Mani Ratnam’s Chekka Chivantha Vaanam: What Works, What Doesn’t

This stylish gangster crime drama glitters with all its acting talent - notably Arvind Swami, STR, Vijay Sethupathi and Arun Vijay
Mani Ratnam’s Chekka Chivantha Vaanam: What Works, What Doesn’t

After flirting with the romance genre in the recent past, the legendary Mani Ratnam returns to the gangster drama space with Chekka Chivantha Vaanam, co-written by Siva Ananth. The film has a plethora of star actors – Arvind Swami, STR, Vijay Sethupathi, Arun Vijay, Prakash Raj, Jyotika, Aishwarya Rajesh, Aditi Rao Hydari – and many supporting actors. It's a multi-starrer in the true sense of the word.

Plot: CCV revolves around the three sons of ageing don Senapathi and a cop, who also happens to be their family friend. The sons have distinct personalities, personal lives and close ones. They also have an eye on their father's throne. The drama and power game that unfolds among these grey characters forms the plot. Director Mani Ratnam doesn't deviate one bit and engages the viewer till the end credits roll. Don't leave the cinema hall in a hurry.

What Works

  • Only a proven craftsman like Mani Ratnam can assemble such a huge star cast and also give all of them – particularly the four heroes – enough to work with. While Arvind Swami is all rage and fury, Vijay Sethupathi is casually endearing as usual. Arun Vijay is dashing and has a certain swagger, and STR is utterly stylish. Their acting merits need no further elucidation. Each of them scores big in at least one sequence.
  • Jayasudha and Jyotika get good screen time. Aishwarya Rajesh shows sparks of her acting potential. Aditi Rao Hydari and debutante Dayana Erappa look glamorous, which the script requires, and get a few harmlessly mischievous, fun moments.
  • Mani Ratnam and A.R. Rahman have always made the song-dance routines in their films a memorable affair. There is an army of fans dedicated only to the music in their collaborations. Here, it's a revelation to see the songs used for montage sequences, without any choreography. CCV is driven by its background score, and the 'Isai Puyal' and his Qutub-E-Kripa troupe deliver a gritty score. In trademark Rahman style, the songs' instrumental versions have been used interestingly in the background.
  • Santosh Sivan's work in the stunning climax stretch with the four heroes in a car is spectacular. His crystal clear aerial shots are eye-catching.

What Doesn't

  • Since the film's two trailers were quite detailed and revealed a lot of impactful moments, the first half seems quite flat. A few surprises should've been held back.
  • Mani Ratnam's films invariably have unforgettable women characters at the forefront. That's not the case here as the women are largely relegated to the background and are pawns among kings.
  • The film's emotional quotient is largely superficial and the death of key characters doesn't hit the viewer hard.

Final Word: Chekka Chivantha Vaanam is a stylish gangster crime drama which glitters with all its acting talent. Mani Ratnam and his team deliver a slick product (at 2 hours 23 minutes) lifted by a highly engaging second half and a rewarding finale. Go watch.

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