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Well, well. One can never tell which movie will spring a surprise, can we? Produced by Fox Star Studios and A.R. Murugadoss, Vathikuchi is Writer/Director P. Kinslin's first film. And what a debut it is! With a fairly realistic story sprinkled with some very rousing action sequences, Vathikuchi gives a much needed face-lift to the age-old Man vs. Social Evils tale.
The first thing one would notice straight up about Vathikuchi is the lead hero. Newcomer Dileeban is someone who is not particularly easy on eyes- an opinion I share with the film's lead female character. We have got used to seeing pretty faces running around that even an unconventionally good looking person is having a hard time landing lead roles. I think about this every time I see a movie starring the very talented John C. Reilly. Dileeban plays Shakthi, a share-auto driver and he is tailor-made for the role. It takes some to get used to him but his character is so darn likable that he completely wins you over.
There are three unrelated people who are nursing a deep drudge against Shakthi. We don't know their story but we understand they all want this seemingly harmless auto driver dead. Right when I feared an over-the-top back-story was in the offing, the film took me by surprise. With two very good flashbacks featuring Sampath and Jayaprakash and one not so bad flashback featuring Jegan, the film impressively lays all the motives and sets up a strong foundation for the final act. At the end of Sampath's story, I feared two more back to back flashbacks would break my spirit. Thankfully, the film immediately utilizes an effective non-linear narrative to slowly dole out the rest of the story. Maybe it's because of I'm a huge fan of Aaranya Kaandam, but Vathikuchi is so level-headed in its portrayals that even during the climax fight, in spite of every thing I saw, a big part of me wished to see Sampath- the primary antagonist- live.
When scenes carefully build up to them, fight sequences stir something deep inside us -- a feeling to see someone undo the wrongs in the society. There are nearly five prominent actions scenes and they all work wonderfully. Judiciously using slow-motion, the action choreography are one of this film's high points. They often get over-dramatic with bodies flying higher than gravity would permit, but I didn't have any problem. I was having too much fun to complain.
This is a film which gets the milieu and this is a director who understands the importance of shooting scenes in the very same locations which are mentioned in the movie. The story happens in certain specific places in and around Chennai, like Pallavaram, Soucarpet, Velacherry and Vandalur. So when the Shakti is driving his auto from Tambaram to Velacherry, he is shown travelling on the very same road. Maybe it's just because I live and work in a few of those places, but this attention to detail pleased me very much.
Pattimandram Raja and Saranya Ponvannan play Shakthi's parents, but the film never tries to squeeze some inane humor from them. The performances are decent all around. Anjali's character could have been written better and, even though the love story is largely entertaining and better than we see in most action films, it pales in comparison to the rest of the movie. The final scene at the hospital made me cringe and the film closed on a slightly dull note. But that shouldn't take away anything from the rest of the film's good work.
Vathikuchi is a solid action film that features some nifty writing and risky directorial choices which truly pay off. The pacing is just about right and the songs are never a hindrance. Vathikuchi is recommended.