Few directors are able to sustain an impressive debut film with superlative successive and successful films. Vetrimaaran is one such filmmaker whose repertoire doesn’t follow the one-film-a-year template. Also, creativity cannot be audited thus. Vetrimaaran belongs to that rare tribe of writer-directors whose every film speaks a new engaging, interesting language even if there are few to count. To his credit, he’s also the producer of simple yet poignant narratives like Kaaka Muttai. Also to his credit, he’s also lent his time to understand how one must promote a regional film like Visaaranai in the Oscar circuit. Today, he is a filmmaker whose brand name spells a certain quality, which is why we now await his North Madras saga, Vada Chennai.
Vetrimaaran’s debut film, Pollathavan, might have borrowed its title from the Rajinikanth film of the 80s, but the content and feel were that of a mainstream contemporary triumph-of-the-underdog film. It marked the arrival of a promising director who showed he could weave an entire film out of a small premise. His next film, Aadukalam, saw Vetrimaaran’s arena expand into a larger territory — the commercial and artistic potboiler — which was highly engrossing and super well made.
Visaaranai was gritty and did not star the actor of the other two films, Dhanush, as the lead, but now, Vada Chennai looks all set to re-catapult the actor back to where he belongs: In the list of heroes whose films ensure good business. The music by Santhosh Narayanan has already become a chartbuster and the promos show equal opportunity for Aishwarya Rajesh and other actors to shine along with the talented Dhanush.
Going by the recent trend of good content winning at the Tamil box office, it will be no surprise if Vada Chennai hits bull’s eye, for it has all the ingredients that a Tamil film distributor or theatre owner thinks are necessary for a film to do ‘good business’. Just what are those ingredients — or instead, let’s use the (in)famous word Kollywood (another name I so abhor) uses for a hit film, ‘combinations’?
The first such combination that makes all the difference to pre-release business is that of the director-actor partnership, and in this, Vada Chennai scores 100/100. Vetrimaaran and Dhanush are like K Balachander and Kamal Haasan for today. Of course, they still have to cross the 35 plus film count of the latter pair, but given the era in which we live now, even three or four films in a row which has seen box office and cult success is a sure-shot jackpot.
The next combo (it’s beginning to sound like a food menu, right?) is that of the director-hero-music director, as the audio of a film is its first calling card. And here too, Vada Chennai scores big. The new combo of Vetrimaaran-Dhanush-Santhosh Narayanan has already become a calling card. The next combination is that of the producer-director-distributor and Vada Chennai has Wunderbar-Vetrimaaran-Lyca leading the way. Wunderbar has a reputation for content-driven films and Lyca has been seeing a good run with the films they’ve backed this year, like Kolamaavu Kokila and Chekka Chivantha Vaanam. Add Vetrimaaran to this mix and the film sees a whole new promise.
Of course, a film’s profitability mainly comes from how much cost it recovers, which will be ascertained only post release and the word used in the industry is, ‘collection’. But beyond the two C-s of combination and collection, there is one more ‘C’ which determines if a film works or not. And that is Content. This rests solely on the creators, the artistes, and technicians of a film. Vetrimaaran is easily one of the foremost among his peers when it comes to delivering a film which works on all levels. I trust Vada Chennai to live up to this assessment.
I’ve booked my FDFS for the film which releases on October 17. Have you?
(The article first appeared in Cinema Express)