Vadakkupatti Ramasamy Movie Review: Packed with enough laughs to make you forget the flaws

Vadakkupatti Ramasamy Movie Review: Packed with enough laughs to make you forget the flaws

Rating:(3 / 5)

We often hear comedians talk about how comedy is hard to write and that what works on paper doesn’t necessarily work on the screen. In the past decade or so, we have seen a number of comedy films take this to heart, completely abandon any attempt to write, and make us suffer. Consequently, Tamil cinema has been on an extended dry spell when it comes to quality comedies. Vadakkupatti Ramasamy has either broken the spell or at the very least it benefits from it the same way a muddy pond looks like a glacial stream to someone stranded in a desert. Either way, the film works well enough to make you feel like a joyless grouch if you think about the flaws too much.

Director: Karthik Yogi
Cast: Santhanam, Megha Akash, Nizhalgal Ravi, Seshu, Maaran, Ravi Maria

Although not an outright satire, the film pokes fun at themes like superstition, religious fanaticism, fake godman, blind faith, and there is also a meta-commentary on the Covid years. However, it is hard not to miss how the satire comes through a self-critical theist lens rather than a rationalist point of view. Vadakkupatti Ramasamy follows a defiant non-believer (played by Santhanam), who exploits the superstition of his villagers to create a deity, builds a temple, and then rides the spiritual business to the top, becoming a prominent figure in his village. However, larger forces try to out-corrupt Ramasamy and the resultant battle may end with him losing everything, maybe even his atheism. While the premise sounds like it has enough cheesy messages about the righteousness of religion to make your eyes keep rolling, the film is confident enough to let its central themes develop gradually instead of shoving random dramatic moments with messages. However, the last few scenes feel like director Karthik Yogi ran a bulldozer through the aforementioned positives, with a complete tonal shift and any lack of nuance and subtlety.

Santhanam takes a restrained approach, taking the backseat and letting the supporting cast do the heavy lifting, especially when it comes to comedy scenes. On the other hand, Santhanam is also not in a hurry to assert his position as the ‘commercial hero’. While there are some generic ‘hero’ moments like a slow-mo walk here and a punch dialogue there, it does not feel like Santhanam is gripping the steering wheel with desperation, even though he is certainly the one in the driver’s chair. Seshu, Maraan, Ravi Maria—and to a surprising extent—Nizhalgal Ravi, draw out the biggest laughs, even in scenes that stretch too far away from the story and kill the momentum. Megha Akash’s Kayal Vizhi is refreshingly delightful, not just for being a well-written woman character who serves the plot and is not just a romantic interest but also for not screaming that at our face like so many other recent films. However, the director seems to have used the same bulldozer he used for the climax to destroy her character. Towards the end, Kayalvizhi reduces herself to a seductress to foil Ramasamy’s plans, a shift in character that comes out of nowhere and feels unnecessary, as it supplies neither humour nor drama. It also does not help that Megha Akash thoroughly fails to leverage the positives of an arguably well-written character. Santhanam’s character evolution towards the end—as he suddenly becomes righteous enough to sacrifice himself for a greater good—is also not backed by a solid trigger. MS Bhaskar plays a blind, former drunkard, who is the mouthpiece of the film’s central message about the importance of belief. Although he plays an interesting character, MS Bhaskar—someone who proved his excellence in both comedic and dramatic roles—seems severely underused.

While the characters might not go through wholly satisfying arcs, the biggest strength of Vadakkupatti Ramasamy is undoubtedly its writing. Every narrative thread feeds into another effectively enough to keep the momentum and you don’t feel like the story is written around a couple of gags. The humour works for the most part and even the jokes that did not land are forgivable. Even with all the conspicuous flaws, even if the story doesn’t compel you, Vadakkupatti Ramasamy still pulls you into its colourful world full of zany characters and leaves you with more than a handful of laughs.

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