RJ Balaji and NJ Saravanan deliver another gem. Veetla Vishesham leaves you with a smile when you come out of the theatre.
Last Updated: 06.27 AM, Jun 18, 2022
Story: Veetla Vishesham, the official remake of Badhaai Ho, is RJ Balaji's third film, as a writer-director; along with NJ Saravanan, following LKG and Mookuthi Amman. The film revolves around Elango (Balaji), who's stumped when he discovers his middle-aged parents are expecting. How he comes to terms with it, battling his emotions, forms the rest of the story.
Review: Elango works as a biology teacher in a school, run by his girlfriend Sowmya (Aparna Balamurali). Although, he thinks he's progressive, he can't come to terms with his 50-something mother getting pregnant. “Is this something for my parents to do now?” Elango asks Sowmya. If not for her, he wouldn't have realised this is normal. She asks, “Do you think your mother is a goddess? Isn't she a woman, who has a right to her basic needs?” From the beginning, RJ Balaji and NJ Saravanan establish the various characters, their relationships, and how they get caught in unlikely situations—be it the set-up of the railway quarters, middle-class antics, or scenes that reflect how society is still a minefield of taboos.
The film opens with a Sai bhajan, and Krishnaveni (the ever-dependable Urvashi) is all dressed up. All hell breaks loose when Unnikrishnan (Sathyaraj) and Krishnaveni, the parents of Elango, and his brother, a teenager, are expecting their third child. The boys are embarrassed. They don't know how to react to this news, and think about "what people will say". Their motormouth grandmother Amulu (KPAC Lalitha) is equally disgusted.
The conservative society does not approve of Krishnaveni's decision to bear a child at 50. Unnikrishnan wants Krishnaveni to rethink her decision, but she is stubborn and is not sorry for it. “Why should a woman feel solely responsible for this 'shame'?” she asks. What a sixer! All eyes in the colony are fixed on Unnikrishnan and Krishnaveni, most of the time with bewilderment. Predictably, relatives and neighbours look down upon them. They are made to feel ashamed of what they have done. They face hurt and humiliation everywhere.
Veetla Vishesham, delightfully, mirrors the little conflicts of a middle-class family quite well. Krishnaveni's choice seems ridiculous to even the so-called progressive mother of Sowmya. And, she refers to Elango's family as a "circus". RJ Balaji and NJ Saravanan capture how society imposes its will on a woman, and her well-thought-out choices. Undoubtedly, Urvashi, the late Malayalam actor KPAC Lalitha and Sathyaraj are show-stealers in this slice-of-life film.
For a film that discusses a sensitive issue of an old-age couple realising they are about to become parents, again, in a hilarious way, the writers slip in some emotional moments, moving people to tears in the climax. But, it is the late KPAC Lalitha, who gets the most claps and whistles. Watch out for the terrific scene, in which she stands by her pregnant daughter-in-law.
Badhaai Ho had a lesser-known cast, unlike Veetla Vishesham, which has renowned powerhouse performers, Urvashi and Sathyaraj. RJ Balaji and NJ Saravanan have a certain knack for keeping the audience engaged, even when telling stories that we have seen many a time before on-screen. They get it right in the packaging and the pacing.
It is interesting how Veetla Vishesham has no real story, per se, yet the film moves forward with hilarious situations and characters. Urvashi, as Krishnaveni, carries her role beautifully. Sathyaraj as Unnikrishnan displays a range of emotions and is worth raising a toast to. From never tipping a porter to switching to broken English when his son’s girlfriend comes over, Sathyaraj is a delight to watch. The biggest strength of Veetla Vishesham is the tender relationship between Elango's parents. Through expressions and conversations, Sathyaraj and Urvashi deliver excitement, awkward silences, anxiety, vulnerability, confusion, despair and hope.
Though there is still room for improvement, RJ Balaji has certainly come a long way as a supporting artist to what he's today. In Veetla Vishesham, RJ Balaji looks much more assured and comfortable, managing to carry the film for a good part. Aparna Balamurali, as Sowmya, scores whenever she gets an opportunity.
Veetla Vishesham is not about one woman. It is about the attitude; the stigma. The film gently reminds us how some taboos remain to this day, though we think things have changed to a large extent.
Verdict: It isn't that Veetla Vishesham has no flaws. But, they are forgivable. The film gets both sentimental and predictable a little, but the makers bind together all the elements to deliver a satisfying watch. Barring a couple of distastefully-written sex jokes, Veetla Vishesham works.