Chekka Chivantha Vaanam: What jarred & what tickled

Last Updated: Wed, Oct 03, 2018 11:06 hrs
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*Spoilers Ahead*

It’s a Mani Ratnam film. So we’re not even going to get into the way the characters speak and the things they say. Vijay Sethupathi is the only one to break away from that mould. And what a delight he is! The man is a scene-stealer as the sly and funny Rasool.

But there are other things that warrant our attention. First, that tea. So Rasool drops by gangster Chinappa Daasan’s home for a cuppa and chitchat of the shady deals kind. There was some exchange about “excellent tea” and said tea was brought out in a clear glass cup. My heart lurched. Milky and beige! Oh, the horror! It was hard to pull out eyes off it. The kindest thing would’ve been to pour that ghastly liquid into something opaque. Rasool parts ways promising to return for a cup of tea and small talk at Chinappa Daasan’s whenever he wants to. He really shouldn’t. Brrrr!

Chaaya (Dayana Erapa) makes quite an entrance. But those wired headphones were a bit of an eyesore. Why no Bluetooth for a tech-savvy character?

Moving on, which self-respecting journalist makes puppy-eyes at the interviewee? Aditi Rao Hydari’s Parvathi plays a vapid journo whose questions both on the job and off it find no real answers.

While the brothers were hashing it out in the initial stages, I wondered if there’d be a twist. Maybe this isn’t a straightforward power trip. Maybe someone else in the family is using the brothers as pawns. I hoped.

There’s Parvathi. Her phraseology and intent in badgering Varadan with questions about his future and place in society post the demise of his father made it seem like she has a lot to gain. For one, their relationship could go from illicit to legit.

Then there’s Chitra (Jyothika), Varadan’s wife. Smart, level-headed (everything her husband isn’t) and very much in love with him and supportive of his aspirations despite his many flaws. She could be clearing the path for him. Or, even better, for herself as head of operations because she has the acumen and tact that Varadan lacks.

Or, so I thought. That is until Varadan revealed his hand. So the women had nothing to do except be stoic. How disappointing.

The meet-and-greet of Parvathi and Chithra however, was interesting. Awkward but they stayed civil. And the way it should be. Clearly not the time for a confrontation, but similar scenes in past Tamil films that devolves into an angry duel makes one brace themselves.

Blunder. It’s not a word one would be prone to use when you’re being cuffed. A more passionate remonstration with cuss words thrown in and name dropping seems more in order. But Ethi (Simbu) and Thyagu (Arun Vijay), two badass dudes, are marched off with barely a whimper.

So this bloody battle of brothers arrives at a dizzying conclusion. As Rasool drives around in circles on a cliff top, lots of truths are revealed. Varadan set the assassins on his dad. He owns up to that. But did he plant drugs in Thyagu’s home and send his wife Renu to jail? Their uncle who was being queried of the same was killed off camera before we could find the answer. And Thyagu pumped bullets into Varadan before he could answer.

Then Ethi drops a bomb. He knew all along that it was Thyagu who had his wife assassinated. Considering we didn’t get a clear answer to the who-framed-Renu question, does this mean Ethi too got one-up on his brother?

It’s Rasool who has the last word. He explains all the loose ends away with a ‘it didn’t go all as per plan’ when reporting to his boss.

But niggling questions aside, Chekka Chivantha Vaanam is enjoyable. A far cry from the cringe-worthy Kaatru Veliyadai, Mani Ratnam is back in form. AR Rahman’s music is stunning and perfectly paired with Santosh Sivan’s cinematography. Among the many faces, it is Simbu who stands out with his droll stance in the midst of all the shredding of family and flesh. Vijay Sethupathi is stellar. His easy demeanour and humour makes the movie vibe with the audience. Jyothika has a big presence here and she shines. We hoped she wouldn’t go down with the bullet (it brought back totally unrelated memories of Kaakha Kaakha).

This movie is not perfect but it’s an engaging two hours and twenty four minutes. Just close your eyes when they bring out the tea.

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