Santhanam stars in this rural comedy drama Vadakkupatti Ramasamy where some one-liners work but gets largely meddled up
The story of Vadakkupatti Ramasamy unfolds in the 1960s , when the titular village in northern part of Tamil Nadu, is swamped by floods, taking its deity along with it. As circumstances later make the villagers believe that their god has returned in form of a mud pot, belonging to an atheist boy Ramasamy, or also called as Vadakkupatti Ramasamy, he sees an opportunity to make a fortune for himself by tapping the god-fearing nature of the villagers and constructing a temple that mints money for his prosperity. But as years pass and a new Tahsildar proposes a partnership to make money out of the temple, tensions brew and a comedy of errors between the parties, set a rural comedy drama that is wacky, weird, and whimsical in places. Not to forget problematic in certain situations.
Comedy is not a new area of expertise for Santhanam, who began his initial career days with the famous Lollu Sabha. In Vadakkupatti Ramasamy too, one can see how the comedian-turned-actor uses the same ensemble to stage comedy sequences, or rather one can called as comic sketches. While some of the one-liners work, and they are pretty much spot on, the film largely relies on the type of comedy that might not really evoke laughter if looked through a sensitivity lens.
Pretty early in the film, we are shown a scene where a woman is made to dance and exhibit her skills for the nth time in front of a groom, that even her father knows she despises. If this is not enough, just moments before the interval comes a scene where one character unknowingly is made to get in contact with a patient of conjunctivitis in a rather crude and obsolete cinematic fashion of how rape scenes were staged once. Hands tied to bed, and a photo frame of a tiger pouncing on deer. Now I am unable to define this scene as lewd, crass, or simply insensitive. And there are many more such incidents, when one character says, “kolai theervu illa, tharkolai dhan (murder is not the solution, suicide is) and now that I remember, there is one dialogue Megha Akash’s Kayilvizhi says, “sirippe varala (It doesn’t make me laugh). For once I felt Megha Akash had something solid to say in the film, who plays an eye doctor. Her role is limited and steps in crucial moments, but does it leave a mark? It is a question to ponder upon. I am not sure how much did the director go into the depths of understanding making comedy that can simply make people laugh without having to trigger them to dark spaces.
Vadakkupatti Ramasamy has a host of comedians, and I am disappointed how none of them work through out the film. There is the Lollu Sabha gang, Rajendran in a decently hilarious sequence involving navigating through a field planted with bombs, Nizhalgal Ravi as Major Chandrakant who becomes a caricature version of a military officer. The quirks added for each of the character are not enough, and Vadakkupatti Ramasamy fails to make me remember the village whose story I dedicated two hours to watch. I am also not sure why we are constantly referred to EV Ramasamy aka Periyar to reiterate the atheism our protagonist Ramasamy also sides with.
On paper, Vadakkupatti Ramasamy has immense potential. A village filled with wacky villagers, a superstition in place with a bigger concept on theism, and absurd circumstances. But the film fails to use to its fullest. Even as Santhanam steps back to let other comedians have their time, and do his decent best, the film cannot save itself from falling into a pitiful state. There are stretches that are unwarranted, a big picture looming above the film like a Damocles sword, whether the film supports the existence of god or not. While it is not up to the film’s capacity and genre to give an answer to this, and questions are left open-ended, Vadakkupatti Ramasamy unwantedly gives too much space to this. An elaborate opening story, and a reiteration of it in some sorts towards the end, takes chances for us to make believe that the film is serious in certain situations. But when your comedy isn’t working as much you wanted, did you really have to do make a convoluted drama to reiterate nothing?