Director: Muthiah

Cast: Gautham Karthik, Manjima Mohan

Inside the Devarattam that we currently have, there’s the Devarattam that could have been. Vetri (Gautham Karthik) is a lawyer, whose family wants to shield him from violence. (In this hypothetical line of thought, let’s ignore the fact that the hero-introduction scene is itself a stretch of violent action.) But when Vetri, in a fit of rage, ends up murdering the son of the villain (Ganesan, played by FEFSI Vijayan), the latter swears revenge. And he means it. He butchers members of Vetri’s family, which is a little unusual for a Madurai-based masala movie. These films are all about the hero’s valour. But what if the hero’s methods of vigilante justice cost him his family? What if a lawyer had to resort to extrajudicial means? It’s a solid knot.

But almost every aspect of filmmaking is an abject failure. Gautham Karthik is convincing neither as a lawyer, nor as a “mass” hero. He has a tousled-hair look that says “I just got out of bed and I need to be on the sets of my next sex comedy”. The heroine who has nothing to do is played by Manjima Mohan. Her look says “Crap! I thought my career would be in a different place after a Gautham Menon movie”. The comedy duties go to Soori, whose look says “How much longer can I get away doing the same thing before the audience wises up”! The writer-director is M Muthaiah, who’s been insisting that this film does not glorify any caste. I suppose the fact that Vetri is found standing in front of a poster of Pasumpon Muthuramalinga Thevar is entirely coincidental. Had we been able to see Muthiah’s look, it might have said, “I know my audience, you English-review-writing urban idiot! After Kutti Puli, Komban, Marudu and Kodiveeran, don’t tell me how to do my job.”

But almost every aspect of filmmaking is an abject failure. Gautham Karthik is convincing neither as a lawyer, nor as a “mass” hero.

Muthiah has a good sense of plot. (Remember the surprise ending of Kutti Puli? We get an unexpected climax block, here, plus a nicely sadistic bit involving the contents of a fridge.) But his filmmaking is barely there, and his writing is terrible. Devarattam has no sense of irony. It speaks out about the sexual harassment of women, yet it look-shames (and makes a joke out of) a woman who isn’t conventionally attractive. And it gives us this line: “Namma naatula Kannagi-ku porandhavan dhaan irukkanum. Kaantha-ku porandhavan laam irukka koodadhu.” Kantha is the sex worker character MN Rajam played in Ratha Kanneer – so Devarattam says let’s celebrate women, but only if they remain chaste. Another line goes: “Manna thottavana kooda vittudalaam, aana ponna thottavana vidave koodathu.” Does this sentiment extend to the Kanthas of the world?

You may have noticed a pattern with the dialogue. There’s lots of repetition and rhyming. The villain says: “En edhirla vandhaale vidamaaten. Edhiriya vandha viduvena?” After falling for Vetri at first sight, the heroine says: “Kandavudan kadhal seiyalam. Kandavanathaan kadhal seiya koodathu.” (Now, just a second, sister. What if the “kandathum kadhal” man turns out to be a “kandavan”?) Vetri’s sister says, “Unna pasi theriyama valarthirukken nu nenachen. Ippidi bayam theriyama valarndhirukkiye da.” It’s hard not to giggle. Some movies can take this kind of dialogue-writing. This kind of action-drama cannot. You wish they had worked on the emotions, instead. And the casting. And the cinematography. And the sound design. And the editing. And the production design. And the stunts. And the songs. And the choreography. And the…

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