Vikram (2022)

2022 is proving to be an excellent year for Indian cinema. Pushpa, RRR, KGF2 and now Vikram have really raised the bar and we’re only halfway through the year! In Vikram, Lokesh Kanagaraj delves back into the world he created with Kaithi and adds more threads to his tale of drug dealing, police corruption and gang warfare. With a who’s who of Southern Indian actors, an engrossing story and fabulous action sequences, Vikram is another ‘not to be missed’ film that deserves to be seen at the cinema.

The story begins with Police Chief Jose (Chemban Vinod Jose) bringing in a ‘black-ops’ team headed by an agent known only as Aram (Fahadh Faasil). The police have been sent a series of videos showing black-masked terrorists murder the local Head of Narcotics Stephen Raj (Hareesh Peradi), ACP Prabhanjan (Kalidas Jayaram) and Prabhanjan’s adopted father Karnan (Kamal Haasan). With the final murder seemingly unconnected, Aram immediately starts investigating Karnan, trying to find any possible link that might explain the deaths. His investigations reveal a man who had turned to drink and prostitutes after the death of his adopted son, but no link to the case Prabhanjan was involved with before his death. However, in the course of his inquiries, Aram discovers a missing shipment of drugs belonging to drug kingpin Sandhanam (Vijay Sethupathi) and identifies two more men involved with the drug trade who may be in danger. Veerapandian ((Gowtham Sundarajan) and Rudra Prathap (Aruldoss) are both likely targets as they reportedly know the location of the missing shipments, but despite the police, Sandhanam and Aram all trying to protect the men, the ‘men in black’ are hard to evade.

Aram and his men have no boundaries and as such threaten, beat and bully their way to the information required. Oddly, during the investigation Aram also marries Gayathri (Gayathrie Shankar) despite her ignorance about his real job and seeming unconcern about the man she finds being held prisoner in Amar’s offices. Apart from this one glimpse into a possible softer side, Fahadh Faasil’s Amar is as brutal and dangerous as the men he is seeking. As one of the top actors in the South, Fahadh Faasil is always impressive, but he is electrifying here to the point where he almost manages to steal attention away from Kamal Haasan. Fahadh’s body language, expressions and dialogue delivery are simply brilliant throughout and when his life starts to fall apart, his portrayal of a man at the limit of his ability to cope is excellent. One moment that really stands out is his absolute frustration when trying to resuscitate Prabhanjan’s young son which was simply perfect (standard filmi medical miracles aside of course). I also recognised the Queen of Subtitles rekhs as the dubbing voice for Dr Annie on the line assisting Amar with the process which added just the right note to the whole scene.

Vijay Sethupathi has played the role of a demented brutal gangster before, so the character of Sandhanam isn’t a stretch for him, but Vijay gives the character plenty of traits that set the gangster apart from his previous roles. Sandhanam has 3 wives, and there is an excellent montage where we see Sandhanam, his family and one of his wives practicing target shooting, perhaps to show he’s a supporter of equal opportunities for all. He certainly believes in keeping it in the family since his the main members of Sandhanam’s gang producing the drug supply are all from his large extended family, and he is ultra-protective of them, although happily expends his henchmen elsewhere when necessary. Able to switch between fake doctor, urbane businessman and unhinged gangster with a tendency to use his own product, Sandhanam is more complex than first appears and Vijay Sethupathi brings out all of these different facets of his character even with limited screen time.

Kamal Haasan is the focus of the film and despite not appearing much in the first half, his presence is still felt as the ghost manipulating much of the action. He is amazingly agile in the fight scenes, and if he appears rather less sprightly in an early dance sequence, there are reasons behind that which are revealed later in the story. This is another outstanding performance from one of the greats of Tamil cinema and he does not put a foot wrong. There is a good mix of humour in the dialogue too, and the addition of scenes with his family help to break up the actions sequences and add more fuel to the film’s fury. And if you thought Yash had a big gun in KGF2, think again – guns are so passé when you can have a cannon instead! The other support cast are also excellent from Narain reprising his role as Inspector Bejoy to Chemban Vinod Jose, Kalidas Jayaram, Sampath Ram and Ramesh Thilak. My favourite moment in the entire film comes from Agent Tina (Vasanthi) and I also loved the totally unhinged appearance by Suriya, who has a brief appearance at the end.

The action sequences here by Anbariv are excellent and Girish Gangadharan captures the effects beautifully. The scale of the film is huge with wide shots over the city of Chenni, massive gunfire and explosion sequences and then a total change to close-ups of Sandhanam’s gold teeth. Girish ensures it all looks stunning regardless. Even at 3 hours of runtime, nothing in the film drags and with Anirudh’s soundtrack underpinning the action and emotions of the film, the balance is perfect. Thanks to rekhs who has subtitled the entire film with perfect English although the use of ‘shucks’ and ‘crap’ as substitutes for the actual dialogue did make me smile. I’m assuming there is a censorship reason behind the change since the original words are clearly audible. Thanks too for the yellow font which is much more readable than white.

Vikram is high octane action with plenty of plot detail and connections that make the plot intriguing as well as exciting. The performances are uniformly excellent and I honestly think the film is many times better than anything I’ve seen from Hollywood in recent times. While a number of the characters from Kaithi resurface, Vikram is a self-contained story that can be enjoyed without having seen the earlier film, and the references aren’t so obscure that it’s impossible to work out previous links. I’m looking forward to the next instalment and seeing just what Lokesh Kanagaraj comes up with next in his mad and crazy world of drug lords and special agents.

Kaithi (2019)

Kaithi was recommended to me as a must-see by many people but the film didn’t release in Australia until this weekend. Word of mouth has been so good that the cinema was full despite reaching Melbourne a week late. And after all the hype – is the film worth it? A resounding yes! Kaithi is a tense action thriller that doesn’t miss a beat, while all the cast are simply terrific, including Karthi in a role that sees one of his best performances. No songs, no dances and no romance track, just all out action, intelligently plotted drama and even a dash of comedy all ensuring that Lokesh Kanagaraj’s latest film is one not to be missed.

The film opens quietly, introducing a young girl in an orphanage who is told to expect an important visitor on the following day. We’re left in the dark as to who she is, and who the important visitor will be, but not for too long. Dilli (Karthi) is a paroled prisoner who is on his way to see his daughter for the very first time. Flashes of his daughter’s restless night as she waits impatiently for morning are interspersed with the action of the rest of the film, adding a strong emotional thread to the narrative as well as upping the stakes for Dilli as he battles his way through the various obstacles in his path. Importantly these scenes add some space around the high-impact action sequences and give us a reason to invest in the outcome of Dilli’s struggles. After introducing Dilli’s daughter the film shifts into fast-paced action with the introduction of numerous characters and the basic story all given in quick succession, which makes these small interludes a clever way to accentuate the action without breaking the overall level of tension in the film.

The action starts with Inspector Bejoy (Narain) and his team capturing a lorry load of drugs and other smuggled goods, although Bejoy is injured in the raid. For some political reason the raid has been kept secret, so Bejoy and his men stash the drugs under the police station while throwing the smugglers into the cells above. The team head off to the Chief Commissioner’s retirement bash along with all the senior officers, leaving a few junior police and recent transferee Napoleon (George Maryan) from Tirunelveli at the station. The action then switches to the gangster hideout where Anbu (Arjun Das) is plotting how to get the drugs back and also ensure that the police never know that they have his brother and gang leader Adaikalam (Harish Uthaman) in custody. The smugglers plan to drug the police officers at the retirement party and while they are incapacitated, break into the police station and grab the drugs and Adaikalam. All of which would work except for Bejoy and his decision to co-opt Dilli to drive the truck carrying the drugged police officers to hospital.

The events all occur over the course of one night which adds to the suspense and increases tension as Dilli and Bejoy battle to save the police officers, stop the gangsters getting to the stash of drugs and prevent Anbu from freeing Adaikalam. Along the way there are double agents on both sides, a group of students who end up barricaded in the police station along with Napoleon and the owner of the truck, Kamatchi (Deena) who is dragged along against his will. The action is a mix of the road trip across rough terrain to get medical attention with periodic attempts by the gangsters to stop Dilli and Bejoy by any means possible, and a siege of the police station by Anbu and his men, all anchored by the strong presence of Dilli who will do anything it takes to ensure he can get to the orphanage and meet his daughter.

The action sequences are well choregraphed by Anbariv who uses a mixture of one-on-one fights, inventive ambushes and stunts with the lorry to add novelty and interest to the film. Sathyan Sooryan’s cinematography makes the most of the night setting, highlighting the cabin of the truck where Bejoy, Dilli and Kamatchi are literal lights in the darkness of the war against drugs as the gangsters circle around in the darkness of the forest. Car headlights, torches and burning carts provide background lighting for the fight scenes with Dilli in the truck, while the police station, boarded up by Napoleon and the students is lit by moonlight as they attempt to keep the smugglers out.

Each member of the cast is fantastic, starting with Arjun Das as the erratic and bloodthirsty leader of the smuggling gang. He creates an atmosphere of violence simply by snarling at the camera and is a plausibly dangerous villain. Although Harish Uthaman has limited screen time, he is suitably menacing, particularly as he emerges from the gloom of the police cell to threaten the engineering students who have devised inventive methods for preventing his escape. George Maryan is outstanding as the ageing constable, fresh in from the country who ends up the sole defender of the police station and pulls the students into the fight. He is steady as a rock, perhaps because he doesn’t quite understand the magnitude of the force arrayed against him, but his attitude and strength of character are brilliantly written into the story and along with the students his fight against the gangsters is just as compelling and thrilling as that of Bejoy and Dilli.


I loved Narain in Anjathey and he is excellent here as a police officer pushed to the limits by circumstance and desperate to do the right thing. He gets across the internal conflicts that result when he pulls Dilli and Kamatchi into the volatile situation with the gang, and he is also excellent at portraying Bejoy’s helplessness from his broken arm which prevents him driving the lorry himself. It’s a well nuanced performance despite the straight forward character arc, and Narain excels in the brief conversations with Dilli that expose his innermost struggles. Deena too is well cast in a role that adds some humour to the story, but he’s also effective as a voice of the common man who tries to do the right thing despite being terrified by the violence that erupts all around him.

I really like Karthi and have seen most of his films including the excellent Naan Mahaan Alla, Madras and Theeran Adhigaaram Ondru, and in Kaithi he produces another scorching performance to add to the list. As a prisoner, Dilli has learned to keep his eyes down and his mouth shut making Karthi’s slow deliberate movements and measured dialogue a perfect fit for the character. His obvious enjoyment of biryani, eaten while Bejoy is trying to load up the lorry with the drugged police officers is a satisfying nod to freedom and the simple joy of good food eaten leisurely. He’s also excellent when describing to Kamatchi how he ended up in prison, but it’s in the action sequences where he really excels providing a convincing portrayal of a man willing to risk everything to reach his daughter. He gets the emotions just right too, never dipping into maudlin or overly dramatic sentimentality, but still showing the mix of fear, elation and trepidation that would naturally be present in any father going to meet his 10-year-old daughter for the first time. The character is written quite simply, but Karthi adds plenty of depth and intensity that contrasts perfectly with Narain’s more desperate Bejoy.


There are no songs but C.S. Sam’s background music fits the narrative well and helps to drive the action forward. The two different tracks to the story work well with each other to keep the tension level high, especially when it always seems that the defenders will be overwhelmed by the gangsters, and the finale is just as over-the-top and Rambo-esque as befits the indestructible character of Dilli. The film doesn’t feel overlong despite the almost 2½ hour running time but instead stays thrilling and almost claustrophobic with the one-night timeframe and race against time to save everyone. With brilliant performances, a simple but well plotted storyline and plenty of action sequences, Kaithi is an excellent thriller and highly recommended for fans of the genre.

Chithiram Pesuthadi


Chithiram Pesuthadi is the first Tamil film I’ve seen that thanks a roller skating stadium in the opening credits.  So – possibly not one of director Mysskin’s typically dark stories based on crime and murder then?

Well, no.  Chithiram Pesuthadi is billed as a love story, but even in this first film from Mysskin there are plenty of fights, numerous gangsters and an underworld theme added into the plot.  The features that I’ve come to expect from Mysskin’s film are also present, although less frequently here than in his subsequent films, but his trademark low angle shots of feet and a few odd camera angles from above still appear.  Despite the underworld theme, in many ways this is typical love story where a boy from the wrong side of the tracks falls in love with a middle class girl and there are numerous obstacles to overcome. However there are enough fresh features to keep the story interesting, while Narain and Bhavana share good chemistry together, which makes the love story a little more believable than usual.

Chithiram PesuthadiChithiram Pesuthadi

Thiru (Narain) is an angry man. He’s angry about the bribes he has to try and pay to get a job, he’s angry at his mother because he feels she prevented him from completing his education (which would have helped him get a job) and he’s angry at his sister because she needs money to finish her education (which means he has to get a job).  This rage makes him an excellent an somewhat ruthless fighter, and when he inadvertently rescues local don Annachi’s son from a beating, he ends up recruited as a general enforcer and thug on call.  The job with Annachi (Kadhal Dhandapani) allows him to vent his rage on a variety of hapless victims, although this doesn’t seem to improve his general disposition.  However there is more to Thiru than his frequent flashes of temper suggest.  He has his own code of conduct which he tries to adhere to, he has three loyal friends who respect him and despite his tantrums at home Thiru is trying his best to support his mother and sister.

Chithiram PesuthadiChithiram PesuthadiChithiram PesuthadiChithiram Pesuthadi

Inevitably, Thiru clashes with a girl who is equally angry, although Charu (Bhavana) doesn’t seem to have any real reason for all her aggression.  She lives with her father and works alongside her uncle in an organisation which promotes the health and welfare of orphans. Charu is a crusader and is ready to leap to the defence of anyone she feels might need her support, whether they want it or not. This leads to several clashes between her and Thiru, whom she sees as a nasty vicious thug.

Chithiram PesuthadiChithiram Pesuthadi

Thiru on the other hand doesn’t seem to think much about her at all, until finally one day he starts to see her in a different light.  Either that or he develops severe indigestion – it’s hard to decide from his expression but I’m pretty sure he falls in love.  Either way, we end up with this amazing song which, although it’s the ‘falling in love’ song in the film, it doesn’t seem to have anything much to do with love and romance.  Unless of course, I’ve missed some kind of symbolic significance in the way Narain is dressed as a Roman carrying a goat – or the many other bizarre situations in this song!

Naturally Charu also changes her mind about Thiru and without even a sniff of parental opposition the two end up setting a date for the wedding.  Of course Thiru’s decision to give up his life of crime and sell stuffed toys by the side of the road instead may have helped win over Charu’s father. But only, I suspect, if he didn’t actually see Thiru and his friends in these shirts.

Chithiram PesuthadiChithiram Pesuthadi

Charu and Thiru appear set for a life of wedded bliss when suddenly Mysskin appears to remember that this is a Tamil film and various tragedies beset the lovers.  But here again, Mysskin diverges from the traditional path and allows both of his characters to behave badly.  Both are selfish and unpleasant, although of the two, Thiru does get painted in a slightly kinder light.

Charu is abrasive, obnoxiously rude to her father and dangerously confrontational throughout.  When her relationship falters, she blames everyone but herself which showcases the immaturity of her character perfectly.  Bhavana does an excellent job and even manages to create sympathy for her character’s challenging persona.  Most importantly she cries convincingly and looks generally unglamorous and suitably ‘girl-next-door’ for the role. I found it quite impressive that she made me care about what happens to Charu (even if only superficially), as I really didn’t like the character at all.

Chithiram PesuthadiChithiram Pesuthadi

Narain also puts in a good performance, although he’s helped by the fact that his character is a little more sympathetic. Thiru is a man of contradictions and occasionally Narain splits his personality a little too much so that angry Thiru becomes too much of a caricature.  However his Thiru is likeable despite the angry outbursts and casual violence. Thiru’s loyal friends are equally impressive, with each developing a distinct personality through the use of just a few little quirks in their limited time onscreen.  I love how one of them is always eating – no matter how serious the situation or how inappropriate, he always has some food in his hands.  There are plenty of similar little touches that make the characters feel more real, including the way Annachi rules his area from his banana yard, discussing deals and deaths in between the more mundane day to day activity of selling fruit.

Chithiram PesuthadiChithiram Pesuthadi

While the story develops smoothly, the songs seem to be added rather haphazardly and don’t always add to the film.  There are also some very bizarre translations –  I have no idea what assembling eyes with fingers is all about, but it does sound interesting.

Chithiram PesuthadiChithiram Pesuthadi

And of course the roller skaters!

Chithiram Pesuthadi

There is a better than usual item number with Malavika, but again it wasn’t really necessary, and most of the songs appear to be used more because songs are expected rather than as a way to further develop the story.

Overall Chithiram Pesuthadi is an impressive début by Mysskin and illustrates why he has gone on to become such a successful director.  He has the ability to spin a good yarn and keep the plot interesting, even with unlikeable protagonists and relatively dark themes.   Good performances, a new twist on an old story and some clever character development combine to make Chithiram Pesuthadi well worth a watch, and definitely a cut above most other first films. 4 stars.