Directors with massive fan following are a rarity in Tamil cinema. Film maker Vetrimaaran has defied that pattern to enjoy a massive fan following. Every project of his is garnering immense attention, and expectations skyrockets just like his latest release Viduthalai Part 1. The flick is about a rookie cop who struggles to come to terms with the ways in which the police department operates, and his fight to hold on to his virtues despite mounting pressure to relinquish them. Actor Soori who was last seen in a cameo part in the romantic comedy flick Prince is back on screens with his period crime thriller movie Viduthalai Part 1 in which he has essayed the lead role. Actor Vijay Sethupathi has portrayed a pivotal part in the movie. Director Vetrimaaran has directed the flick. Viduthalai Part 1 is inspired by the short story Thunaivan written by popular writer B Jeyamohan. So, how has the period crime thriller flick Viduthalai Part 1 come out? Will it add another feather to director Vetrimaaran’s directorial hat, and help construct a bankable lead hero image for actor Soori in Tamil cinema? To know that let us get into the movie review.
The film follows the life of Kumaresan (Soori), a novice cop who has just joined the police department and is learning the conduct of the force. Viduthalai Part 1 opens in 1987 to a train wreck in Tamil Nadu that leaves many gravely injured. The accident drew the attention of the entire state and central machinery. After initial investigation it comes to light that the accident was devised by a rebel troop ‘Makkal Padai’ to decry the state government’s policy decision to handover their hill village to a mining company. The government sets up a team under the name ‘Operation Ghosthunt’ to capture Perumal aka Vaathiyar (Vijay Sethupathi), the mastermind behind the attack, and the leader of the rebel group. Habitants of the village have heard about the existence of such a person but have not met him in person. He is sort of a ghost. To commence their operation the police team starts recruiting locals for assistance.
Kumaresan is recruited on special duty and is trained and deployed as a driver. He sees that obeying the orders of his superiors is the single most thing that would ensure his survival in the job. But finds it difficult to comply when he learns that following commands is not always helpful to people. While acclimating to the nuances of the force, he takes an interest in Tamilarasi aka Pappa (Bhavani Sre), granddaughter of a woman whom he had assisted once. She reciprocates his feelings, and they start to date. In one instance, Kumaresan mistakenly helps people of Makkal Padai. He soon realizes his mistake, and rushes to report about the incident to his superiors. Will the team succeed in capturing Vaathiyar, and will Kumaresan stand with the police department or the people, is what makes the rest of the flick.
Director Vetrimaaran’s Viduthalai unapologetically holds a mirror to the abuse of power by those whose very existence is to safeguard the interest of people, which reflects not only the atrocities of them but also the plight that people are forced to endure because of it. Of many pluses, the characterization of its lead character is what stands out in the film. Kumaresan does not view the world through the expedient black and white filter. There is a persistent struggle to distinguish right from wrong, oppressed from oppressor. Often, we catch him stranded trying to take a stand that would not rupture his conscience. Even at the possibility of losing his job he makes an effort to do what he feels is right. He gets told that this quality of him makes him unfit to be a cop. There is no attempt to give a contrived self-sacrificing leader color or tossing a senseless punch dialogue in response. He is vulnerable just as anyone but desires to choose humanity over anything.
Storyteller Vetrimaaran’s Viduthalai, in some sense, is the cause and effect of what happens when individuals retain conscience in a system that demands or rather trains people to do otherwise. This, as the auteur clearly puts out, would have a great personal loss. We witness Kumaresan being punished even after accomplishing a great feat. But he managed to avert a great distress that the people would have suffered. It is difficult to sit through Viduthalai and merely enjoy it as a cinematic experience. The questions it poses are not exclusive for those who wield authority but is also directed at us. As if asking us are you being aware of whom you are electing to be your leaders. Are you ready if the table turns to your side?
When asked about why he opted to cast actor Soori. The director said the character demands someone like him. Actor Soori’s dedicated performance does not leave any space even for the contemplation of what if another artist with a star power had done the role. He is very authentic as Kumaresan. Vetrimaaran hits the bull’s eye with another apt casting choice in Vijay Sethupathi. His character is incredibly shaped. Actor Vijay Sethupathi for his part beautifully shoulders his role. He once again reasserts what a topnotch performer he is. For a relatively newbie actress, Bhavani Sre has put on a fine show. Actor Gautham Vasudev Menon makes his presence felt in what feels like a slightly underwritten character. Actor Rajiv Menon cakewalks his part. Actor Ilavarasu is as effective as usual. Actor Balaji Sakthivel does complete justice to his part. Actor Saravana Subbiah serves the purpose for which he was brought on board. Actor Tamizh is functional. Actors Chetan, Aryan, Munnar Ramesh, Pavel Navageethan, Sardar Sathya, and Manimegalai, have all chipped in and have played their part well. The rest of the cast has delivered what was asked of them.
On the technical front, music director Ilaiyaraaja infuses life into the drama with his superb background score. But his tracks are average and do not last long in our memory. Cinematographer Velraj has done a brilliant job covering the film. He has set up his camera at the right spots. His frames have beautifully captured the rural milieu. Editor R Ramar has put his scissor at right spots to complement the work of his colleague.
On the whole, director Vetrimaaran’s Viduthalai Part 1 is not just audacious but poignant in its own way which is remarkably held together by brilliant performances.