Vellai Yaanai Movie Review: Inconsistency mars this well-intentioned Samuthirakani tearjerker
Inconsistent writing ruins the well-performed rural drama
Director Subramaniam Siva's Vellai Yaanai has a crucial scene where a poverty-stricken Vellai Kunju (Samuthirakani) and family run around the field to address a worn-out water tube used for irrigation. Neither the water pump nor the tube, however, belongs to this family. Unable to afford these resources, Vellai rents them out for an exorbitant price, and when he finally sees everything go in vain once again, he collapses out of sheer helplessness, a paralysed spectator. This crucial sequence may seem like a trivial struggle to those of us from privilege as we are either exposed to such harsh realities only in the form of a news scroll on TV or a snippet on the newspaper. But when seen in a film, especially one with an able actor like Samuthirakani in the lead, it hits you hard, and leaves you with a strong visual in your memory. Just when you get in sync with Vellai's struggles and about to step into his world, Siva kills the connection with a forced comedy in which a character makes fun of the battles of Vellai and his allies. This inconsistent comical transition keeps hitting you on the face, ripping apart all that has been built by the serious portions.
Director: Subramaniam Siva
Cast: Samuthirakani, Athmiya and Yogi Babu
A crucial character in the film loses his life by slipping down from a tree when provoked by the harsh language of a loan collector. Fast-forward a few minutes, and Yogi Babu's KK looks at an ally of the victim and says, "Marathuku maram thaavura monkey paya dhaana nee!" as slapstick music plays in the background egging us to laugh. I wouldn't have had an issue with KK, had the character been an extension of, say, the actor's grey-shaded Vadamalaiyaan from Karnan. But unlike Vadamalaiyaan, KK is shown here predominantly as a kind person with good intentions. Halfway into Vellai Yaanai, we keep getting these obvious cues to cry and laugh, and on and on.
Even if we were to overlook these inconsistencies, Vellai Yaanai is still marred by some rudderless writing. The story is all over the place as random issues pop up each day making life harder for Vellai and group. After a point, we cease routing for the leads and wait impatiently for this two-hour-long film to end. And yet, you realise that Vellai Yaanai might have been a tougher watch with a limited actor in the lead. Thankfully Samuthirakani adds a lot of dimension to the character. I quite enjoyed how he infuses his real-life optimistic persona into the little space the character offers.
When he says, "Nambikai oda iru, vaazhvom!" the energy is indeed infectious. While the film is ably supported by him and Yogi Babu, the surprise package of Vellai Yaanai is Athmiya, who has gone through a major physical transformation for the role. The actor shines as the helpless wife, Vendaam Amirtham, and you wish the character had got longer screentime.
Though the ever-dependable Santhosh Narayanan tries his best to set the mood right throughout the film, the random writing kills all efforts in the musical department. Despite having five songs, the album adds little flavour to the proceedings.
Several times in the film, we see characters apologising to the farmers for being mere spectators of their suffering and milking their misfortunes. After seeing Vellai Yaanai, I couldn't help but wonder if it is also an indirect confession of the makers themselves.