Movies that have the rather simple game of carom as the backdrop of their plot are very rare, almost non-existent. We have seen a lot of movies where the hero and his gang of friends (usually portrayed as wayward youngsters) gathering around a carom board under a tube light by tea stall, making petty conversation; we have also seen a few interesting shots of the game in Vasool Raja. But, one cannot recall a Tamil movie that has acknowledged the fact that carom is a game that has an internationally recognised structure, championships and tournaments in place. It becomes even more embarrassing because of the fact that Tamil Nadu is home to some of the world champions of the game, past and present. The only Indian movie one can think of which has shown that there are international carom tournaments, is the Hindi movie Striker, which had starred Siddharth. Vilayaada Vaa shows that carom is indeed an organized game in its own right.
Okay; that was an ode to the fact that carom had got a bit of recognition. Now, down to the movie. It tells the typical story of an underdog rising out of nowhere to become a champion of the game; we have family sentiments, a romantic angle and a few villains thrown in for additional effect. Apart from carom, every other aspect in this movie is along the tried and tested formulae of Tamil cinema. If only the director had given more prominence to the game in the script, the movie would have looked unique. Instead, the game, the process of the rise of the champion, the nuances, the tensions of a game; are all brushed under the carpet in order to accommodate the more mundane things in cinema. In fact, we see very little of carom, it is only a subtext once the movie gets going. Consequently, you end up with the feeling that you are watching just another commercial movie, where there is a pair of lovers and two guys who want to come in between them. Now, there is an interesting angle to one of these guys, but that too is not very special. It is just that, it is not as big a cliché as some of the others in the movie. Things that pass off as comedy in the movie do more harm than good. The climax portions however have been done well and create a bit of feeling in the viewer.
Vilayaada Vaa is an example of a case where the balance in the script went the wrong way. Had it been more towards the game; this would truly have been a unique experience. The director’s handling of the debutante artistes leaves a lot to be desired; they do not rise above the level of amateurs, and this severely handicaps the movie. Only the experienced hands of Ponvannan and Lakshmi Ramakrishnan are able to look their parts, and they too have been underutilized.
Technically, the movie just about manages to float along. There is nothing much that catches your attention, be it in the camera or music. Overall, Vilayaada Vaa is a very good idea that just did not get enough space in the script to make it stand out. The one good thing about this entire affair is that the concept of a movie around carom is still alive. The script of Vilayaada Vaa has pushed it aside so much, that it remains practically fresh and can be used again without the fear of being called a copy. Just get the focus on the game rather than on the more run of the mill stuff in cinema.
Verdict: The coin is not pocketed!