Vedalam (2015)

Vedalam

Vedalam opens with a woeful assassination attempt in Milan where a team of supposedly crack soldiers are trying to rid the world of top Tamil crime boss Ratna Bhai (Rahul Dev) and end up failing miserably. It’s not a good start, and what makes it so terrible is a mixture of the ridiculousness of the scenario, bad dubbing, bad acting and a nonsensical dénouement. Thankfully though, with the exception of a few comedy scenes, the rest of Vedalam is miles better than the opening few minutes would suggest and Ajith scores another hit – mainly due to the force of his personality and considerable charisma on-screen. Siva adds special effects, a good story and plenty of action to make Vedalam an entertaining watch despite the dodgy start.

As an antidote to the opening scene, the film immediately moves to Kolkata and Rajendran as local gangster Kolkata Kaali. Rajendran is one of my favourite actors and I love that he’s moving more into comedy alongside his usual gangster roles. He is very funny here as he menaces and then befriends new arrival to the city Ganesh (Ajith Kumar) and his sister Thamizh (Lakshmi Menon). Thamizh is applying to study in a prestigious art college in the city and Ganesh appears as the perfect older brother – supportive and encouraging in every way, while maintaining an unruffled and happily smiling exterior no matter what the circumstances.  While Thamizh gets accepted into the art college, Ganesh manages to get a job driving a taxi, despite not speaking a word of Bengali or knowing anything about the city – sounds like your typical taxi driver really!

Siva adds more humour with Soori as the manager of the taxi company, but his brand of comedy only works part of the time and it reaches a nadir when the tired out trope of philandering husband is rolled out yet again. Shruti Haasan also shows up in a comedy role as an unscrupulous lawyer, Swetha, who ends up with a grudge against Ganesh. None of her intense overacting in her initial scenes is funny and her wardrobe choices are equally atrocious, but her character does have a few redeeming moments later on in the film. In one of those typical film coincidences, Swetha’s brother Arjun (Ashwin Kakumanu) falls in love with Thamizh which adds romance into the film and gives Ganesh the opportunity to deliver a good ‘big brother’ speech about women’s safety. It’s a shame that such a good message about how stalking ≠ love and men should respect women is immediately followed by a song featuring Shruti and backing dancers in skimpy outfits and terrible choreography, but at least the speech did get a cheer in Melbourne.

Just before the break Ganesh reveals his true persona, first in an excellent fight scene and then in a genuinely frightening exchange with Swetha that sets up a flashback sequence in the second half. All of the smiling and the ‘always cheery’ disposition starts to grate by then, so the switch to bad-ass fighter Ganesh (aka Vedalam) comes as a welcome change. No-one does the switch from happy smile to scary psychotic grimace as well as Ajith – it really is disturbing and Siva uses the transformation sparingly but to very good effect throughout the film.

The reason for Ganesh’s outburst of violence goes back to the gangster seen in the opening scene. Ratna Bhai and his two brothers Abhinay (Kabir Duhan Singh) and Aniket (Aniket Chouhan) control the skin trade out of India amongst various other criminal activities and Ganesh has come up against them in the past. The flash-back sequence is well done, generating an emotional reason for Ganesh to seek revenge but without becoming overly sentimental or clichéd. The villains do what villains in these films usually do, while there is really never any doubt that Ganesh will defeat them all in the end. However the lead up to the final fight scene is very well written with a few good surprises to build the suspense. The last fight is also brilliantly done and the film is worth watching for this last sequence alone.

Anirudh’s music is good and fits the screenplay well, with Aaluma Doluma standing out as the best track.  The background score is occasionally distractingly loud, but I like the theme and it suits the schizophrenic nature of Ajith’s character. Mostly the songs are well pictured too apart from the previously mentioned ‘Don’t You Mess With Me’, which really deserved better and isn’t helped by the skanky choreography. Technically the film is slick and well-edited with good effects and novel fight choreography. There isn’t too much blood and gore either, although it’s always surprising how quickly the bad guys run out of bullets and resort to fist fights when they really should know better!

Vedalam is Ajith’s film all the way and he does a superb job as a dangerous and scary man while still conveying kindness and sympathy in the scenes with Thamizh. The support cast are all just that – support for Ajith, but Lakshmi Menon is good as his oblivious sister while Sudha and Thambi Ramaiah make an impression in their small roles in the flashback sequence.  Vedalam isn’t a perfect film, the comedy isn’t great and the villains are standard caricatures with predictable habits, but Ajith is very watchable and the story works well with some unexpected twists, especially at the end.  Worth watching for Ajith and the excellent final fight scene – plus Rajendran of course!

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6 thoughts on “Vedalam (2015)

  1. Hi Heather,
    Totally biased on this one. Enjoyed the film with packed audiences. Thala film is like a festival enjoyed every minute of the experience. I really admire the actor he is, more than that the person he is. Just loved the film. Especially the first fight sequence where he goes completely bezerk with that evil laugh. Also loved the flashback sequence which has all the old songs and Thala Ajith humming to it and the best song of the film Aaluma Doluma. Loved the Theri theme music of the film. The climax build-up is also good with some nice twists.
    Loved your write up on this film too..!!

    Cheers
    Dinesh V

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    • Hi Dinesh,
      Thanks 🙂
      It was pretty busy here for a Sunday arvo screening – about ⅔ full – and the audience was definitely appreciative! Makes all the difference 🙂
      The fight scenes are excellent – loved them for different reasons. The first because of his switch from happy taxi driver to insane killer (the impaling was genius!), the second because he was really very frightening just before the interval (I did think that could be the end of Shruti!) and the last (and the best) when he kept switching personalities 🙂
      Agree that Aaluma Doluma was the best song – I’ve read a lot of reviews that criticised the ST, but I really like it!
      Cheers, Heather

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  2. One more film in the ‘critics-bashed-it-so-it-must-be-good’ mould? I don’t think I have seen a good review of it anywhere. 🙂 But obviously, it strikes a chord in people. It’ running to packed houses here.

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    • Hi Anu,
      I’ve read a mix of reviews – some good, but most bad. Generally it seems to have got the OK from Ajith fans (like me 🙂 ) since his role as the central character is the main reason to watch the film.
      I can’t think of another Tamil actor who could have pulled the transition from smily happy to vicious killer so easily and, since he fits the role so well, I presume the character was written for him. I’m guessing it’s that contrast between the two facets of the character’s personality that people are enjoying as that was definitely why I enjoyed it.
      The rest of the film is a mix of a few good ideas (mainly in the fight scenes) and tedious cliches with a standard mass storyline that does what it has to do and no more 🙂

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  3. Hey Heather,

    I was wondering if you felt like the story of Vedalam was very similar to the story of Ooservelli? The idea that the hero gets vengeance for a person that has lost their memory.

    Thanks,
    TJ 🙂

    Like

    • Hi TJ,
      I haven’t seen Oosaravelli with subtitles but from memory (ha!) there is some similarity in the idea but not so much in the execution. I don’t remember Tarak being quite so insane and switching persona in the same way as Ajith does here. Good excuse for a re-watch I think!

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