Director: Vivek Elangovan
Cast: Vivek, Charlie, Dev, Pooja Devariya, Paige Henderson, etc.
Release Date: 19 April 2019
Sometimes, we tend to miss the gems that are hidden in the dirt, well because..., for the obvious reasons. We always tend to look at the bigger things and sometimes the gems come in smaller sizes. One such instant in cinematic terms is the film Vellai Pookkal. Comedian Vivek as the hero? My God! A team of new filmmakers? Haven't we seen amateurish film na? Right ho! But here lies the surprise.
This review writer hasn't even given a thought for Vellai Pookkal until a few hours ago and watched it on the spur of the moment. What a spur of the moment it is! A wholly rewarding experience. If not for that sudden decision, I would have missed a stunningly brilliant thriller. And the chance to introduce to a wider audience a gem of a film. Let's dive into know what's on offer.
Rudhra is a retired police officer. He is not on speaking terms with his son who is a typical Indian techie in the US. The reason for the coldness in the father-son relationship is the son's choice of bride. He marries an American girl. Rudhra has to go to the US to patch up with his son on one level. But he doesn't even give a nod to the enthusiastic trials of communication by his daughter-in-law, Alice. BTW, his son's name is Ajay.
After this quick and general setup, the story moves to kidnap in the neighborhood. The police instincts in Rudhra wake up and he jumps into action. He is assisted by one of his recent acquaintances, another retired Indian, Bharathidasan. What was perceived as a simple exercise of his skills to kill some time turns out to be a more complex mystery which involves a sadistic drug dealer who abuses his crippled wife and a young girl (a pre-teen at that). And the kidnappings turn violent in no time with blood written all over it.
By the time Rudhra makes head and tail of these apparently separate cases, the criminal gives a personal jolt to Rudhra. With no way to turn back, Rudhra does the unthinkable. What is his decision and how it affected him? Whether he could find the culprits and bring justice to the victims form the rest of the story.
The biggest masterstroke by the debutant director is selecting senior comedy actor Vivek as the protagonist in a dead serious role. Vivek brought all his experience of acting in hundreds of movies to the fore. Though initially, we are in two minds whether to take Vivek seriously or not, he gets into the act rather quickly and surprises us.
Another casting masterstroke is Charlie as Rudhra's friend cum assistant Bharathidhasan. He acts as the much-needed comic relief in otherwise relentlessly serious proceedings. He also helps the audience in getting wind of the thought process of Rudhra in a subtle but brilliant manner. CLAPs!
Dev who played Rudhra's son Ajay is excellent in his role. The father-son dynamic adds another layer to the complexity of emotions to the film. Paige Henderson as Ajay's wife has done a good job. Her trials to communicate with her cold father-in-law warms our hearts. The scene where she calls Rudhra Appa certainly wets our eyes. She has a couple of important scenes of her own and she is up to the task.
The young girl who is tortured by the sadistic drug-addict is gut-wrenchingly brilliant. So is the drug addict. Each and every character makes their mark on us. Especially, the plight of this pre-teen girl is sure to haunt us long after we leave the theatre. Rest of the cast have done decently to keep the film moving without lacking in the acting department. Pooja Devariya shines in a smaller but crucial role.
Writing and direction
Vivek Elangovan did a fabulous job for a first-time filmmaker is an understatement. He used the resources in an unthinkably brilliant way. The way he narrated the film like an Agatha Christie novels is a terrific idea. Also, he followed the narrative devices from some of the greatest detective thrillers than using the regular thriller tropes of Tamil films we have been watching is another plus point for the film. If the narration is great, the screenplay is awesome. You'll surely think the director has directed at least a dozen films in the genre already.
The music by Ramgopal Krishnaraju adds to the mystery with slightly different sounds than we are accustomed to. The cinematography by Jerald Peter takes the cake. The way he captured the suburban landscapes and the claustrophobic locations are marvelous. The lighting, the camera angles, and framing all heighten the tension especially towards the end of the film.
The editing is sharp. There isn't an unnecessary shot in the final output. The production design is superb. The locations are well chosen. The production values are good for the budget and we don't even think about the experience of the makers and the money they have spent once the run time hits the 5-minute mark. A well-made film.
Aren't there any flaws in the film or in the making? Yes, there certainly are! Like in all those grandly made big budget films. But that doesn't matter here. Vellai Pookkal is a stunningly well-made, well-acted, and well-presented whodunnit thriller to come out of a group of filmmaking enthusiasts. Don't miss it! You'll certainly thank this reviewer.
- The cast
- Satisfyingly complex mystery handled in a deft manner
- Vivek as Rudhra is a masterstroke
- Relentless pace
- Music and cinematography
- Not applicable (We can safely ignore them)
Pycker Rating: 3.25 out of 5