Production: Lyca Productions, Madras Talkies Cast: Aditi Rao Hydari, Aishwarya Rajesh, Arun Vijay, Arvind Swami, Jyothika, Prakash Raj, Simbu, Vijay SethupathiDirection: Mani Ratnam Screenplay: Mani Ratnam Story: Mani Ratnam Music: A.R.Rahman Background score: A.R.Rahman
In the beginning of Chekka Chivantha Vaanam, an attempt is made on the life of an ageing don, Senapathy (Prakash Raj). The don has three sons – the eldest one, Varadan (Arvind Swami) is hot-tempered, the second, Thyagu (Arun Vijay), a dark horse, and the third, Ethi (STR), the least favourite. And they all want to find out the person behind the attempt. The suspicion is on a rival, Chinnappadas (Thiagarajan).
If the initial set up of Chekka Chivantha Vaanam instantly reminds you of The Godfather, you are not wrong. And it is intentional. But it is only as the plot unfolds that you realise that Mani Ratnam is giving a delicious twist to the classic gangster tale. What if ‘family’ – the fulcrum of the saga – isn’t really sacred? What if the three sons are more concerned about who among them will succeed their father rather than in finding out the man who almost killed their father?
Given the numerous characters involved, the film does take a while to get going, as the initial scenes of every character is more of less exposition giving us a brief about their past, and their motivations. The first half, in particular, is structured as a whodunit, with every scene ending up as a means to keep throwing up the question that drives the plot – who plotted Senapathy’s murder? And the film gives us numerous suspects – the life-long rival, Rasool (Vijay Sethupathi), a cop and a childhood friend of Varadan, Chezhiyan (Siva Ananth), the right-hand man, whose father was killed by Senapathy, Chitra (Jyotika), Varadan’s wife and Chezhiyan’s daughter, and the sons themselves, each with their own ambitions. The film really takes off in the second half when the battle for Senapathy’s throne becomes the dominant plot point as the brothers try to outwit one another. And Mani Ratnam goes all out commercial (like Agni Natchathiram, the film isn’t deep in a refreshing way), giving each of his stars their mass moment(s) – Arvind Swami gets a terrific action scene, Vijay Sethupathi the quips, Arun Vijay, a devilish flair, and STR, charm and an emotional moment. The actors are all equally good and have a gala time.
The filmmaking does lack the fluidity that we have come to see in this director’s films. The veteran is still the master when it comes to staging (and Santosh Sivan does make the visuals aesthetically appealing), but the scene transitions aren’t as smooth as in his other films; there are quite a few inelegant jumps from one scene to the next, which are made more evident by Rahman’s score, which tries a bit too hard to shoe-in songs in the place of a background score. This jerkiness is also probably because the script attempts to strike a balance between the screen time of the stars.
There are many action sequences and Dhilip Subbarayan’s stunt choreography is perfect. The high-octane gun fire and stunt sequences are the peak of this film! Overall, all the departments have come together to present something worthy.
Arvind Swami as Varadan is simply superb. His effortless performance defines his character very well. Arun Vijay, lately, has proven his acting talent and CCV is no less. So much swag, carried with ease. Prakash Raj, though it is a minor role in terms of screen time, does his bit well. Jaya Sudha and Jyothika have ample scope for performance, and their experience in such roles comes in handy. Their performances deserve praise. However, the screen time for Aishwarya Rajesh, Aditi Rao Hydari and Dayana Erappa is quite less.
Without doubt, the show stealers are STR and Vijay Sethupathi. Their characters have been etched in such a way that they don’t need to pressurize themselves to deliver their best. Once again, they prove that they are splendid performers. CCV will surely be a landmark in STR’s career. VJS brings some lightness to a story that predominantly deals with life and death.
The trailer cuts have turned out to be a drawback as some shots used are revealing and they reduce the excitement factor while watching the film. Though there is efficient writing, there was a predictability factor that might come off as a concern. Aishwarya Rajesh plays a Srilankan Tamil girl, but it could have been more interesting to know why! The intermission block too, is played with emotions, and doesn’t turn out as a high point.
Every star has his mass moments that will be celebrated by the fans! In a nutshell, don’t miss the skies turning completely red as Mani Ratnam deals with an intense family rivalry drama.