Vanamagan: A fairly competent drama
This is a movie that swings from one mood pre-interval to another post that halfway mark
Tracking shots are among the most beautiful aspects of the art of filmmaking. Remember how everyone was raving about the tracking shot at the end of Angamaly Diaries earlier this year? Or how about the famous shot in the Korean movie, Oldboy. There is one such shot in the second half of Vanamagan, where, in Jayam Ravi's flashback, there is a fight sequence in the dead of the night amidst campfires. The cinematographer is Tirru, who won himself a National Award for 24 last year, and his work is a big part of what works in the movie.
Cast: Jayam Ravi, Sayyeshaa, Prakash Raj, Thambi Ramaiah
Vanamagan, if you go by just its trailer, is a movie about a tribal man who has been taken away from his home, and thrust into a world he doesn't understand. But the actual film is much more. Kavya (Sayyeshaa), the heroine, is a spoilt, rich kid without parents. Dishes from different cuisines of the world are made for her, and she selects only one, after which the rest go into the dustbin. She was taken in by Rajasekhar (Prakashraj) and is only exposed to the cold world of finance and business; so, she doesn't know much about love and emotion, which is established by her giving money to an employee who asks her for leave, so he can go attend his son's marriage. When she goes off to party in Andaman for the New Year with her friends, they run over a tribal man (Jayam Ravi) whom they rescue and bring back to Chennai for treatment. What happens next is quintessential George of the Jungle stuff where the ignorance of the man they name K Vaasi makes up for some hilarious moments.
Where this film stops being George of the Jungle is whenever Vaasi has his flashbacks. This man is an amnesiac, who doesn't remember much of his past, but whenever he sees objects like wine bottles, his mind gets triggered about tourists throwing such glass bottles in tribal reserve areas. And then once Vaasi is taken back to Andaman, you get to piece back much of these flashbacks into one coherent story, which is tonally different to the light-hearted first half.
Director Vijay also takes a lot of pains to ensure his story threads come full-circle. For example, when Vaasi hurts a tiger to save a child, and then sees the tiger in pain, he eases the animal's suffering by treating its wounds. This tiger then has an exhilarating fight sequence and repays Vaasi for his kindness. Or when Vaasi eats raw food without manners and grosses Kavya out, but then later in the film, when she's stuck inside a forest area hungry, she, too, eats in similar fashion. But then, this is Tamil cinema where you don't just stop with visually telling a story, and so they get someone saying expositional lines, like "kaatha kasu kuduthu vangaravanaa avan?" Moments like these take the air out of some well-constructed scenes.
The film has four songs, and that is three too many, as you really feel the drag of the run-time of 140 minutes towards the end. But the background score helps the film in a lot of places, and the lovely addition of a theme music for the heroine each time she enters the office is delightful. The second half is reminiscent of Avatar, with the corporate vs tribals angle, and the climax 'twist' is quite the cop-out and is completely unimaginative. Also can we please get back comedians who act as comedic relief and not as mouthpieces for directors who want to sermonise at us? As the end credits roll, with the director dedicating this film to the many "uncontacted tribes in the world," you wonder if more such stories can make it to the big screen sans the commercial elements.