Give Mahinda Rajapakshe a camera and tell him to make a documentary on world peace, let Ranbir Kapoor make a movie on manliness, ask Ilayathalapathy Vijay to make a video on the art of acting or challenge A Raja to make a film on the evils of corruption. If any of the four quoted instances happen anytime in the future, you may react the way you are likely to react after seeing Veppam.
You’d normally expect a director, especially a female, who has graduated from the Gautam Menon School of cinema, to make a stylish romantic flick complete with an overdose of English dialogues. But maybe Anjana Ali Khan wanted us to appreciate her daredevilry. Maybe she wanted us to acknowledge the fact that she has the potential to break stereotypes and to explore new domains seldom associated with female directors. Unfortunately for her, she has got her most important calculation wrong: had she apprenticed under the likes of Selvaraghavan or RGV, who have made films with similar characters that are scarily close to ones that we may get to witness in real life, Veppam could have been a noteworthy product. A question mark looms large over that possibility too, because the storyline is as stale as my canteen food and the “twist” in the movie is a disgrace to the word itself. A 5 year old kid who was sitting beside me in the theatre was narrating the overtly obvious second half to his dad who was listening with rapt attention! A forecast of things to come by a 5 year old is not such a crime in a Romantic flick, but for a whodunit script that wants to call itself a suspense thriller, it’s an offence that warrants capital punishment.
Veppam could have been the “Ok, watchable” kinda movie in spite of its hollow storyline if only a little more attention had been paid to the screenplay, the narrative. All characters in the movie are uncivilized people who hail from North Madras possibly, where education is as abundant as common sense among Justin Bieber fans. Ten minutes into the movie, it’s exceedingly apparent that the characters have been sketched by a Peter(Madras Basha word for an upper middle class person who finds it difficult to communicate in Tamil due to his/her familiarity with English) or by a person who has been trained or taught to think like one. So every time one of those Basin bridge characters speaks in Madras Basha, you find it hilarious because you can’t help thinking that they have been written in English and then translated. Veppam has one of the most ridiculous set of dialogues I have come across in the recent past. Horrible!
To Veppam’s credit, it has a good looking protagonist (Nani) and an apt second fiddle (Nani’s elder bro in the movie) who have come up with good performances. Karthik and Nithya Menen are seen in extended guest roles as usual. It’s commendable on Karthik’s part to have accepted this kind of a role with so little scope, possibly to shed his “American Mappilai” tag but I think it’s going to take more of such efforts to convince us that he can be something else on screen. Veppam has extraordinary music but unfortunately, it’s a misfit again. If the songs from Pudhupettai had been replaced by the ones in Vinnaithaandi Varuvaaya, this is what it’d have looked like. The instruments used in the songs are the sophisticated ones, the ones that tales of romance yearn for; this kind of a movie calls for a few raw tunes with the spirit of the setting intact: we get the opposite.
But the most hilarious aspect of Veppam is the “ammaji” character. Outrageous casting. The character’s looks, her body language and the outfits that she sports in the movie guarantee her a place in one of those BRU ads where the maami says after a brief coy grin “ithu BRU naa”!
I am not daring enough to conclude that a GVM assistant or any Peter for that matter can’t make a good movie on people involved in shady deals in the dark streets of north Chennai. After all, Vishnu Vardhan surprised me with the chic Pattiyal, one of the best gangster movies I have come across in Tamil. It’s just that a GVM assistant is more likely to be coronated with the crown of success when she attempts a stylish romantic flick or a glossy cop movie where the focus is on characters that speak English most of the time. Anjana may go on to become a good director; this is her first attempt after all. But I presume that she’d boost her chances a tad more if she attempts a genre that she is familiar with. She’s just got to get her heart and mind together. Right now, they are miles apart!