Sunday, February 15, 2009

Vennila Kabaddi Kuzhu

The sports movie, where a team considered the underdog beats all odds to rise to the top, is a staple of several film industries but not our own. Since sports, rather than romance or action, takes centerstage in such movies, it is easy to see why. Chennai 600028 proved that it was possible to make a fun, entertaining Tamil film revolving around a local sport and Vennila Kabadi Kuzhu offers further proof with a sport that is even more local. The well-paced screenplay and interesting characters help turn the familiar story into an engaging entertainer.

Marimuthu(Vishnu) and his six friends are the members of the Vennila kabaddi team in the town of Kanakkanpatti near Pazhani. Though they put their heart and soul into every game, they rarely taste success and naturally, dont have the respect of their family and friends. After tasting defeat even on home ground during the festival, the team sees an ad for a tournament in Madurai and wants to participate in it. Madurai is also where the girl(Saranya Mohan) that Mari met during the festival, hails from.

Having a team sport allows the director to present a diverse group of characters who are both interesting on their own and play well off each other. Each of the players has his own quirks to set him apart so that though they are played by an unknown set of actors, we have no difficulty in telling them apart. And though there are 7 characters to focus on, the director still doesn't lose sight of the supporting characters around them. Through short but effective scenes where they rebuke the players or demonstrate their pride in them, the director ensures that they catch our eye too.

The script mines a lot humor from defeat as it keeps us smiling through the team's low phase. The script knows that the dialect lends itself to humor very well and exploits it with some very funny retorts and remarks. Some of the sequences, like the familiar part of festivals where the guys, blindfolder and armed with only a stick, try to break a pot that is tied up on a string, are laugh-out-loud funny with one funny gag and comment after another but even otherwise, the film never goes for too without making us atleast chuckle. The jokes feel spontaneous and even for longer setpieces, like the bet at the roadside eatery, the punchlines are not always obvious. The humor also helps keep the romance afloat though Vishnu and Saranya rarely speak to each other.

With the titular team starting off on a losing streak, finding an angel in the form of a coach and then eyeing a high-profile tournament, the film follows the story arc of a sports movie quite faithfully. But within that familiar outline, it manages to introduce some minor changes in the way the story proceeds, especially after they make it to Madurai intending to take part in the tournament. Some of these, like the way a couple of previous enmities are resolved, work as they are surprising enough to retain our interest in the proceedings inspite of the predictable story. But others, like the team's path through the tournament, work against our involvement in the movie. So some sequences, like the team's performance after an inspirational speech or their training routine, don't give us the rush they are supposed to in movies like this.

Though kabaddi is a local sport, the movie does show us that it has its own set of problems when it comes to the big league. And since the sport has rather simple rules, it is easy to get involved in the matches shown in the movie as they are picturized with energy. A case in point is the final match. VKK plays with our expectations in the match and this works perfectly only because of our involvement. But it then takes things too far and falters as the epilogue feels unnecessary for the kind of film it has been and so, feels almost distasteful.

The mostly-new cast does an adequate job, conveying their disappointments and hopes naturally. Kishore, who was the villain in Pollaadhavan, has a good screen presence is able to convey what he wants to say with intensity and conviction, inspite of his very strong accent. Saranya Mohan looks a bit more mature than in her recent movies but her performance isn't any different. The songs are melodious and work well in the movie but the background score, especially during the team's ascent, could've used more energy.


At 10:16 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very good movie...One of the movies that actually entertained us among the mindless crap that we get in the name of mass masala movies from vijay,ajith and co.

At 7:44 AM, Blogger Ven Sharma said...

Balaji - Wonder what you thought about the movie ending?

Why did the director kill the hero?
Is it because he wants to be like his mentor director Bala?

The movie was well made otherwise.

At 11:30 PM, Blogger Balaji said...

anon, I agree :)

Ven, I think he did it just for shock value. But as I mentioned in the review, I hated it :)

At 7:52 AM, Blogger Ven Sharma said...

oops, I overlooked your line about the distasteful epilogue.

True sadist, that director.
Q: Name one movie directed by Bala that doesnt have a graveyard scene or for that matter the hero/heroine dies

At 7:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you watch kabady closely, there is no safegaurd for any player like cricketers and other games.I have seen in my village people dying by playing kabadi and nobody knows this. This is the message. 'Kabady should played with gaurd on'.

At 7:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If director would have stressed this point, it may have an profound impact in the future kabady games


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