (Vijay Sethupathi).
After the dramatic start, Viduthalai shifts to a freshly recruited cop Kumaresan (Soori), arriving at a police camp situated near the village where the separatist group is active. Compassionate and honest, Kumaresan often gets mocked and ridiculed by his superior officers for helping out locals in the area.
Kumaresan also falls in love with the village belle Tamzharasi (Bhavani Sre). Interestingly, moved by the humanitarian side of Kumaresan, Perumal Vaathiyar orders his subordinates to not touch the young cop.
Kumaresan is often unhappy with the brutality exhibited by cops. When Tamizharasi and the village women are captured by the cops and tortured, Kumaresan tells his superiors that he knows the whereabouts of Vaathiyar. The rest of the film is all about what happens to Tamizharasi and Vaathiyar and how the system treats a cop like Kumaresan.
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Viduthalai is easily one of Vetrimaaran’s best works, be it for the brilliant staging of the scenes or for conveying a balanced perspective on the good and the evil side of human beings, be it the cops or even the rebel group. No one is completely good or totally evil. He knows when the characters have to act subtly and when the protagonist should be glorified. For example, Soori chases Vijay Sethupathi without any weapon but the moment he picks up the gun, the mood just turns electric.
The staging of scenes is also fantastic. Soori knows where Sethupathi is hiding but situations push him not to reveal the secret. It is amazing how Vetrimaaran sets the scene, which drives the audience to the edge when Soori reaches a point where he is forced to confess this secret to his superiors. The characters are written with great depth and the audience is able to resonate with their emotions.
Performance-wise, Soori has given his heart and soul to the film. His innocence and his well-toned body are perfect for the vulnerability of his character and his heroic transformation towards the end.
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Chetan, who comes across as the brutal egoistic cop with a perverted side, is top-notch. Gautham Menon, playing an intelligent and passionate cop, is another perfect choice. Vijay Sethupathi only comes for 15 minutes, but his presence is felt throughout the film. Rajiv Menon is another excellent find, he plays the suave chief secretary, the mastermind behind Operation Ghost Hunt!
The romantic angle between Soori and Bhavani Sre also flows organically without disturbing the core plot. In fact, it adds more emotional value to the film.
Technically, cinematographer Velraj’s lenses have captured the majestic hilly terrain and adds so much grandeur to the film. There is no help required from visual effects and grand sets (the production designer must also be appreciated for creating sets that look very real). Veteran composer Ilaiyaraaja’s background score gives the epic feel whenever needed, the opening scene and climax tell you that he still remains the King.
Sharp dialogues provoke and make us ask relevant questions. The post-credit scenes show a sequel is on the way. Overall, part one of Viduthalai is a politically balanced film, a fictitious work that resembles events that have happened in our history.