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By Anuja Chandramouli
Vaanam is about five converging lives that literally set off a cataclysmic explosion. In many ways it could be considered a milestone. The film reaches for the stars and makes no bones about it, but does it make the cut? Is it path breaking cinema at its most glorious complete with integrity and pathos? The answer to that question is the same one teachers give to parents about students who have unlimited potential but can do much better. This is so, because, of the five strands that comprise the narrative, three could have been more engaging, to retain audience interest in all aspects of the movie.

STR’s story is the one that rocks, big time. It is not perfect but it is thoroughly riveting. He plays Cable Raja who is far too good looking and smooth – talking by far and the extent of his ambition begins and ends with filthy lucre. To further his aim of getting a one – way ticket out of his ‘Kuppam’, he plans to marry a rich – plasticky doll who is short of brains and body fat but nothing else. He is close to achieving his dreams but all he needs is the sum of Rs. 40, 000 to close the deal or as he croons lustily to a hooker – ‘No money no honey ma!’

Together with Santhanam, he tries to raise the money using any means available ethics be damned, finds himself on a slippery slope towards damnation, and finally redeems himself. STR reveals the unlimited potential he has as an actor and there are a few scenes where he comes close to transcendence. His eyes speak volumes and his hold over the audience may best be defined as mesmeric. There is this particular scene that shows Simbhu struggling with a dormant conscience that has suddenly come awake and he fights it allowing his darker side to win albeit temporarily. A myriad of conflicting emotions from desperation to self – loathing to sheer human greed make their way in rapid succession across his eyes and you want to stand up with the truck driver high on ganja in the first row and scream your approval.

All this makes you so much madder at the director for making him provide the comic relief in the film which results in you not taking the character seriously even when he makes the ultimate sacrifice and the second completely unselfish act in his life. But even so, he and Santhanam are the best things about Vaanam. The duo is a laugh riot, and their antics hit you like a gallon of caffeine every time they come on screen. When the other characters take over the narrative, you find yourself missing Cable Raja and his sidekick in petty crime.

As regards the weaker threads, you have a weaver and his daughter – in – law who desperately need, Rs. 40, 000(Coincidence!) to pay off a loan shark and rescue their boy who has been kidnapped and is being held by said shark. Saranya plays the poverty – stricken mother and she does a good job but the problem is her character moans and groans once too often and you are taken on an unpleasant trip down memory lane where a screen – mom’s only job in life was to wail and bemoan her tragic fate. The weaver accompanies her in paroxysms of grief and despair, till you find overwhelming irritation muscling out the pangs of pity you had felt initially.

Speaking of pity, Prakash Raj’s strand fails to pack a punch and he cuts a somewhat pathetic figure. The thespian plays a Muslim (you know that because he wears those cute little caps as a badge of identification throughout the flick) going through the worst phase in his life and whose troubles are compounded by a runaway brother and a cop who is a tad biased against Muslims in general and him in particular and who runs into him more often than either they or the audience care for. Prakash Raj’s search for his brother and trysts with the supremely lacking – in – judgment cop make for some scenes that drag a little and though the veteran lends gravitas to the role, it is nothing we have not seen before.

Bharath’s is a Rocker dude in the film but his story does not achieve its potential because he and his friends are not convincing enough. They dress the part, look the part, even talk the part, but they were not able to wing it and come across as wannabe more than anything else. Bharath is the selfish rocker who cares about himself, his music, his girl, and little else, and who undergoes a personality transplant when life gives him a few hard lessons. But he has trouble selling it to the audience because it is too far a departure from who he is in real life though the effort he puts into the role is commendable. Besides this strand deserves a round of applause for sending out the right message to today’s youngsters.

Vaanam also has a sizeable sex quotient with a hooker, Saroja who fortunately does not have some sob story that is usually mandatory for justifying such a career choice. She knows her body is her fortune and she has no qualms about using it, her main grouses being that the pimp who runs the brothel helps herself to a hefty cut and that her experience unlike in other jobs is not considered an asset. Anushka as the feisty prostitute with quite the big mouth turns in an entertaining performance. In the end, she decides to get off her back and opt for a more respectable job and you are genuinely happy for her.

The music is a definite plus and STR’s tracks walk away with the honors. They have tremendous mass appeal and they have great energy and bounce that makes it extremely easy on the ears. Yuvan Shankar Raja has done it again. Simbhu and Bharat are great dancers and their talent in this department is suitably showcased. However, it must be mentioned that while it is great to listen to ‘no money no honey’ while driving or chilling at home, it tends to put the brakes on the proceedings.

Finally, Vaanam deserves a pat on the back simply because it inspired STR to get off the beaten track and begin experimenting with the roles he takes up. He has come a long way from the days when he played the loser with the attitude in movies like Alai and Dum. The Young Super Star has raw talent in abundance but it needs to be molded before he can really come into his own as an actor Tamil Nadu can be proud of and show off to the world. Hopefully, he’ll churn out more films like this in future.

As for the director, Krish his novel attempt has paid off in big bucks, so it looks like he has found his pot of honey at the end of the rainbow – colored tapestry he wove with his Vaanam. And there is no begrudging him that. It is a worthy attempt and required grit and guts to try something so different. So warts and all, Vaanam and the man who made it deserve hearty congratulations.
Tags : Vaanam, Str, Anushka, Bharath, Vega, Santhanam, Krish, Yuvan Shankar Raj
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