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An ode to dad dearest -- Vaaranam Aayiram



A tribute slow and solemn: Vaaranam Aayiram

Genre: Family drama

Director: Gautham Menon

Cast: Suriya, Simran, Sameera Reddy, Divya Spandana

Storyline: The father-son bond, and other sub-tales

Bottomline: Where length plays truant

It is said to be a biopic of sorts from Gautham Menon — a tribute to his father. If Cheran’s ‘Thavamai Thavamirundhu’ comes to mind now and then it’s because the theme is similar. The finesse of a Menon film is very much noticeable in Aascar Films’ ‘Vaaranam Aayiram’ (U), and so are the slips, unbelievably atypical of him! Halfway through the film, the screenplay flounders without focus and unwarranted interpolations mar the momentum. When was the last time that a title was explained in the final scene for the audience to understand its relevance? Probably 30 years ago? It’s done again in ‘Vaaranam …’ only that this time the significance confounds!

Suriya comes out with diligently etched dual portrayals of a doting dad and a caring son. If the viewer gets engrossed in the bonding between the father and son it’s because writer-director Menon has conceived the characters with feeling and actor Suriya has imbued them with life. When Suriya weeps aloud for the loss of his loved one and when he enacts the agony of a drug addict undergoing withdrawal symptoms, you see the performer growing in stature with every film!

Emotive skills

A slim, svelte Simran may be an image of the past but her emotive skills are intact. Apt display of love, concern, anxiety and sorrow places her on a pedestal. A solid role admirably executed!

The story revolves round the Krishnans (Suriya and Simran) who live on love. Whatever the trials each gains sustenance from the other. And they are a close-knit family with daughter Shreya (Deepa), and son Surya (Suriya again) for whom dad is God. Things aren’t rosy forever — mounting debts, Krishnan’s illness and Surya’s trauma after the tragic death of his beloved Meghna (Sameera Reddy) plague the family. Strangely, till the end, neither Surya nor his parents seem much bothered about the future of daughter Shreya! And it’s difficult to believe that the otherwise shrewd and perceptive Krishnan doesn’t notice that son Surya is doing drugs, till the young man reaches the point of no-return!

She’s described as ‘Ravishing’ Reddy in the promos. The observation could be subjective, but the fact is Sameera does a neat job of her role with lip sync quite creditable for a first timer in Tamil. And Divya scores with appealing underplay.

Going by the way in which Suriya exposes his impressively toned physique at the drop of a hat, he could well be Tamil cinema’s answer to Salman Khan! Vishal did it in a couple of scenes in ‘Satyam’ and there too gave Nayan a chance or two! But in ‘Vaaranam …’ even in the duets it isn’t the heroine who is skimpily clad, but the hero who most obligingly makes a brawn exhibit! Also Suriya knows he can wow people with his charming smile and uses it to advantage in ‘Vaaranam …’

Scintillating pieces

Harris Jeyaraj has come out with some scintillating pieces, though the heard-before feel is a recurring feature. ‘Adiyae Kolludhae …’ is again typically Jeyaraj. It takes some time for you to realise that it’s Sudha Ragunathan singing ‘Anal Melae …’ Astutely distancing her voice from the Carnatic mode, she is at home in the cinema genre too — pleasantly different from the raw classical in Parthiban’s ‘Ivan.’

The montages for the numbers are highlights. And aiding the crew with some telling colour tones, blue in particular, and appealing silhouettes, is Ratnavelu, an ace with the camera, though the fade-in and fade-out of scenes once too often in the beginning are a strain on the eye. Scissoring with style, editor Antony adds sheen to the narrative. Rajeevan’s art tries to re-create the Chennai of the 1970s with the buses, beach and the Globe Theatre of the old Madras, but it is in the present-day sets that he shines. Simran’s ‘period’ costume with back-combed hairdo a la Asha Parekh and Sharmila Tagore three decades ago is hideous and unfair to her. Especially when her ‘college mates’ appear in reasonably normal hairstyles! In the flashback the Krishnans may be shown as being head over heels in love with each other, but neither can be termed good looking, thanks to their designers, make-up men and hairstylists!

Why has Gautham Menon indulged in such a mindless cramming session? Stories that could have provided enough fodder for at least five films have been forced into the main plot. If it is meant to boost Suriya’s image, Menon could have achieved it with the main story itself. And if it appears that hours have passed before the intermission arrives, it seems like eons before it is curtains!

The same combo came together for ‘Kaakha Kaakha’ and signed off with a flourish not so long ago! Of course ‘Vaaranam …’ does have some great moments, but it’s a lengthy film, and you feel it!

MALATHI RANGARAJAN

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