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Happy birthday Vetrimaaran: Best of the Vaadivaasal filmmaker to catch on OTT

Five best films of Vetrimaaran to watch on OTT.

Happy birthday Vetrimaaran: Best of the Vaadivaasal filmmaker to catch on OTT
  • S Subhakeerthana

Last Updated: 08.55 PM, Sep 04, 2022


It's unusual to hear a director refer to himself as a researcher, but Vetrimaaran has always wanted to learn new things while making films. For Aadukalam, which won the National Award in 2011, he relocated to Madurai and lived there for three years to study the people and the Madurai way of life. 

It wouldn't be an exaggeration to say his films go places that few dare to go—which is why Vetrimaaran is a filmmaker to keep an eye on. 

A fan of Akira Kurosawa, the director, often says his films are a personal reflection of how the state—the system and the world—affects him. 

Despite being inspired by Mani Ratnam's work, it is Balu Mahendra, considered an auteur of Tamil cinema, who continues to influence Vetrimaaran.

The following are five Vetrimaaran films that you may want to watch on OTT.

Aadukalam (Prime Video, SunNXT)

The film bagged six National awards. Set against the backdrop of cockfighting, this is a gritty tale of love, jealousy and betrayal amid blood sport and violence. His screenplay is brilliant, which is why even when a rooster wins, the audience erupts in applause. The second half may appear slow, but when human emotions are depicted with such precision, that is understandable.

Alex Haley's novel Roots and Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's Mexican film Amores Perros influenced Aadukalam.

"While watching Amores..., I thought to myself, if a movie about dog fights can be made, why not one about rooster fights?" Besides, I was involved in rooster fights as a child, so I was familiar with the entire process," Vetrimaaran told the Hindu.

The film featured Dhanush, Taapsee Pannu, Kishore, Jayapalan, Naren, Velraj and Dinesh Ravi in important roles.

Visaranai (Netflix)

The film was India’s official entry to the 2017 Academy Awards. Visaranai was selected by the jury at the Film Federation of India from 29 other films, representing our country at the Oscars.

Speaking of Visaranai, Vetrimaaran said in an interview, "My films must have a strong emotional impact on me. Each of them serves as a test for me, and it must help me grow as a person... it must teach me a thing or two about life. As a result, I avoid films that I believe I will tire of in two or three months. I won't go looking for my next story... I wait for it to come to me and enthral me to the point where it completely disrupts my daily routine."

Visaranai won critical acclaim at both national and international film festivals and has elevated Tamil cinema to new heights of meaningful entertainment. Its realistic approach would appeal to discerning viewers, while the thrill factor towards the end would provide entertainment to a general audience.

Based on the autobiographical novel Lock Up, Visaranai follows the plight of four men who are wrongfully accused of a crime. The director intends for the viewer to be left reeling at the injustice on display by the end of the film.

Vada Chennai (Disney+Hotstar)

The plot of the film is that a carrom player becomes a pawn in a decades-long revenge saga. The characters in Vada Chennai are well-developed, which distinguishes them from other gangster films. They are genuine and truthful. Both men and women are far from perfect and will never hesitate to use derogatory language. Women are not simply bystanders in the proceedings; they have their selfish motives. Men, on the other hand, do not easily forgive past transgressions. However, the film takes a political detour in the second half to make a strong and necessary statement about the significance of safeguarding one's individuality.

Apart from Dhanush, Vada Chennai had Ameer, Samuthirakani, Aishwarya Rajesh, Daniel Balaji, Kishore, Andrea Jeremiah and Radha Ravi in important roles. In between his current projects, the National Award-winning filmmaker revealed that he will be developing a prequel to Vada Chennai as a web series.

It's worth noting that Vetrimaaran mentioned chopping a significant chunk of footage at the editing table while promoting Vada Chennai.

Asuran (Prime Video)

Vetrimaaran stated in several interviews that Asuran is the fastest film of his career.

During a panel discussion at the Mumbai Film Festival (MAMI), the director stated he wasn't happy with how he finished Asuran. "People like it, and it's making money, which makes me happy, but I'm not happy with how I had to finish it. I was told it had to be released in 40 days even though I still had 22 days to shoot."

Asuran, which was based on the Tamil novel Vekkai, made news for grossing over Rs 100 crore and Dhanush was praised for his exemplary performance. The film was remade in Telugu with actor Venkatesh.

In an interview with Film Companion, Manju Warrier, who played the female lead in Asuran, said, "I was nervous and told Vetrimaaran to correct me immediately if I did something wrong. He told me he wasn't sure about the character and that we'd find out as we went. I was concerned that I would fall short of Dhanush and Vetrimaaran's standards. They may appear confused and nervous, but they are both excellent at their jobs. As a director's actor, I feel very at ease."

Orr Iravu (Paava Kadhaigal, Netflix)

Paava Kadhaigal, directed by Sudha Kongara, Vignesh Shivn, Gautham Vasudev Menon, and Vetrimaaran, explores how love, pride, and honour influence complex relationships through four intricate and beautiful stories.

With Orr Iravu, Vetrimaaran felt there was a lot of freedom to explore in terms of storytelling and emotions. His segment, featuring Sai Pallavi and Prakash Raj, takes an unwavering nanoscopic look at honour killing and how a system allows it to occur.

Additionally, OTTplay summarises how Vetrimaaran charted his cinematic success During a Film Bazaar session, the filmmaker discussed what it took to balance commercial success and festival recognition.

  • Whatever you do is for theatrical release, and based on that, you will receive another film. It is both a blessing and a curse for Tamil cinema. We must consider what the audience will think. My first film, Polladhavan, was, as I always say, a desperate attempt by an assistant director to make a film. My producers wanted five songs, and the climax had to be epic.

  • Polladhavan was a smash hit. Dhanush was not a big star, and it coincided with Vijay and Suriya's Diwali releases. People began referring to it as the "dark horse." It launched my composer, Dhanush, DoP, and me into the spotlight. It was overrated to some extent.

  • In my second film, Aadukalam, I wanted to do what was necessary for the film rather than please the producer. The commercial success of my first film encouraged me to go the extra mile with this one. Aadukalam has a 20-minute intermission scene that I shot for 26 days just for that sequence. These are the liberties that come with a successful film. Dhanush, as an actor, had more faith in me than he did in our first film. It is one of the few films to have received six National Awards.

  • I just didn't have any ideas for another film after Aadukalam. I even started a new film, shot for 6 days, and then stopped because I thought I was repeating myself. I wanted to do something that would take me out of my comfort zone, allow me to explore the festival circuit, and make fewer mainstream compromises.

  • I believe I played a role in changing people's perceptions of festival films. Kaakka Muttai and Visaranai demonstrated that these can also be commercially successful. I'm glad we now have a parallel movement, which has influenced filmmakers like Arun Karthick, who made Nasir.

  • During the Oscar campaign for Visaranai, I learned a lot about what Indian films mean to the audiences who vote. Indian films are irrelevant to them, as are Indian films seeking recognition from them. I'll be overjoyed if an Indian film makes the top five shortlist or wins. I would be grateful from the bottom of my heart. At the same time, if one of my films is selected again, I won't be spending as much time in Hollywood as I did for Visaranai. I've realised that making inroads there is difficult.