Director: Mani Ratnam
Cast: Arvind Swami, Simbu, Vijay Sethupathi, Arun Vijay, Aishwarya Rajesh, Jyotika, Dayana Errapa, Aditi Rao Hydari, Prakash Raj
It’s not every day you see a multi-starrer in Tamil cinema, let alone in the magnitude of Chekka Chivantha Vaanam that stars such a stellar cast. And obviously, if someone can pull it off, it can only be by someone in the stature of Mani Ratnam. After all, when was the last time there was a 5 am show for a director? CCV is not just an amalgamation of stars but a marriage of talents and Mani collects these beams like a prism to give out a rainbow.
What intrigued me about the film was how simple and straightforward the story actually is. Of course, there are the mandatory twists as well as the whodunit turn the film takes closer to the intermission, but as it gets to the climax, you’ll realise how you’ve complicated it inside your head even though the answers were just lying around to be discovered. Mani’s filmography doesn’t have many films under the action/gangster genre but what’s there is quite a stellar list. What’s common between them and CCV is, apart from the fight for power, there’s also a strong human bond — an emotion the director aces in transcribing into a film.
With a such a long list of talents, the film establishes each character with distinct arcs right at the beginning. Senathipathi (Prakash Raj), a man who has seen his days on the battleground, only to be wiser and matured enough to play the underworld game well in his declining years. Varadhan (Arvind Swami), is a short-tempered man who uses brute strength more than his brawn. Thyagu (Arun Vijay) is suaver and relies much on his wits but can be more than that if he wants to. Ethi (Simbu) has a devil-may-care attitude but still manages to get his things. The other important character, who is an outsider to the family is Rasool (Vijay Sethupathi). The name means ‘messenger’ and that’s exactly what he does between the brothers when things get ugly between them after the seat for the head of the family business gets vacant. Then there are the ladies, who, dissimilar to most of Mani’s films are the pawns in the games played by the men without having much to offer.
That’s not the only thing where Mani seems to have forgone his usual path. I don’t remember the last time I saw one of his films which had theatre-moments and this film, surprisingly has many of them. There’s an action scene for Arvind Swami as he thrashes a bunch of people singlehandedly, an emotional one for STR where he sheds tears in front of his mother, a mass one for Arun Vijay when he comes back home and a number of one-liners for Vijay Sethupathi. And I’ve never seen such a fast cut Mani film before — not just the scenes but the entire sequence keeps shuffling and considering the film happens in various countries, it gives even more scope for Sreekar Prasad to play with the scissors. And while we’re at the technical aspects, Santhosh Sivan’s work with colours is brilliant. AR Rahman’s songs are turned into montages and the much loved Mazhai Kuruvi song alone gets to linger a little longer.
As far as the performances are concerned, the actors have put on a competitive show. Each shows a different dimension of emotion as their character and it leaves you wondering if you can imagine anyone else in the place of the four heroes. While Arvind Swami’s anger management issues make him go wild, Arun Vijay’s stylish role seems to be a fit continuation to his Victor avatar. Simbu’s fans are in for a treat and I’m going to stop with just that as far as his role is concerned. Vijay Sethupathi’s underplaying role too makes it ones of his best ones in recent times. I only wish there was more depth in the female characters as the ones played by Dayanna and Aditi felt unnecessary. Talk about too much testosterone! And oh, not to mention that the trailer reveals a lot than what it was meant to be.
Mani has also infused his trademark shots and the one involving Vijay Sethupathi and Arvind Swami in a construction site is an example for it. The use of lights on both the characters is also a lovely touch. The colour play too was evident and such minute detailing is something that really gets you to fall in love with his direction. Not to mention how the story backdrop has a mythological feel to it. There are way too many ‘king’ and ‘kingdom’ references in the film. Don’t believe me, add the word ‘raj’ to the end of the brothers’ name. When Varadan’s sister asks him to name her son, he names him, you guessed it, Raja. No wonder Senapathi’s couch is compared to that of a throne for which the trio fight.
On the whole, the film marks the return of Mani Ratnam to commercial entertainers and though a lot of scenes remind you of Godfather apart from the filmmaker’s own Nayagan, Agni Natchathiram and Aayutha Ezhuthu, you would come out of the theatre with a sense of satisfaction.