Vetri Maaran might happen to be the most versatile contemporary filmmaker, and I am vouching for it on the basis of only two of his works. If we take Visaaranai on one hand, and Vada Chennai on the other, we can understand how this filmmaker can adjust his scape of narrative portrayal according to his satisfaction.
Visaaranai, being an adaptation of a book based on a real incident, had a more direct, rustic and visceral approach. The crisis was filmed without any cushion of cinematic techniques. The dialogues were on the face, with blood spurting out from the speaker’s mouth at times when he was tortured. The frailty and powerlessness of the characters wrongly accused were disturbing, and the camera angles, background sounds, nuances of performances, and even the color of the film were tactfully created to be nauseating. There was a sense of unabashed curation of a story that was meant to be told as it was. The final few minutes of the film, where the victims try to run through the darkness, amidst a confused crowd of vengeful policemen, was shot in minimal lights comprising only some torches. It was done so because it demanded so, and the maker excelled in the portrayal.
Focusing on Vada Chennai, we are thrown into a Vetri Maaran-esque land of Shakespearan characters, with loud background scores, songs whenever necessary, and a smart projection of the star power of Dhanush. This film is a journey of a character through a mesh of other important characters around him, and by the time we come to find similarities with a certain Shakespearan tragic political play, we are engrossed into the politics of drugs, alcohol, gamblings and carrom in a particular part of Chennai. This film also shows reality, and that too in a very rustic and visceral manner, but the director knows where to tone down the presentation (compared to Visaaranai), and where to do just the opposite. This film has a certain angle of creating a ‘hero’ out of Anbu (Dhanush), with comprehensive share of action sequences and slow-mo pose shots. But, they don’t seem over the top to the slightest. It builds the character so calmly, that when he begins to do the ‘hero’ic acts, we are convinced of his abilities to do so. We are by then witness to his weaknesses, and vivid mockeries of the character. The director has the power to tell you on the face that this is not your 1000 crore super hero doing all that he can. You know Vada Chennai before you get to see Anbu’s shackles breaking.
Visaaranai and Vada Chennai might be flipsides of a single coin, as far as the corruptions are shown and character portrayals are concerned, but the treatments make them so detached from each other, that you won’t be able to find any connecting link between them. Vada Chennai is that ambitious project of the maker, with which he dared to risk his own conscience, but he is too smart to leave his comfort zone to make something bigger than itself. Thus, it stays to be a blown out perception of reality, and there lies the confidence of the maker.
Both the films, and other works from Vetri Maaran is available in various OTT platforms. If you have not yet tasted the flavours offered by this significant filmmaker, it’s high time you do so.