Cast: Silambarasan, Megha Akash, Catherine Tresa, Prabhu, Ramya Krishnan
Director: Sundar C
In Sundar C’s Vantha Rajavathaan Varuven (I will come like a king), Nasser plays the founder-chairman of a company worth gazillions of rupees. He’s based in Europe. He eats breakfast like a European, with a fork and knife. But his heart is all Indian. It yearns for the daughter (Nandini, played by Ramya Krishnan) he banished from his house when she married a lawyer (Prabhu) who wasn’t worth gazillions of rupees. Now, he deputes his grandson, Aadhi (Silambarasan aka Simbu aka STR), to repair this rift. But before we see Aadhi, we hear of him. When someone expresses doubt over Aadhi’s abilities, his grandfather says, “You’ve seen him silent, now see him violent.” This sounds like an interval-block punch line, which hints that the so-far-silent hero is now going to turn violent. But here, it’s just rhyming wordplay. Like duty/looty. Like sagalai/ragalai. You keep praying no one, in the context of a folk performance, utters the word “koothu”.
And on to the violent hero. In an action scene that involves much chair-hurling, Aadhi beats up a bunch of extras and says, “Yenna nambi kettavanga yaarume ille. Yenna nambaadha kettavanga dhaan neraya peru.” (Translation: More rhyming dialogue.) Soon, he learns what he has to do to keep the story moving, and joins his aunt Nandini’s household as a driver. The number of people under her roof could fill up a small Scandinavian country, and Nandini lords over them with an iron fist. My heart goes out to Ramya Krishnan. The only thing directors want her to do is glare. And scowl. Sometimes both at the same time. When her husband has a heart attack and Aadhi takes him to a hospital, she isn’t grateful. She demands to know why he didn’t pick a better hospital. It’s a wonder screenwriters bother with different names for her roles when all she’s playing is Neelambari. The stereotyping around Yogi Babu is worse. Every film, apparently, is going to crack jokes about his appearance. That isn’t the problem. After all, the reason Laurel and Hardy became so beloved is that they looked a certain way, and the laughs were based on these looks. The problem is that the joke writers cannot think up anything but the most basic “he isn’t going to win a beauty competition” lines. That’s already getting old.
The title is a reference to a line Simbu spoke in the recent Chekka Chivantha Vaanam. There are endless other references to him. Like the fact that he hasn’t had much luck with relationships. Or that he turns up late for shootings. Or that there’s a cool-casual (and somewhat sleazy) aspect to his screen persona. When he mistakenly wanders into Maya’s (Megha Akash) room and sees she needs help zipping her dress up, he does the needful. (The fact that he doesn’t know her at all doesn’t bother him.) The Telugu original, Attarintiki Daredi, was fashioned for another star, Pawan Kalyan. And I mean it when I say “fashioned”. When you have a really big star, you fashion your film around the things audiences love about this big star. But when Simbu steps into that role, you now need to change it to fit Simbu. And just those references to the Simbu-verse alone won’t help.
Simbu is good. He sells a particularly corny emotional scene towards the end — and you cannot do that if you’re not good. But he’s hampered by the things around him, like the Sundar C sensibility. This director’s approach suits films like Kalakalappu, but you cannot make every movie a madcap comedy. Attarintiki Daredi is a cheerfully OTT drama, and in this remake, the emotional beats don’t register at all. Look, I’m not calling the original some great masterpiece that should not be tampered with. But it was made with a crazy kind of conviction, which is why it worked. You have to retain what worked in that movie. Otherwise, you have no movie. The one enjoyable aspect of Vantha Rajavathaan Varuven is Hiphop Tamizha’s infectious remix of Madurai Veeran’s ‘Vaanga Machaan Vaanga’. It shows how you can retain the spirit of the original and yet do your own thing. It’s a lesson this movie could have used.