Vanavarayan Vallavarayan borrows its name from the memorable characters played by Rajinikanth and Napoleon in Ejamaan (1993). Unfortunately, all similarities with that film end with this fact. Sure, this is a rural film, but while Rajini and Napoleon were arch enemies, the brothers Vanavarayan (Kreshna) and Vallavarayan (Ma Ka Pa Anand) are thick as thieves. They sleep on the same bed, legs entwined, they eat and drink together, and they go out together. When they do, they even ride together. It’s not always in the conventional rider-and-pillion manner that you probably imagine though. Sometimes, in a complicated manoeuvre, the pillion rider seamlessly moves forward to take control of the bike, while the rider slithers back to take the pillion. Even conjoined twins couldn’t be more together.
Much of the film is dedicated to their twin exploits — picking fights and/or drinking brandy. About the latter, you have to wonder if the choice of the brand is a cute reference to Ejamaan ’s villain. As the movie progresses, you wait for that pivotal moment when the film will take a serious turn. Surely, once their bond is established, the next task is to test its strength with conflicts. It takes a long time coming, and when it comes, you don’t really care as much as you should. It’s not your fault though, for almost every scene is treated as an opportunity to evoke cheap laughs or throw in a punch line. When Vanavarayan is heartbroken after a fight with his girlfriend Anjali (Monal Gajjar), brother Vallavarayan decides it’s an opportune moment for a punch line. Hurt for his brother, he says that when in love “ ponnunga vinnai thaandi varuvaalunga ” and when not “ vennaya thadavitu poiduvaalunga ”. It’s so inappropriate you wonder if it’s a joke. It isn’t.
And then, there are the jokes that aren’t. The opening scene shows the brothers gleefully ogling a woman who bends down to congratulate them after their ear-piercing ceremony. It sets the stage for sexually explicit writing that attempts to take advantage of our propensity to break into laughter at an awkward moment. When Vanavarayan learns that Anjali is ill, he subjects himself to difficult rituals at a temple for her welfare. And then, he learns, along with us, that she isn’t actually ill but has attained puberty. We are supposed to find it funny. When Vanavarayan’s grandmother (Sowcar Janaki) tells him that he failed to bond with Anjali only because he hadn’t become physically intimate with her, we are supposed to find it charming. When an old man stares at the midriff of a woman on the bus, we are supposed to find it hilarious. Admittedly, the occasional joke works, but there is just no excuse for how mirthless most scenes are. To borrow a modern expression, almost all its jokes are lacking in the ‘lulz department’.
When you remove these attempts at jokes, you are only left with an emaciated interior — a trite love story with laughable character behaviour and inexplicable transformations. When Santhanam makes his guest appearance with his trademark jokes and brings the film to its much-awaited end, you are supposed to walk out believing that you have seen a thoroughly entertaining film. However, you know much damage has already been done when even Santhanam can’t rescue it.