Viduthalai Part 1 First Day First Impression: A Soulful Soori Turns This Procedural Drama Into A Study On Compassion

10 key highlights from an early show of Vetri Maaran’s hard hitting drama co-starring Vijay Sethupathi
Viduthalai Part 1 First Day First Impression: A Soulful Soori Turns This Procedural Drama Into A Study On Compassion

Director: Vetri Maaran

Writers: Jeyamohan (novel "Thunaivan"), Vetri Maaran

Cast: Soori, Vijay Sethupathi, Gautham Vasudev Menon, Bhavani Sre

  1. With Viduthalai Part 1, Vetri Maaran is back on familiar turf, placing a piercing human drama in the middle of a powerful struggle against systemic oppression. But what separates this call-for-revolution piece — in theme and style — is Soori’s take on human virtue. The film unfolds in the fictional Armapuri hillside district of southern Tamil Nadu, which comes with a deeply socio-political past.

  2. Lines are drawn to separate the good vs evil, the police vs locals, the oppressors vs the lowered caste, the Makkal Padai terror outfit vs the encroaching mine tunnel project. But as we’ve learnt from Vetri Maaran’s cinematic bible, nothing is as simple as it seems.

  3. Soori is nothing short of magnetic as Kumaresan, who places honour and kindness above everything else as a low-ranking police driver assigned to the contentious area. “Aren’t we here to serve and help the people,” he recurrently asks even when he is often reminded of his place (“Naamala varumai naala policekaaranga aanom: Poverty drove us to become cops,” an officer tells him). But he refuses to suppress his ideals even while keeping his head down. Soori captures this balancing act with ingenuity. 

  4. Kumaresan’s moving arc is the cumulative result of every small act of compassion (an innocent car lift brings him closer to the love of his life, while another such lift inadvertently brings him closer to the man he’s taught to be after). 

  5. Vijay Sethupathi makes a special appearance as Vaathiyar aka Perumal, the leader of the insurgent outfit, the history of which is conveyed through a taut animated sequence, diegetic radio sounds and political speeches. This comes off as a smart choice in a few instances. Note how a minister’s speech about the mining project and its association to the rebel group’s uprising is faintly heard in the background as Kumaresan and Tamilarasi (Bhavani Sre gives an adequate performance if you’re able to look past the brownfacing) have a warm moment. 

  1. But sometimes the film leaves us wanting more – especially when much of the film revolves around Vaathiyar and his thought-provoking ideologies. The film rushes through most of its scenes through fast cuts, never letting us breathe or internalise an atrocity, before which another one is thrown at us to chew on. 

  2. But whenever we do get a breather, the film’s visual language is magnificent. The film’s opening sequence, which covers the cataclysmic aftermath of a bombing, plays out like an elaborate battlefield scene (reminiscent of Roger Deakins’ edgy camera work in 1917). R Velraj’s frames take us through grief, destruction and ruin in a single take shot that evokes feelings of seething rage and guilt. 

  3. This feeling of true and unnerving discomfort is never quite delivered again by the film, which sprints through much of its screenplay. But what we do take home with us are the silences and a few fleeting yet formidable visuals — like that of an immobile pair of limbs sticking out of a police jeep. 

  4. Even if Vetri Maaran chooses to reserve Vaathiyar’s story for a sequel, he manages to paint a distinctive picture even without saying much. The director’s flourishes are always a joy to observe and in Viduthalai you notice it when a deadly insurgent stops to ask for permission before entering a house even in the middle of his manhunt, or when a running joke about the humble chow chow turns out to be a disguised take on economic status and internal hierarchy. 

  5. Ilaiyaraaja’s comforting music is an interesting choice that offsets the film’s grit and spirit. It works best during Kumaresan’s moments of coming of age, as he discovers his place in the unforgiving police unit in the hills, and the existential grander scheme of things.

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