Veembu movie review: Interesting premise, meandering narrative
Veembu is too long for something set in an unappealing terrain and featuring unrelatable characters
Veembu (Boast) opens with a young man being violently interrogated by a group of thugs. Someone related to someone has been hurt and they want to know why he was part of a selfie found in the injured man's phone. We don't see this selfie, and we hope for an explanation for everything at some point. When they force-feed him liquor, he starts singing like a bird. Cut to flashbacks.
The explanation takes way too long. During the interval, one of the captors echoes the same confusion experienced by us. Just like us, he hasn't been able to make sense of the story being narrated to him. The captors are asked to be patient -- and by extension, us. "The story's pace will quicken from now on," says the little guy. But that promise isn't quite delivered. The central conflict should have been introduced to us in the second act itself.
Director: Vivian Radhakrishnan
Cast: Sujeesh, Rajalakshmi, Shanavas Sharaf, Rajeev Kumar
Streaming on: YouTube
There is the main character, Kinav, an autorickshaw driver desperate for cash. He has a mother suffering from Alzheimer’s—she now believes her son and his buddy Abutty are schoolgoing children. Naturally, this factor adds more weight to Kinav’s worries. But despite this, the film never goes into melodrama mode. This is supposedly a dark comedy. Its male characters happen to be a bunch of idiots. Everything they do is governed by testosterone and unchecked emotions, not logic.
Things are further complicated when new characters show up. These include a disgraced local political leader and the little guy from the opening scene. Most of the problems are caused by people with self-esteem issues. One character excitedly declares himself a ‘gunda’ when he knowingly kills somebody; in a later scene, he turns soft when he kills somebody accidentally.
All these characters find a way to meet in the film's final moments. The events could've been made to look more fun, but much time is spent following the characters and their trivial activities before that, making us lose interest in finding out how things end.
The film runs close to 140 minutes, which is too long for something set in an unappealing terrain and featuring unrelatable characters. But that’s not the film’s main problem. It does feature some committed actors — all newcomers — who are quite convincing in conveying their characters’ desperation and angst. But it would have benefitted from tighter editing—it could’ve been easily been wrapped up in ninety to a hundred minutes if not for the unnecessary detours in between. At one point, one character ponders a discreet affair with a married woman—a portion that could’ve been easily omitted.
Veembu marks the debut of filmmaker Vivian Radhakrishnan, who has assisted Lijo Jose Pellissery on Jallikattu and helped him create its making documentary. The decision to release Veembu on YouTube was the after-effect of a three-year struggle which involved censor issues and whatnots.
The impact of these hurdles, plus the problems stemming from inexperience, are visible. But one thing the filmmaker manages to get right is the stifling atmosphere and the performances, even though it goes slightly overboard at times. We’ll hopefully see better work from him in the future.