Viswasam Review: A sprightly Ajith saves this festival
Director Siva's biggest achievement is giving us an Ajith who is having fun on screen after a long time, apart from which the film mainly works on surprise value
I watched Viswasam first-day-first-show (FDFS), at 1 am. The bustling crowds began their celebrations even before they seeing their favourite star on screen and it was quite a sight. I've seen quite a few films FDFS, but not one has begun with a cautionary warning from a fellow member of the audience. “Review yarathu ozhunga kudukala... senjuruven,” he screamed at the top of his voice. It is now clear why the film was named Viswasam, it is for the fans and their loyalty to Ajith.
Cast: Ajith Kumar, Nayanthara, Jagapathi Babu, Thambi Ramaiah
For their fourth collaboration, director Siva plays it safe by picking a simple story and following the commercial format to a T -- songs and fights are spaced out in even time intervals ensuring constant action on screen. After a grand introduction scene, where Thooku Durai (Ajith) waltzes on to the screen with a simple vanakkam, he launches into a lengthy dialogue about how temple festivals are integral to the community. “Temple festivals become a place for communion. A reason for the migrants to return home to family,” he says. Considering that Viswasam was promoted as a ‘Thiruvizha’, he might have been talking about the loyal fans dancing in the theatre.
However, this doesn’t mean that there isn’t enough for the non-fans. In fact, this is where Siva surprises. He gives us a delightfully slackened Ajith. As a simple man of brute force, Thooku Durai's mischievous, raw innocence channels the actor’s charisma to refreshing effect. After quite a while, it seems like Ajith is finally having fun on screen, revelling in these naughty moments. Even though I wasn’t charmed by Imman’s songs for the film, watching Ajith dance to them without any inhibition is a treat. The effort the actor has put in is apparent, but so is the joy on his face, and that counts for more.
Another major surprise is Nayanthara. The last time she played a heroine in a commercial film was Velaikkaran, which didn’t do any justice to her Lady Superstar status. However, as the strong-headed, independent doctor, Niranjana, who visits Thooku Durai’s village, Nayanthara gets a flying start. While everyone in the village lines up to flatter Durai, she stands apart with her indifference. Thooku Durai is smitten, but he knows she is out of his league. And thus, Siva lays the foundation for a captivating romance that takes a tiny detour at every turn you predict. All of this is up until the intermission, which is where things begin to go south.
The love story and its dynamics that Siva painstakingly sets up are pushed to the background to bring a new villain into the story. Ideally, a good villain is the hero's philosophically darker twin -- he has similar motives but situations push them to opposite sides -- which makes picking sides difficult for the viewer. Siva attempts a shot at this, but only arms his villain with a one-note story where his motive for revenge is itself flawed. Thus, this track becomes a device to milk a few more action sequences, ending in the most soap-operaish climax ever, with the film traipsing into a no-logic, all-sentiment zone.
I would have loved to see more of the conflict between Niranjana and Thooku Durai. Niranjana, who shows much promise at the start, is soon relegated to being someone who just walks in and out of boardrooms. She runs a fleet of companies but can’t think of any way to help when her husband is being attacked. However, considering how low the standards are in Tamil cinema right now, the fact that she is shown to have a career (even if done half-heartedly) is itself a leap forward. While no one can complain of Nayanthara not experimenting in terms of genres, I often wish she plays as much with her looks. But that said, I loved the fact it is Niranjana who looks exactly the same after ten years, while Thooku Durai looks like he has aged. After all, why should heroes have all the fun?
Expectation is a funny thing. No matter how much you try to skirt it, it seeps into our head and hugely affects the way we perceive something. And when you are pleasantly surprised, even if intermittently, it manages to the tip the scales in favour of the film. And Viswasam was a surprise, one that thankfully didn’t make my worst nightmares come true.