Saturday, September 02, 2006

Vettaiyadu Vilaiyadu

I couldn’t hide my disappointment after watching Vettaiyadu Vilaiyadu today. It’s a good movie I kept telling myself, but I was expecting a Seven or Silence of the Lambs in Tamil. But the peek into the cop’s life and the frantic hunt for the killer that marked those movies was missing in Vettaiyadu. Gautham has to take the blame for making the movie with brawn but no brains.
Even hack writers write better serial killer books, one of the most overworked movie genres in Hollywood along with the cliché of schizophrenia (split personality). (seen Adaptation?)
Where is the intelligent cop who is hunting down the brilliant but psychopathic killer? Where is the thrill in seeing him at work, taking all kinds of risks? Where is the unpredictability? Gautham may as well go back to writing another Minnale. He has no story to tell here, no understanding of what this genre is about.
Remember Seven. Remember the Kevin Spacey character and his audacious killings. Remember the brains it took the Morgan Freeman character to catch him. Remember the good hard flat-footed police work in that movie? Remember Brad Pitt fast on the hunt. Remember the sense of vulnerability you felt as you watched these cops and the claustrophobia that surrounded them. It’s been over 10 years since that movie was released and Gautham still can’t write anything better? It’s a crying shame.
The first 15 minutes are easily the worst for any Kamal movie in the recent past. The last time this happened might have been in Maharasan, a pitiful flop from 15 years ago. I couldn’t help but think of Kuruthippunal’s brilliant opening scene of the bus bombing. No macho dialogues, no cat and mouse games, no childish one-upmanship. Just a simple, dramatic sequence. That left me with my heart in my mouth. Here as Kamal dared a rowdy to pluck his eye out, I only wanted to puke.

Gautham did get some things right. For example, the Jyothika character. I can’t think of the last time when the female lead in a mainstream movie was a divorcee mom. And Jyothika did her job to perfection. The music was good. The background score was still a little too loud, but that is done in all Tamil movies. The camera work was brilliant in parts and the costumes were pleasant on the eye. I loved Kamal’s tummy too. Made him so much more believable. Such a relief to watch him work with his own face too. But all these don’t make a good movie.

(spoilers follow. Skip if you haven’t seen the movie)
Think of the gaping holes. Four corpses are dug out from a serial killer’s burial site. But where is the frenzy in the NYPD? A few scenes later Raghavan (Kamal) and his Yankee colleague are still the only ones sifting through immigration data. Any police department would have put an entire team of cops on the chase. That is a plot hole for you.
Then think of the dramatic lapses. After a hunt across two countries, where does the cop find the killer? Oh, why? He is standing right in front of the cop trying hard to drive a bike into his jeep? Are u kidding me? After all this, the killers just make a present of themselves? Another puke worthy moment, if ever there was one.
After Kamal loses his wife in a flashback sequence, I waited and waited for the connection to the present story to show up. That never did. Wouldn’t it be more emotionally powerful to tie up that sequence with Kamal’s assignment of catching the serial killing duo? And if there is no link why make such a fuss? Why not say that the wife died in dialogue.
And oh, what is this brilliant thesis these two serial killers studying in Brooklyn Medical University are working on? Can somebody please tell me? What makes them brilliant doctors? I caught a line about some life saving bullshit, but that made no sense. And since when could doctors slash at moving targets with such devastating accuracy? Just where does that training come from?
After a while I felt sorry for Kamal. He was doing everything right in a movie where everything was going so horribly wrong. There was no story to provide background to the psychopaths. Any director with half a brain would have written in some story to explain why his villains are on a killing spree in India and in the US.
(spoilers end)

Somebody said Ravi Verman has shot the movie’s New York sequences in a way Woody Allen would approve. They don’t know what they are talking about. I remember Annie Hall and Manhattan. What Ravi did in comparison was make a video postcard of New York. But in some sequences the camera is brilliant, admittedly. But Verman could have resisted making New York look like a tourist paradise in a serial killer movie. The early scenes in that city were worthless.
Well, when you can’t write in one intelligent scene, what do you do? (Remember how in Kuruthippunal Kamal finds that the driver they had arrested was all the time the head of the militant group?) Here is what you do. You throw in a lot of muscle and some vague nonsense about “Raghavan instinct” and hope it works. Gautham must now acknowledge that it didn’t and get back to the writing table. And he must stop pretending to be the next Mani Ratnam, for Christ’s sake.