So uninspired, so uninventive is Viruman that at one point, I began playing a little game of comparison. Like Raghuvaran sees Manickam and imagines Baasha, I saw Prakash Raj’s Muniyandi and imagined Ghilli’s Muthupandi. Both characters are supposed to be evil but imbue their performances with a certain theatricality bordering on humour. I saw his mother (Vadivvukarasi) and remembered her rather similar character in Arunachalam. I saw Viruman (Karthi) making his entrance into the film with a dance of arrogance and nonchalance, and I pictured Paruthiveeran’s protagonist. Of course, in that film, Yuvan Shankar Raja delivers an unforgettable album, and the same cannot quite be said about his work here. I spent some time thinking about that too, as Viruman dragged on and on. Director Muthaiya’s latest template exercise is that sort of film—it allows you time for plenty of casual musing, while it goes about checking the usual boxes.
Though preoccupied in thought, I found that I could make accurate guesses about everything happening in the film. A new scene shows someone lighting a vilakku in a temple and instantly, you can sense that the heroine's arrival is imminent. Who else is going to be as devotional, as chaste and pure? The role is played by Aditi Shankar, for whom this film functions as a quick exhibition of her dancing ability. It’s in those brief moments of unhindered dancing that her character seems to show any real personality, but then, those portions are mostly imaginary. Once the heroine gets established in a temple, it’s time for a villain scene, and then, a fight scene, and then, a comedy scene, and then, a duet… Good films keep you invested enough to not notice the formula of it all, but in films like Viruman, the dull blueprint screams at you to be noticed. By around the 90-minute mark, with at least an hour to go, I was dreading being subjected to more of the same.
And that’s when something within me snapped, I suppose. Suddenly, every event in the film began feeling funny. The audience I saw the film with, seemed to have undergone a similar transformation as well. Leaving aside the intended humour (Soori’s one-liners and an auction scene, for instance), there’s plenty of material to laugh at in this supposedly serious film. In one serious scene, a bad guy—with intentions of causing trouble—asks the restaurant owner to bring him eggs, and the latter shows his resistance by bringing back a slate on which he’s drawn five circles. The bad guy, in a fit of fury, threatens to kill Viruman and his father: “Appanukku munnadi magana podren, maganukku munnadi appana podren.” It’s Muthaiya’s interpretation of the classical chicken or egg problem, I suppose.
In a better film, you would care more about the father-son enmity between Prakash Raj and Karthi. Here, the writing never really digs into their relationship, apart from simplistic confrontations. A big self-immolation scene, for this reason, ends up feeling exploitative. You are supposed to feel sad and/or shocked, but you feel nothing. The final resolution too feels way too easy. If Viruman were a more serious, impactful film, I might have wondered aloud about all the quiet approval for marriages within Viruman’s family and the community. For instance, though Viruman is shown falling in love with a woman, rather conveniently, she’s his ‘moraponnu’ already.
The film also stresses on the importance of ‘maanam’ (and as one song goes, ‘Viruman maanam mattum peru soththu, adha seendi paatha vizhum kuththu’). Several dozens of guys, in this film, are at the receiving end of these kuththus. Unfortunately for us though, these fight scenes don’t show any real inventiveness either. Soon as you see an expansive setting (like an open field, an empty warehouse…), you know that a fight scene is incoming, and bad guys are going to bounce more times off the ground than a rubber ball. At some point in the first half, Viruman comments, “Elaam palasaa irukke…” I doubt I could come up with anything more straightforward to summarise this film with.
Cast: Karthi, Aditi Shankar, Prakash Raj