Chekka Chevantha Vaanam - A suspense drama that scores high on style!!!
Popular taste and maverick filmmakers make for a fascinating case study. At first, these filmmakers get lapped up by the audience for standing away from the crowd. But as time proceeds and particularly in the case of careers spanning decades (as in the case of Mani Ratnam), there always seems to be this constant battle between staying away from the norm and trying to cater to popular taste. Chekka Chevantha Vaanam leans towards the latter.
Warring brothers trying to claim the throne is a plot that could have been treated in more ways than one. In CCV, Mani Ratnam has opted for a narration that has laid more emphasis on style and the emotional beats are more like plot points. So the death of a character or a major reveal work more like twists but the emotional enormity of these situations is more often than not muted. While this might not be a factor worth discussing in a gangster vs police actioner, what we have here is family bonding, friendship and betrayal thrown in the mix. A betrayal in CCV works more like a shock but never stings you because almost all the characters remain more on a surface level.
Multistarrers are a rarity in Tamil cinema and that remains the major USP of the film. It is quite something to see STR in a rather subtle avatar. If there is an award for the most unmassy mass hero then Vijay Sethupathy should be winning it hands down. I had a feel that the climax was a gift or rather a token of appreciation from Mani Ratnam to Vijay Sethupathy 'the star' for the good he has been doing to Tamil cinema with his crowd pull. (//Spoiler Alert start// I interpret the climax as the actor killing the star for the good of Tamil Cinema!!! //Spoiler alert end//) The entire casting is neat. But as said earlier this is not an emotionally heavy film and the actors too ensure they keep it simple.
The pacing is spot on. The film gets on top gear right away and this pacing more or less remains constant through the entire length. The film has an uber cool look to it but what really stands out is the absence of any gimmicks. The stunts are neat and simple. ARR tunes are not used as standalone songs. You get the crowd-pleasing moments but the nonchalantness of these moments is what makes CCV stand out from the crowd. CCV is Mani Ratnam delivering to popular taste on his own terms.
Where the film slips a little is that when you think of it, you do realize that the film is rather predictable. The engagement factor sees it through but a little more unpredictability would have helped. And given the plot I still think the film has too lightweight a narration.
CCV is the most palatable Mani Ratnam film to the mainstream audience in the recent past. The film sort of easily delivers what it had set out for.