Vijay must be thinking that the whole world is against him. For the past couple of years, nearly everything he has touched has turned to rust. You know something’s wrong when even a film with the director who gave you your biggest hit turns out to be a complete dud. Thankfully, he has realized the error of his ways, and, instead of choosing completely senile films, is falling back to formulas that have proven to be successful. Kaavalan was a clear indication of this. It had none of the larger-than-life exploits but a soft, touching romance as its core. Velayudham reasserts this change in his approach to choosing films. Sure, it does have a minor amount of propaganda for his future political aspirations, but for the most part, this is a light, humorous masala film, the kind he has promised but rarely delivered for an eternity.
Before moving on to more pressing things, right off the bat, I was caught unawares at the amount of propaganda in this film. At times, it almost felt like a modern Vijayakanth film rather than a Vijay film. The story itself was indicative of this with Tamil Nadu being threatened by a corrupt Home Minister who collaborates with a band of International terrorists to bring down the government and threaten public peace. Having déjà vu, are we? Then there is the Rathathin Rathame… song which does little to hide the fact that it is a fan-pleasing song masquerading as sister-doting song. And the climax, without spoiling things, has him deliver a lengthy monologue (which, to be fair, wasn’t completely sleep-inducing) and closes out with the knockout blow, evoking some guffaws from the crowd in the process. If Vijay hasn’t made clear his political aspirations, then Velayudham makes sure it does.
Thankfully, the film isn’t primarily focused on the above preposterous plot and that proves to be its biggest success. Velayudham (Vijay) is the loving brother of Kaveri (Saranya Mohan) in the village of Pavunoor. As the old cliché goes, she is the gem of his eyes. When her marriage is fixed, they travel to Chennai to withdraw the money he invested in a chit fund, being tagged along with Vaidhegi (Hansika Motwani), her father (M.S. Bhaskar), and a couple of friends. There he meets Speed (Santhanam), a low-level robber, who has his eyes set on the money Velayudham is about to get. Meanwhile, a couple of incidents where he is in the wrong place at the wrong time has the Chennai public mistake him to be the fictional superhero Velayudham created by journalist Bharathi (Genelia) to drive fear into the hearts of the corrupt and the powerful.
Velayudham has to be Vijay’s lightest film in recent memory. The first half, barring a few minor fights here and there, is played out entirely for laughs. The surprising thing is that most of it works. With the exception of a few distasteful sequences which belie the family-friendly tag Vijay gave to the film, a lot of it is also clean. The overwhelming love between Vel and his sister and the villagers getting incensed by this provides much of the ammunition. The film also features one of Santhanam’s strongest turns yet. For the large part, even he tones down on the double-entendres and plays it straight as he attempts to prove that he is a robber to his family. Indeed, there are very few segments in the film where the comedy doesn’t work. In recent years, even films with big-name comedians have been disappointing in this aspect. So, it really is heartening to see a mainstream film with a strong humor quotient.
Unfortunately, the other aspects of the film are the exact opposite of the comedy. The costume worn by Vijay was ripe for some really innovative stunt sequences. Therefore, it really is disappointing to see it fail so badly with the usual barrage of flying henchmen getting swords driven like stakes through their bodies. Even the hidden double-blades deliver uninspiring fights. The film also does surprisingly little to hide the fact that both the costume and the accompanying hidden blades are inspired from the videogame series Assassin’s Creed. In fact, it pays an ode to the game with an eagle flying around during one of the fight sequences.
Romance is also considerably weak, although this is understandable since no effort has been made to make it seem otherwise. There is a bit of suspense in the second half as to whom Velayudham will end up with but you have to be completely detached from the film to not figure it out. The actual manner of the revelation also feels completely unnecessary given the direction the film has been taking till then. Nevertheless, Vaidhegi’s single-minded pursuit of Velayudham and his ignorance of it, though familiar, are still sweet and aid in maintaining the light-hearted tone of the film.
The film’s biggest failing proves to be the amount of melodrama it induces during the final half hour. On the one hand, you could argue that it was necessary for a logical conclusion to be reached. But on the other hand, it really does seem over-the-top given the apparent lack of drama up till that point. However, the good news is that it doesn’t act as a complete turn-off when looking at the film as a whole. What Mankatha was for Ajith, Velayudham proves to be for Vijay, wherein he has completely let loose and lost all inhibitions. He seems to have had a lot of fun in the making of the film, and it permeates itself on-screen as well. Saranya Mohan has the face and voice to play the sweet little sister and does it without much fuss. I, for one, felt that it would’ve been better if Genelia and Hansika had switched their roles, a fact that was further illustrated when the former appeared in a “dhaavani” in the second half. The latter just did not feel like a Vaidhegi to me. She doesn’t suit the role of a village girl, but the sweetness of the character and the way she has played it did just about enough to overcome that aspect. She might want to visit to the local nutritionist if she doesn’t want to end up with abs like Namitha. Genelia was solid as the reporter. However, both their lip-synching was atrocious in a few scenes. M.S. Bhaskar’s deadpan dialogue delivery never gets boring and made way for a lot laughs.
I might be one of the few people who enjoyed the album. Molachu Moonu… is easily one of the best melodies of the year despite the meaningless lyrics. The picturization does justice to it featuring serene locations and interchanging between Vijay romancing Genelia and Hansika; though some of the costumes worn by Vijay in the song are sure to produce laughs. Even the traditional fast-paced numbers like Chillax…, Sonna Puriyadhu…, and Maayam Seidhayo… have catchy tunes and highlight Vijay’s superior dancing abilities. Though I felt the former was certainly not family-friendly in anyway right from the scene preceding the song to the lyrics in the song itself as well as the skimpy outfits worn by Hansika.
In the Diwali race, Velayudham looks to be the clear winner. Though I personally felt that 7aum Arivu deserves to be appreciated for tackling a different concept, its lack of traditional Tamil cinema elements along with a weak screenplay is proving to be its failing. Velayudham makes no bones about what it is: A traditional, mindless masala film with all the ingredients in the right amount. For the most part, they’ve all been mixed together perfectly. And even when they haven’t, it doesn’t collapse like a complete deck of cards like Vijay’s earlier features have. That makes it worth a watch if all you want is to have a bit of fun.