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Vendhu Thanindhathu Kaadu movie review: An intense Simbu shoulders a ‘different’ Gautham Menon film

Muthu, the character is awesome. Vendhu Thanindhathu Kaadu, the film, not so.

3/5rating
Vendhu Thanindhathu Kaadu movie review: An intense Simbu shoulders a ‘different’ Gautham Menon film
A still from Vendhu Thanindhathu Kaadu
  • S Subhakeerthana

Last Updated: 06.43 PM, Sep 15, 2022

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Plot: The way that Gautham Menon portrays Muthu's tale is similar to Mani Ratnam's Nayakan. But mind you, Vendhu Thanindhathu Kaadu is no Nayakan.

Review: Over the years, there are a few things we've come to expect from a Gautham Menon film. Vendhu Thanindhathu Kaadu, however, avoids all of that. The filmmaker seems to be proving that there are additional methods to convey a story with the just-released Simbu-starrer. If Gautham Menon's past films are any clue, he consistently knows the right path. The title (Vendhu Thanindhathu Kaadu) is taken from a poem by Subramania Bharathiyar called Agni Kunjondru Kanden. Muthu (Simbu) is quite that at the start of the film—a spark in the heart of a tiny hamlet in Tamil Nadu. The image depicts a blazing fire, metaphorically indicating the huge transformation that will come next.

Muthu ends up in Mumbai at a parotta stall, after being compelled to leave his village, as a result of an unintentional fire in the forest that he was meant to be watching after. You see his thorn-covered back as he leaps into the flames and over the fence to safety. Those portions are impressive. With the aid of writer Jeyamohan, Gautham Menon accurately depicts every stage of Muthu's journey. It nearly feels like you're reading a book page by page.

Simbu in VTK
Simbu in VTK

Muthu is practical. He quickly understands that the stall is only being utilised as a front for some dubious activity. There’s a solid screen space for nuance, character growth and attention to detail. You see brief glimpses of what happens at the stall. They make parotta batter, clean bathrooms, and live in small spaces. You have the impression of travelling alongside the characters. But, Gautham Menon repeats the usual mistake with Vendhu Thanindhathu Kaadu by attempting to cram everything into a small amount of time. This one is best suited for binge-watching. Perhaps, for this reason, part 2 was announced even before part 1 was available in theatres.

I wish there was a break in the events. However, you, as the audience, felt there was too much going on and you couldn't take it all in. Revenge ties this story together. The protagonist first resists giving in to this instinctive feeling. Just before the intermission, everything is changed in a brilliantly-shot scene.

Simbu in VTK
Simbu in VTK

Vendhu Thanindhathu Kaadu is testimony that Simbu is willing to venture outside of his comfort zone and yield to the vision of a director who has made gritty, emotionally-charged films with strong writing. I could not help but reflect on how outstanding an actor we have among us in Simbu while I watched Vendhu Thanindhathu Kaadu. He portrays Muthu in a restrained manner, which serves as evidence of his masterful acting. The introductory scene is like nothing we’ve seen in recent Simbu films. It's as ordinary as Muthu himself. 

I believe that some of the flippancy and lack of exaggerated drama are on purpose. Another filmmaker would have given Muthu a rousing introduction, given the weight this character carries in the story. This is both a benefit and a drawback.

Vendhu Thanindhathu Kaadu has a compelling plot, but how much one interacts with the film depends on how much they are willing to invest in the brand-new universe Gautham built. Although the actors were excellent, I never felt a connection to the characters. The film has way too many characters, and it takes a while for the audience to understand each character's position within the gang hierarchy and their shifting allegiances.

The pace of the screenplay is slow. Whistle-worthy moments are few and far between, and the emotional thread that needs to tie it all together gets tangled up in the gang war hotchpotch. It appeared at first that Gautham Menon intended to tell a tale about a plot of land in Vendhu Thanindhathu Kaadu that eventually disappears.

The writing feels different. There are some amusing, wry passages. The larger scenes, though, seem hollow.

GVM and Simbu on the sets of VTK
GVM and Simbu on the sets of VTK

Gautham Menon strives to create an epic like Nayakan. But, it does not work. That bar has been wonderfully-established by Mani Ratnam and is difficult to meet.

The issue with Vendhu Thanindhathu Kaadu is that Gautham Menon doesn't seem to have decided whether the movie should focus on Muthu's romance and personal journey or just be a mafia epic. It fluctuates between these two extremes, producing results that are, at best, uninspiring. The two perfectly made parts do not just snap together.

Siddhi Idnani, GVM and Simbu on the sets of VTK
Siddhi Idnani, GVM and Simbu on the sets of VTK

Vendhu Thanindhathu Kaadu is by no means a typical film. It might not be fantastic, but it is also not something that should be ignored. Performances from the entire cast are commendable, including Appu Kutty, Siddique and Neeraj Madhav. Debutante Siddhi Idnani has proven that she is not just a pretty face. Cinematographer Siddhartha Nuni casts his spell in the concluding reels. Experts like editor Anthony significantly contribute to the compact flow of the script. The musical score by AR Rahman is terrific. 

Verdict: Gautham Menon deserves praise for finding the balance between drama and action to prevent the film from turning into a melodrama. The Simbu-starrer has several memorable moments. In Vendhu Thanindhathu Kaadu, Gautham continues what he started in Kaakha Kaakha or Vettaiyaadu Vilaiyaadu, which is to create the film he wishes to create while bowing down for the audience's want to watch the other half.

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