Director: Vetri Maaran
Cast: Dhanush, Aishwarya Rajesh, Andrea, Samuthirakani, Ameer, Kishore
Vada Chennai begins in 1987, with the murder of a powerful gangster. Set in the dilapidated streets of north Chennai, this murder puts into motion a greater sequence of events with Anbu (Dhanush) finding himself in the epicenter of it all. Directed by Vetri Maaran, the reminder 160 odd minutes of this film follows a chapter-wise narration of how this came to be. Ruthless killings between rivaling gangs, hardened men and women akin to a war field than a village going about their lives, grimy streets that are thronged by uncouth boys and man-children, and amid this chaos is a brimming community that still has a sense of justice and care for one another. These are the thematic aspects that you can expect enjoy about VC.
Guna (Samuthirakani) and Senthil (Kishore) used to be friends but now they’re bitter enemies. Power and money are at the core of their struggles. It splits Guna and his aides Velu (Pawan) and his brother Shiva (Pawal Navageethan) on one side and Senthil and Pazhani (Sai Dheena) on the other. In the middle of scuffle, the only person who somewhat brings the situation under control is Thambi (Daniel Balaji). The decade is now the 2000s, and Anbu, a pro carom player, is in jail. The story carries on in flashbacks and a relationship is established between the plethora of characters. Meanwhile, Anbu falls in love with a local girl Padma (Aishwarya Rajesh) whom he marries later, and this episode of his life too plays a vital role in the position he currently finds himself in. Then arrives Rajan (Ameer), again from the past. A smuggler who genuinely cares about the community, he is a popular figure and is the key that connects the numerous players. There’s a politician- corporate link, which tries to force out the people from their land in the pretense of laying a highway. In addition, his wife Chandra (Andrea Jeremiah) too has a link to Guna and Senthil.
How these timelines - beginning in 1987 and ending in 2003 - interact and bring out an unlikely avatar of the people forms the reminder of the 2nd half. The period setting is beautifully interlinked with the political events of the time like the deaths of MGR and Rajiv Gandhi at the backdrop. Vada Chennai for the most part keeps it real: that is to say, the men are full of flaws that are indicative of their backgrounds and upbringing, and the women don’t shy away from bringing out their anger and greediness. The proceedings drag a bit and the flashbacks could have been reduced. Also, a more careful use of cuss words would have had a greater impact on the scenes. As it stands, the story is a bit slipshod, but the characters and the layered writing will ensure that your attention stands. On the downside, there are umpteen numbers of characters who walk in each and every frame and its back and dialogues are not clear at some places.
It is a cakewalk for Dhanush in an author-backed role. Though it has shades of his earlier movie Aadukalam, what makes it different is his nuanced performance. Ameer is a revelation. Aishwarya Rajesh once again proves her versatility essaying a typical north Chennai girl fluently mouthing swear words. Andrea’s intriguing character takes the film to a different dimension. All the others including Samuthirakani, Kishore, Daniel Balaji, Pawan, Pawal own the given screen space. Velraj’s camera captures the soul of Vada Chennai in its true essence and is splendid. Santhosh Narayanan’s gritty music elevates the mood of the proceedings. The film ends with an open climax, which suggests the story of rise of Anbu as the gang leader in part 2 of trilogy....