Sangathamizhan Movie Review: Vijay Sethupathi effectively shoulders a cliched but convincing film
Despite being riddled with cliches, this Vijay Sethupathi film is basically a star vehicle that manages to stay above mediocrity
In Sangathamizhan, Kamalini (an effective Raashi Khanna) drinks alcohol, takes the initiative when it comes to romance, and doesn’t shy away from saying a punch dialogue or two. In between all this, when Soori comments on the alcoholic nature of Kamalini and her friends, Vijay Sethupathi as Muruga immediately quips, “Saar, decenta pesunga saar.” It might not be much, but it is a step forward and an important one. Such intent is why Sangathamizhan, despite being riddled with cliches, manages to stay a level above mediocrity.
Director: Vijay Chander
Cast: Vijay Sethupathi, Raashi Khanna, Soori, Nivetha Pethuraj
Vijay Chander’s follow-up to Sketch and Vaalu does try hard to rise above the cliches. There is the classic love story between a poor guy and a rich girl. However, there is a surprising maturity in the romance portions between Kamalini, the daughter of a rich industrial tycoon/obvious villain (Ravi Kisan), and Muruga, an aspiring comedian living in a Chennai housing board flat with a loving family. When Kamalini expresses her love to Muruga, little does she know that the latter will become the first villain in her love story.
Muruga knows the difference between his social standing and that of his prospective father-in-law. Why would he want to risk his family’s safety for love? When he finally accepts Kamalini's love, the reason is flimsy but allows for a mass scene. So it is forgiven, almost. Even when he endorses a certain kind of misogyny, it comes with a side order of family values and laid-back charisma. So, it is forgotten, almost. Such contradictions seem to be commonplace in a masala film that stars Vijay Sethupathi. Just before a confrontation with a villain, he walks in the rain in ultra slow-motion but insists on carrying his own umbrella. You see, Vijay Sethupathi has to cater to the genre without letting go of his own personality.
Vijay Sethupathi often says he is the same in all his films, but this nonchalance was getting tiring. Thankfully, Sangathamizhan is a film that, just like its leading hero, is very self-aware. There is a verbal disclaimer by Vijay Sethupathi about his dancing abilities just before the viral Kamala song. And in another scene, Rajendran, in a cameo as an astrologer, predicts Sethupathi’s character will act with Rajinikanth, Tamannaah, Nayanthara, and also be directed by Mani Ratnam. Now, don’t tell me that this isn’t indulgent. However, somehow, in Sangathamizhan, Vijay Sethupathi is charming enough to sell both, yet again.
Even the humour in Sangathamizhan is both indulgent and self-deprecating. It even creeps up during the uninventive stunt sequences to remind us that it is not a mass hero doing this film, but Vijay Sethupathi. He knows not all will accept him bashing up goons. So, he sneaks in a joke to let us know he knows it too. For those who believe he can indeed fight so many people, the scene works as a stunt sequence, for the rest, they are amazed by the self-awareness. It is actually a neat trick. Also, Sangathamizhan has one of the better comedy tracks from Soori in recent times. He even gets to say that lucky line, “Enakku hero role laam venaam.” When Vadivelu told it to Vijay in Sachien, the very next year, he starred in Imsai Arasan 23am Pulikesi. Similarly, Soori too is turning hero next year with Vetri Maaran’s film. But I digress. You may wonder why almost halfway into the review, there is no sign of the plot yet. I'm just following the pattern of the film, which picks up steam only after the interval block.
Sangathamizhan is about how Kamalini’s dad is set to open a copper mining factory in Theni with the help of a corrupt politician (Ashutosh Rana). Both are as cardboard and one-note as they get, and there are no prizes for guessing who is a major hindrance to their plans? Vijay Sethupathi once again, but this time as Thamizh. This Vijay Sethupathi too gets an intro song, a loving family, and a heroine (a vivacious but wasted Nivetha Pethuraj). Then there is the proverbial plot twist, which is not new to Tamil cinema. But again, nothing in this film is, and no one is more aware of this than the makers themselves. As Soori says, “Double action padam na rendu concept dhaan. Onnu Aboorva Sagodharargal route illena Rajadhi Raja route.” Which route the film takes is one of the very few breaths of fresh air in this convincingly-made cliche-ridden journey.
However, what is more important is talking about Vijay Sethupathi films that don’t fall under the genre of well... Vijay Sethupathi films. We seem to only want a Seethakaathi or a Super Deluxe from the actor, but what about a Rekka or Karuppan? It is important to let this Vijay Sethupathi breathe too. The problem with his previous release, Sindubaadh, was he bit off more than he could chew. You need to do the Thirupachis, Sivakasis, and Dhools before doing a Kaththi or Anniyan. The audience need to be convinced the hero can save his family, his village, his city, his state, his country, and the world, in that exact order. You can’t jump directly to the world-saving mode.
Considering the recent trend, it is commendable that Vijay Chander overcame the urge to give a one-glove-fits-all solution to societal issues like farmers' troubles and environmental hazards. Sangathamizhan is very much the type of film that used to be dime-a-dozen at the turn of the millennium. A time when filmmakers like Dharani and Hari were the flavor du jour. Walking out of the theatre, we didn’t take home any message, we didn’t remember nuances in the performances, we didn’t care about logical loopholes. We only cared if were entertained. We have seen many actors have fun with this genre and turn into bonafide stars. So why rob Vijay Sethupathi of the same, and box him as only a ‘indie-film star’. Why should only the other Vijay have all the fun?