Starring: Vijay, Genelia, Hansika Motwani, Saranya Mohan, Santhanam
Direction: Jeyam Raja
Music: Vijay Antony
Production: Aascar Films

Vijay is back to what he does best; mass entertainers, and what better time to unveil a mass entertainer than Diwali. With the music already a rage, the excitement was palpable as fans headed in droves to theatres on the festival of lights.

Velayudham is seen in many ways as a comeback to triumphant ways for Vijay. Yes, Kaavalan was a respite, but it is Velayudham that will more or less decide whether the tried and tested formula that have been followed for Vijay starrers for almost a decade can still hold the audience.

Lets make things clear first, Velayudham holds no surprises in the premise or the central conflict. It is not only something that is seen in a large percentage of commercial entertainers, it is also along lines that are very similar to quite a few earlier Vijay films. But, Vijay films have always been about his presence making things much more exciting than they appear to be in the script.

Velayudham deals with ‘one man saving the society from evil forces’ premise. Yes, we have seen it many times before. Here, the story is about how and why the man rises, how Velu becomes Velayudham. Once he has risen there is no looking back as he hunts down one bad man after the other, but that also earns him enemies who are nothing short of bloodsucking vampires. How does that affect his personal life and how he puts an end to what he began?

As you might guess, the seat of action is Chennai, cinema’s chosen city to portray all corrupt people in Tamil Nadu and the messiah is one who arrives from the village knowing nothing about the notoriety of the big bad city. Of course, he soon finds out and decides that it is better to react than be subdued. And, there is a generous dose of brother-sister sentiment thrown in.

Déjà vu anyone! Well, don’t mind that because Raja has woven a script that makes you forget all this and concentrate only on the screen. The first half is really a joyride, especially for Vijay fans as he is introduced as the fun loving, mischievous young man who will  go to any lengths to make his sister (Saranya Mohan) happy. Vijay is an absolute livewire, be it in the electric dance sequences or the enjoyable comic exchanges, first involving Parotta Suri and M.S.Bhaskar and later with the extremely effective Santhanam. Of course, the director has not failed to keep pushing the central plot ahead steadily to leave the interval intriguingly poised. The second half arrives with more of action than anything else. Yes, there is place for a bit of romance and also some cleverly placed comedy sequences late into the half, but on the whole action does dominate. Again, as we have seen repeatedly with commercial films, it is the overdose of the action element, especially projecting the hero as an unassailable superhuman that makes viewing a bit difficult. Velayudham too falls prey to the same errors, though not to the irrecoverable extent that many other movies have fallen. Raja intersperses high octane action with a couple of well placed songs (Molachu Moonu and Rathathin Ratham) and a very sentimental pre-climax portion to keep the audience from feeling action weary. But, the dominant feeling as the end credits start to roll is that a racy and intelligent climax (not that the one now is non-inttelligent) instead of the hero’s mass appeal and a preachy message would have made the movie much better.

Raja has done a fine job of mixing all the elements that go towards making a mass hero film, though he has lost the balance a bit in the last hour. His adeptness at placing comedy, romance, sentiment and the mandatory 5 songs into a script that has an alter-ego(istic) superhero should be commended. Nothing looks out of place, as we enjoy Santhanam’s wisecracks, Vijay’s dances and the brother-sister sequences. It is a while since we have seen Vijay excel in an emotionally heavy scene, Raja gets it out of the actor, in Velayudham. Also, placing 5 songs in a movie with none of them sticking out like a sore thumb is quite an achievement; though we should say that Vijay’s presence is a major factor in ensuring this.

Everyone in front of the camera has done a fine job. Vijay is sprightly, energetic and every bit the way we love to see him. He has experimented a bit with his look in the songs and they have come out well. Hansika is there in many scenes, but for most parts is a silent spectator, being called upon once in a while, mostly for glamour. She does not look out of place as a village girl, but the makers’ claim that she would remind  us of Khushboo is an overstatement. Genelia gets quite a significant part and looks convincing. A laugh is guaranteed every time Santhanam is on screen. Saranya Mohan too deserves a round of applause for being good enough to make the audience feel the depth of the siblings’ bond.

During most of the talkie portions, the camera strictly adheres to the requirements. Some well shot scenes within a train are worth mentioning. But, it is in the songs that the lens turns on the magic. At least a couple of them are visual treats. The capture of landscape for Molachu Moonu is delectable. Action too has been designed well. Though the movie is of the superhero type, the fights have not been taken to those levels; keeping them down to plausible levels (by commercial cinema standards). Dialogues too deliver the occasional punch and there is one particular reference to the rather benign ways of India.

Velayudham is a regular commercial entertainer which shows one man rising for the masses to right the wrongs in society. Yes, we have seen this kind of movie many times. But, a deftly written script keeps us engaged on screen for most parts until Raja gives into the temptations of adding extra mass appeal to a film that is already built around it. There are many scenes that instantly remind us of films seen earlier, but Viijay’s presence makes up for these glitches. There are also a few instances where the dialogues have political overtones (or are we imagining things, given the nature of the season). If the director had steered clear of these elements and concentrated on building a solid last hour which did not rely too heavily on the leading man’s charisma to carry it off, Velayudham would have been an even better end product.

Verdict: Regular mass entertainer spiced up by Vijay.

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