The film makes for great watch. It raises an important issue without sounding preachy. It gets you thinking. However, the pace of narration is slow and lacks proper editing and visual effects.
A poster of Laabam
A political thriller film, written and directed by S. P. Jananathan, it highlights the plight of farmers who suffer a great deal in the hands of a greedy industrialist. A villager (Vijay Sethupati) challenges and locks horns with him to get the due rights of his people, but will he succeed is what forms the crux of the story.
The film, produced by 7Cs Entertainment and Vijay Sethupathi Productions, stars Vijay Sethupathi and Shruti Haasan with Jagapathi Babu, Sai Dhanshika and Kalaiyarasan in pivotal roles. The cinematography is by Ramji and music composition is by D. Imman.
Amid the ongoing farmer protests in the country, the film comes as a mirror to society highlighting the plight of the cultivators. The film is a dedication to all the farmers in then Madras and Rajasthan who lost their lives due to famine in the 20th Century.
The film starts with the entry of Pakkiri, played by Vijay Sethupati, a hippie who returns to his village Peruvayoor in Tamil Nadu after over half a decade, learning all the ins and outs of farming and cultivation. When the evil politicians learn about his entry into the village as a dishevelled person with long braided hair and beard make, they hit the ceiling. They attack Pakkiri, but of course, he's saved by his good-doers. He's then given a grand welcome by villagers who sing and dance for him. Vijay too shakes his leg in the song, which is not his cup of tea, but it was fun to watch. His joy coming back to village is clearly evident and that energy and happiness transfers to the audience, bringing a smile to their faces.
The film then follows the clashes between Pakkiri and the greedy politician and industrialist Vanangamudi, played by Jagapathi Babu, who is planning to raze the entire land of cultivation to build a bio-diesel factory. Pakkiri wins the hearts of the villagers and convinces them to form a union to cultivate and sell their cotton produce at the actual cost. He creates awareness about their rights and tells them how their ancestors were given lands by the British directly which have been taken away, forged by the landlords and middlemen. He also speaks about zamindari system and how the profit, if earned by farmers, will benefit the entire nation.
This does not go down well with Vanangamudi who is addressed as Thalaivar (head) by the villagers. Thalaivar very cunningly showcases his support with Pakkiri's ideas and plans at first, only to destroy him. He conspires an evil plan to evict Pakkiri from the village and get him killed. He finds a video editor who helps him make a fake video of Pakkiri stealing villagers' money that he had collected for the union. This video angers the uneducated and gullible villagers who turn against Pakkiri and attack him.
This forces Pakkiri and his friends to flee from the village as they also get followed by the police. One of Pakkiri's informers keep him posted through telegram about the police and their hunt. The way how the police are then led to different hide-outs, all in vain, is quite interesting and funny to watch.
The climax of the film showing the death of the the industrialist with JCB, splitting his body into two halves, was too violent and over-the-top even for the cold-hearted. However, such gory violence is usually common in Tamil films.
The film has several interesting elements that show the drastic class difference. While the villagers stay in a makeshift or small houses, their 'Thalaivar', whom they blindly believed, lived in a three-storey house with modern technology, including the virtual TV screens and an elevator that opens right into his room.
While the film showcases the best of technology and it being used to study lands and villages, like with drones and 3D hidden cameras, it also transports you back to the telegram era. It is also interesting to watch a social media influencer creating awareness among villagers about mixed farming. Shruti Haasan plays the role of the social media influencer and love interest of Vijay quite well with her dramatic lines and performance. The duo's chemistry, though unusual, is adorable and pleasant.
The film makes for great watch. It raises an important issue without sounding preachy. It gets you thinking. However, the pace of narration is slow and lacks proper editing and visual effects. The shots of Vanangamudi's son in the US and a dam in the village do not look realistic. It clearly shows the use of visual effects which spoils the overall tone and mood of the scene. The film is also quite predictable.
The review is incomplete without the mention of impeccable perfomance by Vijay Sethupathi. He is a natural. His sarcasm, quick wit and intellect are sure to impress you. The cinematography and direction are also applaudable. The alluring and simple life of villages are captured beautifully.
The film, produced by 7Cs Entertainment and Vijay Sethupathi Productions is a good watch. It gets you thinking about the plight of farmers and other issues. But you'd wish if it wasn't so lengthy.
The film is running in theatres and will premiere on Sun TV and Netflix.