Varisu

Vamshi Paidipally is usually associated with films in Telugu but this time he’s worked with Thalapathy Vijay to make Varisu in Tamil. Thankfully, Varisu is better than Vijay’s last film, Beast, although I think it would be difficult to make a worse movie! Although the story here is nothing new and the setting in a rich and privileged family tends to grate, the songs are fun, the action plentiful and Vijay is in top form.

Vijay plays Vijay Rajendran, the youngest son of rich businessman Rajendran (R. Sarathkumar) who has incorporated his other two sons into his mining and shipping business. Vijay has been disinherited for refusing to take part in his father’s succession plans and has managed instead to develop a start-up company distributing food to people in need. His success is apparently down to an MBA degree, which magically seems to give him amazing knowledge and ability in business and ensures that everything he suggests works amazingly well. If only! Meanwhile, Rajendran has set up his other two sons to compete against each other to become his successor and run the business empire he has developed.

But all is not well in the Rajendran family. Eldest son Jai (Srikanth) is married to Aarthi (Sangeetha Krish) with a daughter Ria (Sanjana Tiwari) but is also having an affair with Smita (Nandini Rai). Middle son Ajay (Shaam) is happily married but is struggling with his work looking after his father’s interests at the dock and is in debt to a financier Mukesh (Ganesh Venkatraman) as he tries to develop his own business ideas to impress his father. To add to Rajendran’s woes, his wife Sudha (Jayasudha) is unhappy at the forced separation from her youngest son, and his chief rival Jayaprakash (Prakash Raj) is snapping at his heels at every possible opportunity. When his doctor, family friend Dr Anand (Prabhu) tells him he only has months to live it seems to final blow that will fracture the family beyond repair.

But of course that’s not going to happen – enter Vijay and his amazing business prowess to save the day. Naturally Vijay is also able to defeat thugs at the docks, run off a gang of people smugglers and otherwise destroy any and all attacks on the family, his father and himself. The film settles into the usual ‘Vijay as all conquering hero’ and we know that everything will work out all right. While Vijay saves the business, sorts out his brothers and rescues Ria from kidnappers, there are plenty of fight sequences, numerous songs and a brief romance with Divya (Rashmika Mandanna), Aarthi’s sister.

What works here are the songs and the action sequences. There are a lot of songs, which I suspect is to help offset the thinness of the plot. The music is by Thaman S with lyrics by Vivek, and together they have come up with toe-tapping numbers that fit into the film well. Vijay dances up a storm with Rasjmika and a large number of enthusiastic backing dancers, and the songs are full of energy, bursting with colour, and just lots of fun. Best of all, rekhs has managed to make the translated lyrics rhyme and actually sound like songs, which adds to the overall emotional lift of each number. Unfortunately though, the background music would have benefitted from being turned down a few notches and at times I really couldn’t make much out other than just noise.

The action sequences are also well choreographed and Vijay smoothly eliminates every villain that attempts to stop him on his path to the top. It all looks effortless, which I’m sure means there was a lot of work put into these sequences, and it pays off. Perhaps more surprising are the number of rather odd diversions in the story that appear to have been included solely to allow fight sequences to be added. For a corporate and family drama, there are a lot of moments where Vijay has to fight his way out of a corner and, although these action sequences are impressive, they mostly don’t fit well into the rest of the story.

More problematic though is the rest of the film. For a start there are outdated attitudes on view from most of the male characters, who have little time or thought for the women in their lives. As a result, most of the female characters are thinly drawn and leave little impression although to be fair, all of the cast outside of Vijay have minimal impact on the film. The romance with Rashmika Mandanna is over before it starts and she mainly just looks pretty in the songs. Jayasudha does the usual mom routine, but she’s mostly relegated to serving food and worrying about her husband and family. As the two brothers, Srikanth and Shaam have little to do before the interval and not much more in the second half. Even R. Sarathkumar and Prakash Raj, who should have been tearing up the screen with their rivalry, are both very much side-lined by Vijay and end up appearing ineffectual and almost irrelevant. Everyone except Vijay appears one dimensional, which further erodes any plausibility of the story. While Vijay is excellent, the hero-centric nature of the film even starts to dull his shine and it’s only the energy of the songs that keeps the film moving along. The second half does have more energy than the first, but by that stage I was getting tired of Vijay’s relentless ability to conquer every difficulty so easily. A little more failure would have stopped the character from being quite so insufferable by the end of the film.

In the midst of all this, I do have to mention that at least the subtitles were excellent. During the interval I realised that I hadn’t even realised I was reading subtitles at all for a change! Usually I’m distracted by poor grammar, spelling mistakes and odd phrasing, but rekhs and her team have added subs that are easily readable, accurate and which make total sense. It makes a huge difference to be able to concentrate fully on the action and not have part of my attention diverted by trying to work out what is being said.

This is Vijay’s film from start to finish and he’s in almost every frame. Like most of his more recent films, this is made for fans, and there are plenty of nods to previous Vijay films throughout (thanks rekhs for the handy notes in the subs for those of us who didn’t get all the references!). I enjoyed the songs and the action but the story needed more depth, as did the characterisations of the supporting cast. It’s not a terrible film, but it’s not Vijay’s best, despite his energetic performance. Entertaining for a one-time watch, but wait for streaming if you’re not a Vijay fan.

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