Vinodhaya Sitham Movie Review: Thambi Ramaiah, Samuthirakani present a heartwarming tale of the last ride
Vinodhaya Sitham is easily the most subtle Samuthirakani film and it is the performances of a solid ensemble that manages to elevate the stereotypes to refreshing flourishes
In Sivaji, Rajinikanth says, “Saagara naal therinju pochu na, vaazhara naal naragamaaidum.” And there is no doubt that the idea of death is an existential theme of the human race that gives birth to a number of questions. What happens after we die? Where do we go? Will people remember us after? Despite death being the only certainty of life, we are never quite ready for it. In Vinodhaya Sitham, Samuthirakani’s latest directorial, he asks us a simple question about life and death. Is death really the last great adventure?
Cast: Thambi Ramaiah, Samuthirakani, Sriranjini, Munishkanth
Streaming on: Zee5
Centred around the life and times of Parasuram (a brilliant Thambi Ramaiah), Samuthirakani weaves a tale that questions the idea of free will, fate, luck, and ultimately, death. But it isn’t all grim as Samuthirakani leaves us with a lasting message of hope. It makes us believe that the ones who left us weren’t going through the journey into the beyond without a companion. They weren’t alone. Of course, it might all seem hokum, and there might not be an afterlife after all. But, these stories are like folklore... it is familiar and comforting, even if it is cooked up.
Parasuram is like the father from Santhosh Subramaniam, but only on steroids. He decides everything for his family -- wife (Sriranjini), son (Deepak), daughters (Sanchita Shetty and Yuvasri Lakshmi). The hyperactive Parasuram who takes the proverb - Time and tide wait for no one - too seriously is confronted by time itself, played by a stoic Samuthirakani. As time actually waits for Parasuram to finish off his worldly duties, we are shown how little we eventually matter to the overall scheme of things. Now, these concepts can be questioned for their basic veracity, but in this world, these exist and it is on its principles that we see Parasuram's well-constructed life crumble and reconstruct in front of our eyes.
Samuthirakani’s Vinodhaya Sitham is based on a theatre play of the same name, written by Sreevathson, and has a similar 90-minute runtime. Although certain one-liners and the overall flow of narrative remains the same, the changes that are made truly enhance the film. It is impressive how Samuthirakani stuffs in a lot more layers into the film without it feeling overly bloated or… since it is a Samuthirakani film… preachy. There is a small twist in the stories of Parasuram’s prospective son-in-law (Hari Krishnan) and daughter-in-law (Sheriina). There is a small twist in why Parasuram's younger daughter (Yuvasri) agrees to a hurried marriage. There is a small twist in the story of Parasuram’s wife. There is a small twist in terms of Parasuram’s office promotion. There is a small twist in terms of Parasuram’s final regret. Even Time's non-mincing of words comes with a moral lesson here, and a preachy undertone there. But each of these twists and messages is neatly wrapped in the cloak of sentiment with a surprisingly effective layer of comedy.
Vinodhaya Sitham is easily the most subtle Samuthirakani film since Unnai Charanadainthen, but we do see some garden-variety sentiment. It is the performances of a solid ensemble that manages to elevate the stereotypes to refreshing flourishes. On the surface level, it might not seem that Thambi Ramaiah is doing anything that we haven’t seen him do earlier. In fact, the OTT-ness of his performance might be reminiscent of his previous works — Saattai, Adutha Saattai, Appa — with Samuthirakani himself. But, Thambi Ramaiah's grounding and affecting performance allow us to look beneath the caricaturish nature of Parasuram and find a lot more depth. The same can be said about Sriranjini’s performance too. It is Samuthirakani’s writing that ensures that roles that run the risk of being just cardboard characters are anything but in Vinodhaya Sitham.
Of course, since there are many layers and subplots packed in, the 90-minute runtime doesn’t really do justice to it all. The setting up of the premise and introducing us to the multiple players takes up so much time that the final resolution feels rushed. But, full points to composer Sathya for giving us a rather sobering soundtrack as opposed to the bombastic background scores we are used to in recent Samuthirakani films.
Over the past two years, our ideas of life and death have undergone a drastic change. Now, we step out of our houses more aware of our mortality than ever before. We know how little our well-laid future plans actually matter. We know how our lives can turn upside down in a matter of just days. Our idea of eventuality is being questioned. But is there something that can actually be done? Through Vinodhaya Sitham, Samuthirakani and Co tell us that although there is very little we can do, it shouldn’t stop us from being… well, nice people. As Albus Dumbledore says in Harry Potter, “For the well-organised mind, death is but the next great adventure.” Did I ever think I’d be using a Harry Potter quote to sum up a Samuthirakani film? Well... that’s one Vinodhaya Sitham indeed.