It is no secret that the essential ingredient of a typical star film in Tamil Nadu is the hero’s preaching and lecturing about social issues. Vaathi, the new Dhanush starrer directed by Venky Atluri, follows the same template and tries to expose the already exposed yet unshackled business of education. With the screenplay stuck on a scene order level and characters sounding like caricatures, Vaathi feels like a sluggish attempt to blend commerce and social awareness.
Set in the post-globalization ’90s, Vaathi talks about this young teacher named Balamurugan. Bala was a grade three teacher at Tirupati Educational Institute (TEI). When there was a public movement against the government for not doing anything to control the collapse of government schools, the head of TEI offered a solution. The solution was that teachers from private schools would voluntarily educate the kids in government schools. How a capable and honest Balamurugan uses this opportunity to support poor students is what we see in Vaathi.
After the initial moments of hurried narration, Vaathi enters the core plot set in the past. And the beginning portions of that flashback somewhere reminded me of the Prithviraj starrer Manikyakkallu. There are many parallels one can find between Manikyakallu and Vaathi. While M Mohanan’s version was more practical about the theme, the same theme is running on steroids in Vaathi. The ideas of Venky Atluri feel wild and bizarre. But he wants us to believe that they are innovative and pathbreaking. The melodrama he has infused in the story is often unbearable, and there are quite a lot of scenes whose outdated structure will make you cringe.
The film was never giving any challenge to Dhanush as an actor as it was only craving for the star in him. The swagger that was required for the character was there in Dhanush’s performance. Samyuktha is not playing an eye-candy, irrelevant female lead, as her character is a colleague of Bala. But during some of the key moments in Bala’s fight against educational tycoons, Samyuktha’s character is clearly missing. Samuthirakani plays the antagonist, the head of the private school association. I found that character and the various lines of that character unintentionally funny.
The script development of the movie is extremely unrefined. The placement of certain action sequences, comedy sequences, and even romance feels very much like a forced addition to make it that commercial entertainer that ticks all the boxes. But when you look at the success of a movie like Thiruchitrambalam, you will really wonder whether such formulaic compromises are necessary for a film these days. The video cassette tuition class, which sounded like an ancient format of the current online class culture, might have looked interesting on paper. But when it came to execution, it lacked conviction. The climax of the film feels way too utopian. The fight sequences lacked that finesse, mainly due to the sloppy editing.
After delivering a hit like Thiruchitrambalam that never went after formulas, Dhanush opts for a cliched social drama that almost makes you wonder whether he has any political aspirations. The landing and setting of scenes that talk about the various pertinent social topics have to be impactful. In movies like Kaththi, Anniyan, Muthalvan, etc., we have seen how the perfect blend of masala and messaging manages to move the audience emotionally. What Vaathi misses is the craft of that.
The landing and setting of scenes that talk about the various pertinent social topics have to be impactful. What Vaathi misses is the craft of that.
Green: Recommended Content
Orange: The In-Between Ones
Red: Not Recommended