Valimai

Director: H Vinoth

Cast: Ajith Kumar, Huma Qureshi

H Vinoth’s Valimai stars Ajit Kumar as a cop named Arjun. Now there are two films in Valimai. The first film is a Hollywood style thriller where this cop, Ajith, tries to bring down a gang of biker criminals. The second film is a big tear-jerking Indian style melodrama mega serial type thing, where we see Ajith’s family getting involved in the war between the hero and the villain played by Kartikeya Gummakonda. The two films just don’t come together.

Now it’s not that action films cannot have sentiment. We had Ajith’s own Yennai Arindhaal where we had some beautiful moments where he was more of a family man than a cop. But I think the family scenes here are generic and dated. There is not one fresh idea. The amma sentiment and the crying baby sentiment, are things that would have been cliched in the Mohenjo Daro era. After the hero intro fight where his face is first shown as lit by lightning, we get a random song where they sing, ‘Naanga Vera Maathiri’ and I wanted to tell them ‘Avalo Scene Ila pa’. 

The film runs for some three hours and it would have been much better without the scenes about Ajith’s family. Now I see what Vinoth is trying to do here. He is trying to show us that Ajith has domestic problems as well as the problems that he’s facing with the villain. In other words, he’s trying to give a personal touch to Ajith’s investigation, but the whole thing is undermined when the writing is so generic.

For example, what does the fact that Ajith’s older brother is a drunkard add to the narrative? Well, yes, it gives us one point that Ajith has this particular personal problem as well. But then why not give this brother a better character arc instead of just making him a caricature? The one scene that I liked, in fact, the only scene that I liked in these family episodes is when this drunkard’s wife walks out on him.

That’s one nice thing about Valimai. I mean, none of the women have significantly different roles, but they all help Ajith in some way. They are not just decorative items. The computer experts who help Ajith’s investigation are smart young women. The Huma Qureshi character gets a solo action scene, and without her, Ajith would not have been able to bring down the villain at the end.

Maybe Nerkonda Paarvai was not an accident. Maybe Ajith, in whatever small way, is trying to empower the women in his films. Anyway, back to the problems in Valimai. Now if you ask the industry people, they’ll say, ‘Oh, you are city people. These family scenes are needed for the B and C centres, they really enjoy them.’ But I bet you that if you send a questionnaire to these very same so-called B and C centre people, they will probably say, ‘Please spare us, just leave out this mother, brother; just leave out everybody else’. Because guess what, they have started watching all these Fast and Furious movies and Shang-chi, and all these other movies dubbed in Tamil. That’s the way their mentality is. This old-style of showing things is not going to work anymore.

BR Review: H Vinoth’s ‘Valimai’ Is An Okayish Thriller Where Characters Are Less Interesting Than Stuntmen On Bikes, Film Companion

But the Hollywood movie in Valimai, that is the investigation part, works to an extent. The screenplay here is crisp and clean. The heroes here are the cinematographer Nirav Shah and the editor Vijay Velukutty and whoever did the amazing location recce, because their locations are just amazing. When you put an action scene in an amazing location, it doubles the effect.

Ajith is in commanding form as the cop, though not so much in the dramatic portions. But one thing that Vinoth understands is that you cannot have the hero keep winning. Otherwise the power of the movie and its ending where the hero actually wins, doesn’t work that well.

Therefore we have things like Ajith being demoted in his profession. He is demoted to being an inspector. But Ajith is defeated by his younger brother in a way. I don’t want to spoil it for you, but it is this set of defeats that make his success at the end most satisfying, at least in theory. But for some reason that doesn’t happen and the film doesn’t have much of an emotional connection. I think one of the reasons is the exhausting three hours run time.

There simply isn’t that much emotional material to kind of hook you in and take you through these. This is why the best scenes in the movie are the biker stunts choreographed by Dhilip Subbarayan.

In a typical Tamil movie, you get only fistfights. That’s the hero will give a punch and the henchmen will then go and land five feet away. That happens here too, especially one in slow motion in the hero intro fight, which is like the same old cliche thing. But the stunts with the vans and the bike are superbly choreographed. They have really taken an effort to make this a Hollywood style production and the effort shows up there on the screen and the scale of the production also shows up there on the screen.

I wish future filmmakers who want to make these supposedly slick movies take the Fast and Furious films as an example. There is no amma sentiment in those movies. Their hero doesn’t have to look at the audience and give a message about society. They have a reasonable run time and they’re not flabby. Some of that happens here too. For example, we don’t waste any time with romantic tracks for Ajith. But the generic sentiments keep dragging the movie down.

Now Vinoth made the same kind of mistake in Theeran Adhigaaram Ondru, where the Rakul Preet Singh and Karthi’s sentimental portions kept interfering with the investigation. But at least in that movie, the Rakul character was quickly dispatched, and then the rest of the movie was super intense.

I wish something like that had been done here as well. Because by the end, we are left with a movie that is neither intense nor thrilling. It lies somewhere in the middle, vaguely watchable. I would just say it’s the kind of okayish movie where the characters are less interesting than the stuntmen who operate the bikes.

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