I’m starting to quite like how Udhayanidhi Stalin chooses his stories. His characters reveal a reluctance to impose himself on his films, and it’s a welcome change from all our hero-driven films. It’s quite a while before he even gets his introduction scene in Ippadai Vellum. For a long time, all you get is the introduction to the evil Chota (Daniel Balaji), a terrorist whose idea of a perfect Sunday is to be holed up inside a room with some materials with which to create explosives. Finally, you get sight of Madhusudhan (Udhayanidhi Stalin), but not before his mother (Radhika, who plays a bus driver, and gets a short, effective flashback) can preface the intro scene with a factoid of praise. “My son earns Rs. 75,000 every month. Imagine the struggles he has to undergo every day!” And then, you’re shown Madhusudhan running in slow motion, his face contorted in concentration. If Udhayanidhi wanted to be a larger-than-life hero, he would be chasing thugs. But here, he is chased by them. He does a lot of running in this film, trying to escape both thugs and policemen alike. He has also seemingly learned a lesson or two from Rickon Stark of Game of Thrones, given how he always runs in a zig-zag motion. Frustrated thugs tell their boss that it’d be easier to capture a dinosaur from Jurassic Park.
Director: Gaurav Narayanan
Cast: Udhayanidhi Stalin, Manjima Mohan, Soori
Ippadai Vellum isn’t just about Madhusudhan and his love story with Bhargavi (Manjima Mohan). It’s also about Chota and whether he will accomplish his mission of terrorising Chennai city. It’s also about Soori’s character, who has to leave Chennai urgently to be in time for the delivery of his child (he’s convinced it’s a boy, and that people like Trisha and Hansika will be after him). The story may not be the world’s most inventive one, but Gaurav’s enterprising ideas keep proceedings lively. Madhu and Bhargavi (madhu and bar-u, as they call each other) are already in love when the film begins. Bhargavi’s the earning member, and provides the man with all the financial support, till he can get himself a job again. Meanwhile, Chota and his underlings communicate through Gmail drafts. Soori’s character isn’t just relegated to his choicest humour technique — mispronouncing words. All the same, he still calls tank ‘dank’, change ‘jaynch’, and hundred ‘gundred’. But he also gets some refreshingly serious scenes, including one in which after suffering from memory loss, he becomes oblivious to the presence of his wife who’s in the same bus as him.
It’s not a lazily written film. Every segue is carefully planned. A man’s angry eyes shifts to the red of a traffic signal. The green of a power button shifts to the green of a traffic signal. A policeman saying Madhu will be safe nowhere shifts to an apartment in which Madhu’s girlfriend tells him he’ll be safe. Towards the end, Madhu uses the children of an apartment complex to help him with an important task, but the method is already foreshadowed in the beginning, when Bhargavi offhandedly mentions it. It could all have made for a gripping thriller but it’s hard to take proceedings too seriously when the film itself doesn’t. An important investigation scene becomes a joke about flatulence. A getaway fight scene becomes a joke over a man’s pressing need to urinate. The supposedly menacing villain runs around wearing a shirt that reads, ‘I’m a great catch. Catch me if you can.’ And it’s almost funny how he keeps getting into road accidents. There are quite a few coincidences too (Madhu and Chota end up being in the same apartment) that don’t belong in an otherwise decently written film.
Also, I didn’t get the point of the motivational song that starts and stops the film. Ippadai Vellum is also a film that has the hero telling his girlfriend, “The wedding is for you. The first night is for me.” This then leads to a duet that doesn’t belong at all. Towards the end, the story also promotes encounter killing because ‘some people are so evil that the government shouldn’t waste time and resources on them’. Ironically enough, just sometime ago in the story, the hero himself is in danger of getting bumped off given how trigger-happy the policeman is. Soori’s character, it seems, isn’t the only one with memory issues.
This review was written for Cinema Express, the cinema division of The New Indian Express. All copyrights belong to the organisation. Do link to its page if you’d like to share it.