HEADLINES:
May 26 2020
Chekka Chivantha Vaanam review: Guns, greed and glory
28 September 2018

A revenge drama that has us rooting for its lead characters, and its director

Fans of director Mani Ratnam can turn up their collars. After three not-so-satisfactory outings at the movies (KadalO Kadhal Kanmani and Kaatru Veliyidai), the filmmaker is back – with a big bang – in Chekka Chivantha Vaanam, a strong revenge drama that explores man’s quest for money and power and how it can override even close relationships.

Chekka Chivantha Vaanam
  • Genre: Action
  • Cast: Arvind Swami, Simbu, Arun Vijay, Vijay Sethupathi, Jyotika
  • Storyline: The three sons of a dreaded gangster fight for their right to his throne

Most of the first half is pretty much an extension of what we’ve seen in the two trailers; Senapathy (Prakash Raj) is a dreaded gangster who has most of the politicians and the police force in his pocket. His life is always under threat, yet in the very first scene, he’s sneaking out to a temple with his wife (Jaysudha) to celebrate his wedding anniversary. An attempt is made on his life and he’s in hospital.

This gets his three sons together, with each of them getting memorable introduction sequences. Varadhan (Arvind Swami) is much like his father, indulging in extortion and leading the life of a rowdy. The second son, Thyagu (Arun Vijay), is in Dubai and doing well for himself, conducting business with the Arabs on a regular basis. Elsewhere, in Serbia, Ethi (Simbu) is dealing in the arms business, when he’s not out romancing Chaaya (Dayana Erappa).

Senapathy’s ill health gets the three of them together at the base camp. The question on their minds is: Who will take over the throne once Senapathy passes away? Chekka Chivantha Vaanam deals with this solitary question even as it takes you on a revenge tale that chronicles characters in a complicated dog-eat-dog’s world.

The second half is when the real drama kicks in. The brothers are at war, with each of them staking a claim to the name and fame their father left them. Mani Ratnam’s dexterity in tackling complicated relationships shines through here; he chisels his male leads with strong characterisation. You think the three brothers are all against each other, but there’s a secret collaboration happening. You think Rasool (Vijay Sethupathy as a police officer) is just a bystander to all the events unfolding in front of him but he also has other shades in him. You think Chinappa Das (Thyagarajan) is Senapathy’s arch-rival and is plotting his family’s downfall but his agenda doesn’t seem so explicit.

The second half of CCV builds some intricate dynamics between the characters set up in the first. Mani Ratnam’s films have always had meaty roles for its women characters, and so does CCV. It builds them up but barring Jyotika, the other three (Aishwarya Rajesh, Dayana Erappa and Aditi Rao Hydari) are left with little to do, probably due to the film’s crisp 143-minute run time. That also probably explains relegating AR Rahman’s soundtrack mostly to the backdrop, with two numbers running in the background during a fight and an emotional sequence.

While the number of characters and pacing does pose a problem in CCV, the performances make up for it. While the three brothers breathe life into their respective characters, the film belongs to the understated Vijay Sethupathi, who plays Arvind Swami’s childhood friend. He plays to the gallery at times, and yet springs to life at crucial junctures. That he teamed up with a director of Mani Ratnam’s calibre might be the best thing that happened to him… and to Tamil cinema.

 

 

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