Film: Chekka Chivantha Vaanam
Cast: Arvindswami, Vijay Sethupathi, Simbu, Arun Vijay, Jyothika, Aditya Rao Hydari, Aishwarya Rajesh, Dayana, Erappa, Prakash Raj, Jayasudha and others
Music : A R Rahman
Cinematography: Santosh Sivan
Chekka Chivantha Vaanam is easily Maniratnam’s best film in recent times.
The film, which starts off on a brisk note, moves at a blistering pace, not slackening anywhere from start to finish.
Seldom does one comes a film that scores so handsomely in all departments that there is no other option but to declare it a wholesome entertainer.
Be it casting, characterisation or performances, the cast and crew seem to be spot on in all departments.
The plot :
Senapathi (Prakash Raj) has different facets– he is an industrialist, a businessman and one of the richest people in town. But more importantly, he is the powerful boss of a gang that has struck fear in the hearts of those in society.
Senapathi has three sons – Varadan (Arvindswami), Thyagu (Arun Vijay) and Ethi short for Ethiraj (Simbu) and one sworn enemy Chinnapadas(played by Thiagarajan), who happens to be the leader of a rival gang.
The film begins with an attempt being made on the lives of Senapathi and his wife as they return from a visit to the temple.
The couple are hospitalised and although they sustain serious injuries, they pull through.
Varadan, who happens to be Senapathi’s eldest son and who helps his father run the gang and the businesses, is distraught by the attack on the lives of his parents. He seeks the help of Rasool (Vijay Sethupathi) a cop under suspension and a close friend to find out details of the two men who made an attempt on his parents’ lives.
Varadan’s brothers, Thyagu, who is in Dubai, and Ethi, who is into the arms business in Serbia, are informed about the attack on their father.
The brothers return, one of them reluctantly and the other, at his own pace, to find out who is behind the attack on their father.
Meanwhile, Rasool tracks down the two men who made an attempt on Senapathi’s life. But just when the brothers along with Rasool try to capture them, one of them gets killed and the other escapes.
Vardan is certain that this is the handiwork of the rival gang headed by Chinnapadas (Thyagarajan). To retort for the attempt on his father’s life, Varadan kills Chinnapadas’s son-in-law.
By this time, Senapathi and his wife have recovered enough to return home. Although the entire household is under the impression that the attack on Senapathi and his wife was was by those from Chinnapadas’s gang, Senapathi knows that the problem does not lie outside and that the attack came from inside. He is worried but does not disclose it to other members of his family, save his wife.
Meanwhile, the brothers, Thyagu and Ethi, finding all is well again, choose to return to Dubai and Serbia respectively.
Senapathi starts brooding over the future of his family. He knows that there will be a bloody war for succession as each of his sons harbour a secret ambition to succeed him as the head of the gang and take over the businesses run using its might.
As luck might have it, his worst fears come true. He dies of a heart attack all of a sudden and then, life changes for all those in the family…
Every single actor in this film does justice to his or her role. But there are five actors whose performances are way too brilliant that they leave the other actors far behind in the race for recognition.
The first of these is Arvindswami as Varadan. Easily the best performance of his career, Arvindswami steals the limelight right from scene one as the loyal, uneducated deputy of Senapathi. Be it concern, anger, anxiety or fear, Arvindswami just aces it. In one of the opening sequences, Arvindswami is seen thrashing a gangster from his unit to discipline him. The manner in which he comes across in that scene wipes out any memory people may have had of him as a sweet, charming chocolate boy and presents him as a determined individual, who is both ruthless and heartless and one who is fully equipped to handle a gang of hardcore criminals.
Vijay Sethupathi as Rasool is the next one to come up with an equally good performance. But Sethupathi’s outstanding performance is not so much due to his variety in expressions as it is to his dialogues, which are dry, sarcastic and witty in nature. Add that to the the nonchalant manner in which he delivers these dialogues and you have a brilliant facet of Vijay Sethupathi which you have never ever witnessed before. While Arvindswami impresses from start to finish, Vijay Sethupathi starts off on a dull note but starts grabbing attention as the story progresses and ends on a high, finishing right behind Arvindswami.
Simbu as Ethi comes up with yet another good performance in this film. In fact, as the youngest of the three brothers, Simbu plays the intelligent, but whimsical and at times, impulsive Ethi to perfection. The combination scenes involving Vijay Sethupathi and Simbu are simply epic. Both actors have distinctive styles of delivering dialogues. So, when their contrasting characters meet during conflicting situations, it is a treat to watch.
Arun Vijay as the second brother Thyagu does a great job but unfortunately for him, he has far too many outstanding co-artistes in this film who outshine him. As the sly, smooth talker, Thyagu is very effective and showcases the fact that he is a two-faced individual. Arun Vijay, in action sequences, is exceptional. There is a chasing scene in the film in which he scales a wall to get an assassin. That effort requires to be commended.
The fifth best performance comes from Thyagarajan as Chinnapadas. The veteran actor is just perfect for the role and aces it like it is nobody’s business. Soft-spoken, firm, convincing and fair, Thyagarajan as Chinnapadas is a towering personality who holds out his own, even amongst this galaxy of stars.
Among the actresses, Aditya Rao Hydari as Parvathi comes up with a sterling performance. She just sizzles as the television journalist having an affair with Varadan. She appears only in a few scenes but then that is enough for her to stamp her class and leave her mark.
Aishwarya Rajesh and Jyothika too come up with excellent performances. Aishwarya Rajesh as Renu, a Sri Lankan Tamil, has a limited role as opposed to Jyothika who plays Varadan’s wife Chitra. As the straight-forward Chitra, who cannot lie, Jyothika excels in the initial portions. She is measured in her acting and does not over act. However, in the second half, she goes back to over acting and that hurts her overall performance.
On the technical side, Mani Ratnam seems to have got it all right.
Santosh Sivan showcases some mind-boggling work. His lighting and shots are accurate and the choice of colours vivid. The significance Sivan attaches to symmetry comes across very strongly in this film. Be it the scene where Varadan meets Rasool the first time in a building that is under construction or the manner in which Sivan showcases Chennai, there is symmetry everywhere. It is simply just awesome.
A R Rahman’s music adds a whole new dimension to the film. The songs of the film might not have been very appealing when they were released much earlier. But when you watch the film with his songs and his background score, you understand its significance.
To sum it all up, Chekka Chivantha Vaanam is an intelligent, interesting, engaging action thriller that should not be missed!