Movie - Vettai
Year - 2012
Director - N. Linguswamy
Starring - Arya, Madhavan, Sameera Reddy, Amala Paul
Let me start off with a disclaimer - I have to concur with the Indian critics that Vettai is a "masala" film. It has all the ingredients - over the top heroes, scantily clad heroines, a host of ridiculous bad guys, ridiculously bloody fights, cool clothing and catchy dance numbers. But, what Indian critics always seem to miss is that no matter how masala a film is, it also represents the people, culture and ideas of the places where it is set. The noveau-riche, techy Telugu masala in Dookudu is significantly different than the flamboyant street-smart escapades of Mumbai's Tees Maar Khan.
In Vettai, the masala is not biryani, it is more like vatha kozhumbu. The males in the audience will see the spices easily enough - Sameera Reddy and Amala Paul, as Vasanthi and Jayanthi, a couple of sisters who are about as Tamil they can make 'em,very sure of themselves, their looks and what they want in a man.
What they want both want are real men, ones who are tough enough to stand up for what's right, but who are not afraid to be gentlemen, either.
Enter brothers - Thirumurthy and Gurumurthy. The former is the gentleman, a graduate of the police academy - well dressed, well mannered; but scared of everything including his own shadow. Younger brother is the tough guy, a quasi-super hero/street thug who is known for donning a hooded jacket and pulverizing bad guys in dark alleys in the middle of the night. Together they are a team, the younger doing the work and older taking the bows.
And it in their relationship, their understanding of responsibilities to each other, to their family honor, and to their spouses that the Tamil ideas start to bubble their way to the surface in the stew. Ideas of putting the other- even if he is your brother - before yourself, maintaining the dignity of a noble family, bringing out the good in the other person, are just some examples. It is also imbued with that earthy pragmatism that makes for fine comedy and witty observations about life. I am particularly impressed with how the younger brother puts himself at risk to make the older guy finally stop feeling sorry for himself.
While all four actors add flavor to this movie, Sameera Reddy and Arya are naturals at what they bring to the screen. The tension between them as two strong people who just cannot resolve their personality conflicts makes their platonic relationship almost like a mismatched romance of sorts.
Madhavan is good at being a dramatic actor, but lacks that certain aesthetic in playing a comedic role; while Amala Paul is reduced to little more than eye candy.
But, despite their slight weakness, the film plays out beautifully with zany one-liners, sight gags, mass appeal fights, and of course, family sentiment.
Mohan's Measure - * * * *