|Cast||Nani, Karthik Kumar, Muthukumar, Nithya Menen, Bindu Madhavi|
|Producer||Gautham Menon, Madhan, Kumar, Jayaraman and Venkat|
|Banner||Photon Kathaas and RS Infotainment|
As expected from someone who worked first in ad films and later as associate director with Gautam Vasudev Menon in Vettaiyadu Vilaiyadu, Anjana's debut film Veppam (Heat) is certainly very chic. Together with cinematographer Om Prakash, she has crafted a film that is easy on the eye and possesses a style that reminds one of Gautam Menon himself. Photon Kathaa's Veppam (Heat), is a slickly made film.
The film kicks off with a determined-looking Revathy (Nithya Menen) walking down the beach, wading through the water and then sinking beneath the waves. Cut to a flashback of two young boys, their coughing mother, and her abusive husband Jothi (Shimmor), who couldn't care less about his wife's failing health.
The father's indifference and the mother's death pushes the boys much too early into the unforgiving world of adults. The elder, Balaji (Muthukumar) becomes everything to his younger brother Karthi (Nani). Vishnu (Karthik) is Karthi's best friend, and the two are always in the company of Revathy, whose father offers them odd jobs like painting hoardings.
For a while the story stagnates, trying to show the intimacy between all three with the help of Joshua Sridhar's songs. As melodious as these are, they don't really help the pace.
Then Vishnu bumps into Viji (Bindhu Madhavi), a sex worker, and for him it's love at first sight. Their romance track, accompanied by the song Oru Devathai is possibly among the best moments of the film.
The screenplay does try to bring in plenty of other characters, like the stereotypical female don Ammaji (Jennifer) who rules the roost. Sadly, she and many others never really make an impact. That, in fact, is the failing of the screenplay: at no point do you feel for the characters.
The film is supposed to be a realistic take on the rougher sections of the city, but the story never really draw you in and looks like an outsider's view of the city's underbelly.
It starts out with some promise but fizzles out after a point. Several plots confuse, story-lines overlap and much of our time is spent unraveling who's doing what at any given time.
Nani and Bindhu Madhavi, newcomers to Tamil films, do very well and manage to engage our interest. Nithya Menen has a very small role to play while Karthik plays to his strengths and doesn't really move out of his comfort zone. The rest of the cast is, truth be told, no great shakes.
Antony's editing is adequate though it could have been better in the second half. Mayan's art-work is realistic, bringing the scenes to life.
A tauter screenplay, more logic in the sequences and realistic dialogues would have made Veppam an eminently enjoyable film.
Veppam is a pacey puzzle that grips you at the nape of your neck and demands your absolute undivided attention. Yep, don’t look away even for a minute, because you’re bound to miss an important detail that will crop up later in the movie.
Storywise, it’s simple enough. Two childhood pals get entangled in a drug deal. One is doing this with the hope that he will be united with the girl of his dreams, while the other is doing it just for the sake of his friend. Obviously, nothing goes as planned and the boys are on the run for their lives. Treading on broken glass and shattered dreams, with death staring them in the eyes, they must find a way to come clean. Two love stories and a strained filial relationship are deftly woven into this jagged mesh of murder and betrayal. But even before you think you’ve heard this one before, stop! Because it’s the narrative style that makes all the difference. The first half is a scattering of events. The second half puts the pieces of this puzzle together, and it’s the piecing that really draws you out of your seat and into the movie.
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It’s a fresh cast and that’s a big plus to the movie, because none of them come with any starry baggage. Nani as Karthik, the rebellious younger brother, does a good job. The fact that he’s from across the border (Andhra Pradesh) hardly shows! His expressions are on the dot. Muthukumar, as the stern protective older brother Balaji, fits the part well. But the biggest surprise is Karthik Kumar. Accustomed to having seen him in ‘foreign returned’ roles, watching him play the money-hungry son of a mechanic is a refreshing change! And he’s bang on target. Nithya Menen and her big brown eyes make yet another strong statement that she’s here to stay. Bindu Madhavi is the other pleasant surprise. Looking every bit ravishing in those plunging low-backs and low-waist sarees, she lures not just Vishnu, but all of us tooooo!
Going behind the scenes, two people who carry the movie on their shoulders are cinematographer Om Prakash and music director Joshua Sridhar. Veppam is essentially a gritty tale set in North Chennai, but if you expect just dirt and grime, you’ll be sadly disappointed. The camera work is impressive, realistic with an artistic touch. The colours are vivid without being artificial. The music is something else altogether, but in a great way! The songs are fabulous and blend into the story with ease. 'Mazhai Varum Ariguri' and 'Oru Devadhai' are soul stirring tunes, and Na. Muthukumar’s lyrics are perfect to the situations at hand. 'Minnale Pidikire' is a fun number, but what we loved most about the film is Kalyan Master’s choreography! The title track coursing through the super fast climax fight is a key asset. And when it comes to the background score, Joshua scores again, adding to the thrills and suspense in the screenplay.
Of course, the captain of the ship (clichéd as it may sound) is Anjana. Hardly the kind of subject you’d expect from a woman, but it’s the lady’s touch that gives this dark tale a characteristic flavour. For all the suspense and treachery, there is but one fight sequence in the movie and that too, in the very end. Yet, there is enough action and pace, so you hardly miss the kicks and the punches. The subtlety in the love scenes and the collage of romantic sequences scattered within the songs are in stark contrast to the core theme of the movie, and that somehow makes the elements of fear and angst all the more unbearable.
On the downside, we must mention the lack of hard-hitting dialogues. While the cast, camera and music take the movie forward at breakneck pace, from time to time the dialogues don’t match up to the bigness of the transpiring events. But this will occur to you only in retrospect, because for the two hours that you’re in the theatre, you’ll be too busy riding on Karthik’s Apache to find time to worry about diction and choice of words!
Good fun from start to end, Veppam is not your typical masala movie crammed with punch dialogues and capeless super heroes. But it’s a new formula that's equally heady and tangy!