Chekka Chivantha Vaanam is ace director Mani Ratnam’s interpretation of Francis Ford Coppola’s Godfather movies. If any of you have seen the Godfather series, especially part 1 and 2, you would know how integral were the back stories and deep subplots in establishing the mood of the movie. The obvious loss of depth is definitely there in Chekka Chivanatha Vaanam as it is trying to emulate the charm of a movie that perhaps used almost 7 hours of footage to establish the story. With a commercial twist to the plot and also by giving layers to his characters within the minimal time, Mani Ratnam has delivered a film that looks interesting if comparisons can be avoided.
Senapathi is our Vito Corleone. He has three sons. One is Varadhan who is in Chennai with him. The second one is Thyagu who is running a business in Dubai. The third one is Ethi, who is in Serbia doing illegal arms business. An attack on Senapathi and his death creates a conflict within the family as the question about who will be the successor starts to float in the air. How that power game ends up is what Chekka Chivanatha Vaanam all about.
The bloodshed, violence, and back to back deaths are frequent in this gangster drama and because of its brisk runtime, after a point, the violence or death becomes a predictable thing. A movie about Batman has the scope to be more layered as he is a human. But a movie about Superman has a less creative scope as the vulnerabilities are a little more limited. I said this because I feel the same kind of creative limitation is happening when you try to summarize something like a Godfather into a two and half hour long movie. Having said that, there is a creative brilliance from Mani Ratnam’s side to establish the vulnerability, strength and character equations within the time he has got. The power game between the family members and the character of Rasool played by Vijay Sethupathi are two things that aren’t there in the Mario Puzo version. And Mani Ratnam plays with that aspect of the movie smartly. Even though it is hurried and partially guessable, the climax has this grandeur which sort of justifies the way it was kept like that.
Aravind Swami as the vulnerable and egoistic Varadan has got the better share of scenes among the brothers. And with that physicality, he easily becomes a convincing choice to be Varadan. Arun Vijay is supposed to be that cruel business minded man and even though some parts weren’t that convincing I liked the moments where he transformed into that antagonist shade. Silambarasan gets a character that is kind of an extension to his other on-screen characters and the effortless style suits Ethi. The best one in the lot was my favorite Vijay Sethupathi who as this peculiar mischievous Rasool was fabulous. There is this irreverent attitude along with a layer of emotional attachment and it is his grace that gives the climax the much-needed impact. The women here are largely lost in the crowd just like the Coppola franchise except for a Jyothika who gets a fair amount of time on screen.
The approach from Mani Ratnam towards Chekka Chivantha Vaanam is crispier. The first half of the movie has this pace which sort of shows us the aggressive tone of the film. The one hour long first half is basically the staging for the throne. After that, the movie is a mixed bag. The way it plants the revenge ideas into the characters was a bit too ambitious or extravagant when you look at it as a Mani Ratnam movie. The only major discomfort for me was the awkward pacing of the war between the brothers and also the way they tried to acquire power. The Arun Vijay factory speech and some of the other events in that phase felt a little too loud. Maybe Mani Ratnam also felt the same issue and he manages to give those portions a little more respectability by using the character of Rasool. Rasool isn’t a mere climax tool; I feel that character has done a significant role in making the whole movie get that gangster swag. Santosh Sivan’s frames are fitting for the thriller. And I liked the fact that Mani Ratnam decided to use AR Rahman’s tracks as more like original scores rather than the conventional song and dance numbers.
Chekka Chivantha Vaanam is a crispier commercial version of The Godfather. The flaws are there in materializing this wide plot into a comprehensive story. But ultimately there is a memorable feel to this gangster flick that has tried its best to accommodate almost all the characters.
Chekka Chivantha Vaanam is a crispier commercial version of The Godfather. The flaws are there in materializing this wide plot into a comprehensive story.