Friday, November 14, 2008

Vaaranam Aayiram

Behind every successful man is a woman... so goes the famous saying. Vaaranam Aayiram, a self-confessed tribute from director Gautham Vasudev Menon(the middle name was added to his name after his father passed away) to his dad, showcases a man whose life could be used as an example to alter the aforementioned proverb to say 'Behind every successful man is his father'. Gautham's familiar style dilutes the movie's emotional impact somewhat but it is an honest, heartfelt story that would've probably made his father happy.

Krishnan(Surya), who married his college sweetheart Malini(Simran), is now the proud father of a son Surya(Surya) and a daughter. Surya, while in college, realizes that it is high time he repays all that his father has done for him and finds himself a nice job. During the same time he meets Meghna(Sameera Reddy), who is all set to pursue higher studies in the US and vows that he would wed her. With his dad's backing, he travels to San Francisco to get the woman of his dreams. His life from then takes several unexpected turns but his dad is always there to guide him through them.

The film is an ode to the Dad and in that goal it is similar to Thavamaai Thavamirundhu. But while Cheran's film had the dad as the central figure, Vaaranam Aayiram illustrates a father's importance by keeping him in the background. Though the film begins and ends with Surya, the father, it is Surya, the son, who is at the forefront of the film and it's the twists and turns in his life that we are witnesses to. But we get to see the pivotal role his father plays in all stages of his life. It's his dad who inspires him to choose his career; its his dad who pushes him to grow his romance; its his dad who helps him recover from a big personal tragedy; and its his dad who supports him when he finally realizes his life's goals. By choosing this approach, Gautham manages to convey a message but avert the problem of the film turning into a documentary.

The film's other key relationships are also portayed well. Surya and Simran, inspite of not having a lot of screen time, create a screen couple whose love for each other has only grown over the years. Surya's dogged pursuit of Sameera paves the way for a romance that is both cute and convincing and Surya's reaction to its end is one of the genuinely touching moments in the movie. The Surya-Divya romance doesn't quite have the same impact but that is as much due to the inevitable comparison with the Sameera track as it is due to the widely different circumstances. There is some nice symmetry(like the way Surya and Divya travel far to woo their respective beaus) between the two romances but Gautham does well to not overstress it.

The film works well at the macro level. It is engaging, emotional and effective and succeeds in creating an interesting protagonist and charting an interesting course for his life. But the facade starts to crack if we dig just a little bit deeper. The finer details - whether its in the supporting characters or the period sets or the story transitions itself - are a little flimsy. Like, for instance, the segment that is set in the 60s. The film posters and the wig(for Simran) and the costumes are in place but the whole thing looks and feels like it was done on a set, without much effort going into recreating that time period. The feeling is greater since it wasn't too long ago that we saw Subramanyapuram, which pretty much transported us to the 80s. The character of Surya's sister is another sign of the lack of importance to the smaller details. Starting off as an important character as she helps Surya support his family, she is pushed to the sidelines and turned into a mute spectator (about whom we learn precious little) as he goes through all his crises and crusades.

The film is built on relationships, sentiments and emotions and so the detours into action seem like speedbreakers. These segments - like the kid's rescue and the army mission - are brought in quite cleverly and do constitute an important part in Surya's growth. But inspite of that, they feel cinematic due to their very nature and so they feel alien to the movie.

Gautham really needs to delegate the script-writing to someone who is more in tune with the characters in his movie. Considering that its Gautham who shaped those characters, that may sound a little strange but the problem is that he employs dialogs that he is familiar with and probably uses but they don't fit the characters or settings. While its the characters saying all those things on the screen, its Gautham we hear talking. So it sounds rather incongruent when we hear a middle-class man in the 70s address his son as "kiddo" or the same man's wife speak spontaneously in English when her husband has just coughed up blood in the bathroom. This was a problem in Gautham's older movies too but its more pronounced here since the story is more emotional. There are some genuinely effective lines that are heartfelt(like a father's desire to mend his son's fate), funny(like Surya's question to Sameera about her confidence in taking the next step in her career) and natural(like Divya revealing her feelings to Surya) but these are the exceptions rather than the rules.

Surya carries the movie on his shoulders and shows himself to be fully capable of that difficult task. He is able to slip easily into all the stages of both the characters and gets the body language and the expressions just right for all of them. Simran looks old, especially when she tries to pass off as a college girl, but proves to be the perfect foil for Surya once they grow old. Sameera Reddy grows on us by virtue of her character while Divya doesn't show much variety from her previous roles. Harris Jayaraj once again comes up with a fantastic album that offers a lot of variety. Adiye Kolludhe... is the pick of the numbers with some light but energetic choreography and wonderful locales. Mundhinam Paarthene... is a great number but its modern sound is also one of the reasons for the 60s segment not being too convincing. Ethi Ethi... features superb lyrics and some uninhibited by Surya.


At 11:01 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

hello balaji sir

thanks for your review. I think that is your fastest review ever you have written :-)

At 12:03 PM, Blogger ILA (a) இளா said...

So fast....

At 3:17 PM, Blogger mitr_bayarea said...


That was one quick review by you with the complete details. I guess will wait for the tix prices to drop slightly before we head out to watch it.

At 5:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Awesome, thanks theatre il poi pakkalama?
How many stars? :D thanks in advance.

At 11:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just got back from the theatre after watching the movie. I really agree with your review, the movie works very well at the macro level. 2 things that didn't work for me in the movie are: the dialogues - it are jarring & Gautam needs a better dialogue writer for sure, and the sister character - while Surya seems to go through a lot in his life, nothing seems to happen in his sister's life... weird.

At 12:34 AM, Blogger Rajesh Thiagarajan said...

Thanks for the review, BB.

What would be your comparison on the entertainment value of VA vs. other recent movies like Aegan?


At 12:49 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice review, BB!
Going by your Words Gautham must surely read Sujatha's Thirai Kathai Ezhuthuvathu eppadi?
Probably he's waiting for an English Translation.

Dear Gautham:
I know you read Blogs. I just want to remind you of the Golden Rule "If you can show don't Tell".
Dialogues like "I am in Love with you" and "Just do What your heart says" are quite Superfluous to the Context!
Maniratnam and Shankar Delegated Writing to Sujatha and it helped them big time.
Writers are more capable of developing a Character better than Directors.
Thank you.
Anon :)

At 1:56 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Marana mokkai padam...ppl in the theatre were shouting bad words at gautham...

At 11:07 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I saw it today and am glad I did because Gautham has decided to delete a few scenes at the producer's request. He doesn't like it thought and says that is really is not good for the movie (which I agree) but I think it had to be done. I personally loved the movie. There were very few aspects of it that did not work out for me (most of which you have mentioned yourself) but I could not get myself to think about it too much.

The main relationship of the Father-Son was brilliantly depicted in my opinion and that is what I loved. That aspect of the movie I could relate with. I expect most sons rather than daughters to find this movie better at realizing just how much their life has been influenced by their fathers. I also agree with your analogy that TT (which I have not yet seen) concentrated on the father's life and this one concentrated on the son which I thought served better at portraying the influence of dad on son's life. And after quite some time a tamil movie truly brought lumps in my throat in quite a few scenes. You have already mentioned the end of the Sameera-Surya romance which was very good. And quite a few scenes in the second half did the same.

Surya's acting was spot on for the movie. You have already mentioned it and it was really a tour-de-force performance and he carried the movie on his shoulders with ease. I thought some of the makeup for older Surya was a bit off in some scenes but that cannot be said of Surya's body language and dialogue delivery which served very well. I was thinking that he might have studied a bit of the older Kamal's acting from Naayagan to use as an inspiration for VA because I could find certain similarities in Surya's body language inspired by that awesome performance.

The sad thing is that I don't expect it to become a hit here in TN (at least not a blockbuster). Many people (as anon said) exiting the theatre did not think too well of the film (length and a lot of sentiments) and I expect it to be the same in most B and C centers. I guess that is the nature of today's audience though.

VA is my favorite movie of the year so far and Subramaniyapuram comes a very close second. And I know I am being partial to Surya here but I can't help it :)

Balaji Sivaraman

At 1:42 PM, Blogger Srivatsan Sridharan said...


Looks from your review that you liked the movie more than me :)

The movie was good in parts and dragged beyond comprehension in certain places. I personally felt that Gautam had some serious hatred against poor Simran. Makeup was nothing short of atrocious and for me that set the tempo for the whole film. Simran was a wrong choice, a film maker like Gautam should have known this after a few rushes itself!.

Finally pls don't compare it with Thavamai which is one of the few really good movies in tamil cinema (post 2002). I feel Cheran is a better film maker :-P by long way, specially after Raman Thediya Seethai, which I liked and it cemented the fact the actor/director is back on track.

At 2:25 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Should go down as a classic in my opinions. Doesn't live up to Forrst Gump or Charcter but will live long.

Srivatsan, got to disagree with you, Thavamai was torture at times with Cheran, who is a poor man's SJ Suryaah. and RTS wasn't directed by Cheran either.

I loved VA, great film making, acting, music etc. Balaji, did you catch Gautham's Hitchcock-esque cameo? And who was the artiste who portrayed the guy at the airport?

At 9:55 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

cudnt sit in the theatre in the 2nd half...ppl were walking out...worstuuuuuuuuuuuu

At 10:29 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My feeling as i walked out was that gautam has made a honest movie.

The first half was very good. BB, you have made a number of good points and I can relate to a lot of those. Most important among them being the 60's feel during the Surya-Simran romance. I believe that it was intentional though. Meant to be fun and it definitely was. My problem with the movie (not that I disliked it) was that the movie did not have a story to tell beyond a certain point. Everything came across as a filler to somehow get the movie to a closure. As well as the action was choreographed, it did not manage to bring out the pain that Surya was going thro' because of his father's demise. Songs were well picturzed. I totally agree with you when you speak of the dialogues. Its important that they be natural but at the same time also be realistic. Too much English (he did justify it by providing some reasons for it by making both of them well educated, forward looking and ones that listen to Hindi songs quite a bit).

Surya was a revelation. His body language was dead on. The best being the one where he speaks to his son about positive energy

Overall, I would definitely watch this movie once... for rathnavelu, gautam's conviction and surya

At 12:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

gautham menon's movies are only bareable with remote in hand, so you can fast forward the parts where people speak.

i saw him on a shoot once, alas i did not have a hot drink in my hand to dump over his head, and thus teach him about creating naturalistic dialogue.

At 2:15 PM, Blogger B o o said...

"The film works well at the macro level." - Thats why you are good at reviewing and I am not. I did nt like the movie but was at loss on how to explain why I did nt like it. And you are bang on! :)

At 9:51 PM, Blogger Bart said...

The review is almost bang on. However, I agree with Srivatsan that TT was a better movie than VA for the genuinity and depth.
The first half of VA was fun and hence we could ignore the minor issues easily. However, the second half puts this "Lack of depth" in the focus light. So false or superficial that at the end of it, you do not even feel sad about the father passing away. Music is just great and Surya is wonderful. Sameera was good in her role while the rest filled in. English dialogues- there is a limit to this and Gautam has gone overboard and jumped across borders.. Samples: "You look like a million bucks", "Its high time you stop slogging, dad" and so on.
Overall, a very much watchable movie but felt movie didn't justify Surya's performance...

At 11:21 PM, Blogger Kay said...


Gautam Menon like Karan Johar caters to the NRI crowd quite a bit. Minnale was not like that but Vettayadu Velayadu, Pachaikili Muthucharam are examples of some recent movies of his which cater quite a bit to the NRI crowd. That's OK as long as he is clear about his intentions. I dont agree that he needs a different diaglogue writer. Gautam is different and if he is comfortable writing his dialogues and making statements like "Dude, looking snazzy!", that is his privielge.. The film may not run in B and C centers but Gautam did once say in an interview in, that he makes movie primarily to satisfy his inner being and fame and fortune was secondary. He said that making movies was a creative outlet for him and he does it just for that.. So, kudos to Gautam for making a good, honest, down to earth movie... To each his own..


At 11:54 AM, Blogger Srivatsan Sridharan said...


Ungalluku Cheran pidikaathu na okay, athukaaka pls don't compare him S J Suryah :) ( All he does is some crass double entendres)

The whole point is Actors like Surya are pretty much in their prime and if this is what they can deliver I'm deeply disappointed

At 2:33 AM, Blogger Sree said...

hi..nice review but I beg to differ on certain things u hv said.
I watched the movie today, in M'sia and they hv not chopped off any parts in the movie. And honestly, I was a lil dissapointed.
The only thing good about the movie was Surya's exceptional performance and Harris' beautiful songs.
Something was lacking in the movie and I felt that the love-track be it with Priya or Meghna just lacked the charm and seemed so fake.
Simran was probably the only one among the three leading ladies who did her job pretty well and it was nice to see her back after a long time.
Overall, the film was so-so and I m not saying this by comparing it with Gautham's previous movies. VA is different and its nice to see a movie with a different theme by Gautham but it was just not convincing enough.


At 2:34 AM, Blogger Sree said...

and yes, as someone pointed it out...the movie overall didn't live up to Surya's performance.


At 4:03 AM, Blogger Balaji said...

janakan, u're welcome. in recent times, definitely the fastest full review :)

mitr, that's probably ok. i'd say its worth a big screen watch :)

sivajini, yep, IMO theater-la pakkalam. 2.5 * :)

a-kay, the things u mention about surya's sis are exactly what we were talking about as we exited the theater. it started off as a strong supporting character but just faded away :)

rajesh, inspite of the faults, i'd say its one of the better movies in recent times :)

anon, i didn't have a big problem with him telling rather than showing. i had a bigger problem with how he told what he was telling :)

anon, nichayama avlo mosam illa. and i guess i didn't see it at the same theater :)

balaji, cutting scenes, changing climax, etc. is a sad trend since it compromises the director's vision. sad that gautham had to resort to it too, esp. for a movie that's so close to his heart. i, for one, am glad i saw the unedited version :)

srivatsan, i too thot simran's makeup in the first segment was atrocious. but she made up for it with her performance in the rest of the film. she was very natural. and i just compared the themes of the 2 movies. i think they r too different to be compared but for the record, i liked TT a lot more :)

prin, nope didnt catch Gautham in this one. maybe cos I wasn't looking for him since I remember reading somewhere that he decided not to appear in VA. where was he?

anon, agree with the 'honest' tag. but as u say, the fillers in the 2nd half diluted the emotions and so the movie was never intense :)

anon, considering how defensive he got when talking about his dialogs in the comments on baradwaj's rangan's blog, that's gonna be a long lesson :)

boo, thanx :)

bart, yep, the lump in the throat i felt at the end of the surya-sameera romance was just not there when the dad passed away. surprising but its defly because of the lack of depth :)

kay, the movies may cater to the NRI crowd but that doesn't mean all characters can talk in hip, trendy language right? the words have to feel natural coming out of the characters' mouths. that was my point. sure its his prerogative to write whatever dialogs he wants but I was just jotting down how it felt when I watched the movie :)

sree, I guess I agree with u on priya's track but not meghna's. i loved it and thot it was very sweet and convincing :)

At 4:06 AM, Blogger Jai said...

I agree with the part of the sister being sidelined eventually, but well, that's understandable since we r seeing everything through the younger Surya's POV. Could be that they did grow apart gradually as they got older and embarked on separate lives? It can happen to siblings.

The sister would have her own share of stories perhaps, and to capture all that we might need a sequel. I don't understand why people have an issue with the dialogues though...alot of people I know talk like that and why is Simran's usage of English in certain scenes an issue anyway?

At 11:05 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

i m referring to comments by srivatsan.

Tamil cinema has seen a dramatic improvement over the years. I think VA is overall a very watchable movie. Despite the flaws, some moments are very well captured and will surely remain in a youngster's mind like me, esp the scene Surya will say, Junior's ellem oru advice, body nalla built pannuge... ever since watching the movie, i became so immersed with the advice. I guess, the message frm the movie was pretty clear. It was sending out a good message to teenagers. In the end, a positive outcome should derived from a movie.Most movies fail to do so,despite the extravaganza thrown in. And yes, if u think surya isnt a capable actor, take my word, you couldnt find someone better to fit in the role. Most actors are so stereotyped a particular genre, and gladly Surya is one expectional actor who will travel very far in 10 yrs time.

thank you

At 6:04 PM, Blogger Srivatsan Sridharan said...


Yes taste differs, what might be entertaining to you might be boring for me. Though I have to admit that Surya is better of the lot today and has age to his huge advantage, so he should do well as long as he selects good directors and stories.

At 2:46 AM, Blogger rekhs said...

BB I lUVD V1000...
whats wrong with ppl who dont connect to it is probly cos they hvnt lost a luvd one or parent and hav not had the trauma of recuperating..each of those unfortunate ppl wl def realise when the time comes that they hv a huge slice of their parent(s) and that they r immensely proud of that!
if the A centre ppl ( if divided in that manner) has to put up with a naakamukka or lewd lusty double entendres then why shdnt B and C centres get elevated and enlightned with eng dialogs!!!kudos to GVM for making a film sans kollywd masala
...the trouble is we r so USED to watching the same crap that we r not able to identify/appreicate the fragrance of roses!:P...grow up such directors to make a difference to tamil cinema...dont tie their hands!

At 9:35 PM, Blogger Srivatsan Sridharan said...


It's not that we don't love parents or have not had tragedies in life, but to me padam was a plain mokkai, again as I told taste differs (after coming out of the theatre I mean in San Jose I felt I was not alone).

At 9:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

for me too the film was plain mokkai and after cming out of the theatre here in chennai i felt i actually in wave with the entire theatre on this movie....such was the response for this movie ....crap....gauthum watch out

At 10:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Daddy, Daddy, DADDY...oru thadava kooda Appa nu sollave illa. Goutham, ithu thamizh padam da kanna. english dialogue vei, vendaam'nu sollala. athukunu ipdiya?

nalla vela, TN govt thamizh title'kaaga tax deduction vekkailayna, Goutham indha padathukku VA bathila 'Daaddy' in peru vechurupar!

At 4:18 AM, Blogger Sriram said...

lol on previous anon comment.

Super review BB. VA was ok, enjoyed it. But TT holds a special place in my heart for 'daddy' movies.


At 6:23 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

sorry for the late comment...things have been hectic in school...
managed to squeeze in vaaranam 1000 into my schedule...i liked the movie...sure, it had its flaws but at the end i did have a satisfactory movie-watching experience...surya carried the movie on his ever expanding shoulders (figuratively...not referring to his 6-pack or 12-pack!) with aplomb...there were some small yet delightfully sweet of my favs was when surya jr. calls surya sr. on the phone from the US to tell him that sameera loves him...the way surya sr. quickly turns to simran to say, "mudichittaan!" was so spontaneous...surya's really going places...
but the difference between this movie and tt is, indha movie rasika mudiyum...but tt thaan manasula nikkum after the end credits have rolled...

At 1:32 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just saw the movie. I liked your review Balaji but somehow feel the movie lacks in a lot of good elements. Given the fact that I do admire the effort put in the movie, I still have to say that it is very difficult to accept Surya's performane as the dad (let me tell you he has put in his best). there is always something lacking. The movie though a bit lenghty, is not paced well. The screenplay is rushed at many places. Its a great attempt to show the dad son relationship, but I still got very emotional in Thavamai Thavamirundhu (again a lenghty movie not paced well) vis-a-vis vaaranam aayiram. Suriya has certainly given a great effort as the dad (which is not easy) but I feel it was difficult for him because as a viewer, I could not distinguish 2 Suriya's (which I would be able to do with Kamal). He has a great 6 pack though. Suriya is extremely talented without doubt but I see lot of reviews going crazy over his dad performance (even on TV), which I feel lacks the panache. As far as the songs go, Harris is a big disappointment this time arnd with bad compositions and too many inspired background scores. Its getting too repetitive with Harris. the movie is still a worthwile watch, but has not achieved the credit of a Forest Gump inspiration

At 8:37 PM, Blogger Kay said...

Hi BB,

I saw the movie on Friday and Surya graced the theatre with his presence as well. He answered questions between 7:45pm to 8:10pm. He has great presence (albeit a short person - 5.5" max) and wonderful diction. He answered all kinds of questions and said that he was here with Jo and Diya on vacation till the 1st week of Dec. He said that Gautam was concerned with revenue generated so far by the movie and the movie has not fared well at all in B and C centers. He said that people come up to him all the time and say "We dont understand the movie." I was sitting in the theatre right in front of a couple and the gentleman was constantly criticising the movie. Constantly! At one point his diatribe was so loud that several people shushed him.. At one point the gentleman shouted , "Gautam, engalukke puriyale, eppidi B and C centerla oddum!" All in all it was an experience watching the movie... Interesting experience!


At 1:45 AM, Blogger Sriram said...

@ Kay

If those Gentlemen didn't understand the movie, perhaps they belong to B & C centre audience. I do not see what they don't understand in the movie. It's because of these guys there are so many dumb and stupid Tamil movies.

Also if they don't understand, at least they can do every1 a favour and SHUT UP. 'Engaluku puriyala'... adhan unga munjiya parthaale theriyudhey lol.

Sorry about the rant!

At 3:33 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kay and Sriram,

I agree. These fellas shout just to seek attention. Even if they really don't understand, then they can keep their opinion to themselves until they come out of the theater. I have seen girls exhibiting similar behaviors too.


At 10:44 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wonder why when rajni does a senseless movie and people go gaga over it. Looks like tamil cinema has a long way to go. Why can t people appreciate a new cinematic dimension, apart from the orthodox-cum-stereotyped crude crass masala potboiler. Sigh.
No pun intended.

At 2:43 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am not supporting Rajini but this is what I understood from watching his movies.

Rajini is very charismatic. He can single handedly carry most of his senseless movie. Also he didn't claim that he would act only in movies with logic unlike few other people. So, his audience doesn't have expectation on logic part.

At 6:48 PM, Blogger Kay said...

I agree with you guys. The guy who was talking loudly gave me a headache actually. I want to go see the movie again and actually listen to some of the dialogues instead of second guessing them as I had to because of Mr. Loud Mouth. It was very obnoxious.. In case I did not make it clear, I liked the movie quite a bit and thought Surya had done an awesome job. With all the crap that's going around, VA was a breath of fresh air. Not a great movie but a good evening's entertainment...


At 11:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

gautam was in the last scene where they were rescuign the lady. he was the guy leading surya to the location. i think the movie was good but fell short of being great! i just left with the feelign of it could have been sooo mcuh better. but kudos to suryas actign he was awesome and is defintely in a lague of his own. i agree with most of the comments. the movie overall had an artificalty about it cause of the use of english. and the word daddy just annoyed me for soem reason. i found it unatural and when surya kept usign it it made u feel disconnected somehow. overall worth a watch but could have been so much better =)

At 11:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

gautam was in the last scene where they were rescuign the lady. he was the guy leading surya to the location. i think the movie was good but fell short of being great! i just left with the feelign of it could have been sooo mcuh better. but kudos to suryas actign he was awesome and is defintely in a lague of his own. i agree with most of the comments. the movie overall had an artificalty about it cause of the use of english. and the word daddy just annoyed me for soem reason. i found it unatural and when surya kept usign it it made u feel disconnected somehow. overall worth a watch but could have been so much better =)

At 5:25 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good review. Check out my review about the same movie at,

At 9:58 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's a nice film with nice songs.
Write poetry

At 8:52 PM, Blogger Share said...

Varanam Ayiram is very touching.

Free Work from home


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