Cast: RJ Balaji, Sathyaraj, Urvashi, Aparna Balamurali, KPAC Lalitha, Pavithra Lokesh, Visvesh
Directors: RJ Balaji and NJ Saravanan
It is time now to welcome another child into the Indian film family, the comedy team which produced Badhaai Ho directed by Amit Sharma in 2018 had passed on the rights four years later to Boney Kapoor to produce a new baby called Veetla Vishesham. This time this family entertainment is headed by directors RJ Balaji and NJ Saravanan and their huge team. The family melodrama is back again this hot summer with a bag load of humour, slapstick, and tear-jerking sentiments. After attacking Tamil politics in LKG and celebrating the comic fairy tale called Mookuthi Amman starring Nayanthara in 2020, this time around Balaji and Saravanan work on their favourite subject to weave yet another story on the amazing powers of normal Indian women.
Veetla Vishesham centers around Urvashi playing Krishnaveni, a more than middle-aged mom who discovers that she is now carrying a child. What would have been a cause for grand celebrations in an Indian family 50 years ago, is now a cause for some serious embarrassment, not merely to her own family but also to the heavily connected small-town neighbourhood. Contextualized in the modern world’s growing awareness where women are asserting their rights over how and who should be deciding on what is to be done with their own bodies, this film’s subject matter is certainly relevant in India.
We have had a massive family planning program making an impact that only a few countries have experienced. The other factor is however do we as filmmakers and the media at large find it appropriate to make a humorous drama around such a contentious subject will certainly be debated for a long time in various circles. Accepting the fact that directors Balaji and Saravanan have chosen it to fit to remake such a comedy in a melodramatic style. The film while trying to improve on some of the pitfalls in the earlier film has to also concede to certain market perceptions of south Indian tastes.
From whatever angle we look at this film certainly locates the versatile Urvashi at the center stage, Sathyaraj plays Unni Krishnan a loving yet submissive husband and the late KPAC Lalitha plays the tough old mother-in-law and Balaji plays Ilango, the older son who’s all set to marry Sowmya played delightfully by Aparna Balamurali. I’m wondering if Balaji is going to make a signature style of naming himself after historical figures like Gandhi, Engels, and now Ilango, will it be Karl Marx next? I don’t know.
Back to the movie now, the filming style is straight on the lines of a vintage Visu or a Bhagyaraj film presentation and honestly, it takes quite a while to get adjusted to a narration that is so dependent on dialogues and more dialogues to communicate everything. Balaji, though introducing his character as a biology school teacher, does not dwell too long on this minimal context to explain the physiology of pregnancy.
The first half is spent on shaming poor Urvashi and Sathyaraj for their irrational decision to have a child at such an old age. But a few scenes into the second half, from the moment KPAC Lalitha decides to stand by Urvashi’s decision to the last moments of the film you can see why Balaji and Saravanan chose to treat their adaptation to write some brilliant melodrama and go for the kill. One scene after another in the last 45 minutes enhances our empathy for a mother who has chosen to have her baby and deliver her baby.
The film takes care to see that every character is given her or his space to orchestrate a series of tear-jerking scenes while mounting a drama with very high emotional pictures. It is here that I could personally realize the casting of such experienced actors like Lalitha, Urvashi, and Sathyaraj to convey this crescendo, these three giants of yesteryears bring in their years of training in mainstream cinema and provide the new generation of actors on the screen a strong platform to make their leaps of faith. This factor is seriously absent in Badhaai Ho, the Hindi original.
Our experienced actors here are able to maintain a certain definite level of continuity in the screenplay through each shot to ensure a continuous flow of sentiments. I mean just to study, this film is certainly worth watching and this is where Girish Gopalakrishna’s music score with the support of the Prague symphony orchestra does the needful. Borrowing from rich classical melodies, Girish provides an original modern flavor to the experience of emotional enhancements.
I’m also happy to note the consistent and restrained cinematography by Karthik Muthukumar, his simple framings and lighting schemes placed the film on par with many of the better works we see today on the big screen or on international OTT platforms. RK Selva as the editor has managed to keep the pace engaging and constant throughout.
What I would like to personally tell my friend Balaji is that I am not some great philosopher or super film analyst, I am just like you and we are all the same when it comes to reflecting about our mothers. Remember when we would come back from school and ask “Coffee ready ah?” Our moms simply would say “Vandhu eduthuko”. Do you realize this is such a loaded reply about all the various nuances of anticipation, preparedness, love care, and compassion, these two words “Vandhu eduthuko” actually mean if you want it just come and take it, the world out there is a cup of opportunities for you to just go and pick that cup up. Do not expect that cup to be served on your table. That’s what our mothers taught us and some of our intelligent children have learned that lesson very very well.