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Viduthalai part 1 directed by Vetrimaran speaks about the common people’s political understanding. The question of whether it is worth understanding by everyone spurs us on to the theatres where the film is being screened.
The storyline of Viduthalai goes as follows: (Spoiler Alert)
A railway bridge near Arumapuri is blown up with a bomb. Over 30 people are killed as an express train is caught in the explosion. Based on the leaflets left behind at the scene of crime, the police say a terrorist organisation called ‘People’s Army’ was behind the conspiracy.
Subsequently, Chief Secretary A Subramaniam (Rajiv Menon) announces that all supporters and abettors connected with the outfit will be put on trial. Perumal Vathiyar (Vijay Sethupathi) and engineer Ramesh are among the leaders of the outfit who are included in the list of wanted criminals. Thereafter, a special squad camp headed by Raghavendra (Chetan) is set up near Arumapuri.
Kumaresan (Soori), a constable at the base, is transferred to the camp. His job is to carry food to the policemen working at the checkposts around the camp. On the very first day, Kumaresan takes a poor old woman to the hospital who is fighting for her life despite Raghavendra’s order not to do so.
There is no denying that Viduthalai is a critique of the AIADMK led by MGR, which was in power in Tamil Nadu at the time when the story is said to be happening. Pa Ranjith’s film Sarpatta Parambarai and Rafique’s Rathasaatchi have also made similar criticisms
Therefore, he is punished by being forced to work day and night continuously for several days. During that period, it is his acquaintance with the old lady’s granddaughter Thamizharasi (Bhavani Sre) which is the silver lining to him in the otherwise dark days. The friendship gradually grows into a love affair.
In the meantime, a rough sketch of Perumal Vathiyar, whom no one has ever seen, is prepared by the police. Kumaresan, who happens to see the picture, says he has already seen the man in person. But the policemen refuse to believe it.
Meanwhile, the old lady (Agavamma) refuses to accept Tamilarasi and Kumaresan’s love affair, saying, “If the policeman comes to know that someone in our family is in the people’s army, he won’t agree to marry you”. When Kumaresan is informed of this, he reacts the same way as expected.
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A few days later, Kumaresan changes his mind when he learns how Thamizharasi’s family had been tortured by the police. When the lovers decide to get into wedlock, the police crack down on the village, torturing the people to disclose details about the People’s Army activists’ relatives living in the village.
The situation reaches a boiling point when women are stripped naked and tortured. Fearing that Tamilarasi too would be subjected to the atrocities, Kumaresan informs his superiors about the whereabouts of Perumal Vathiyar.
Is Perumal Vathiyar caught by the police? Is Tamilarasi too ill-treated? What does the narrative culminate in?
A patient watching of Viduthalai will answer these questions.
The People’s Army’s existence and terrorism is attributed to the state government’s permission given to a foreign mining company to invest in the Arumapuri hills
The setting of Viduthalai Part 1 is made in 1987. In the eighties, some groups propagated revolutionary ideas inherited from Marxism and Tamil nationalism. However, the film does not offer any ideological elucidation of those theories. It just shows scenes of how the normal life of ordinary people is destroyed by the excesses of the police.
While much of the film shows the police in poor light, focusing on their excesses, it does show the human face of law-enforcement through the character in the lead — Kumaresan — who is an ordinary cop not in the least inclined toward any political party. By describing him as a duty-conscious and conscientious policeman, director Vetrimaaran finds it quite easy to visualise scenes wherein the subordinate is harassed by his superiors.
The films shows scenes of the horrific torture that police subject those who are brought for questioning, both men and women.
When the chief secretary says, “I don’t know what the super boss thinks’, it is evident that he is always in a position to apprise the Chief Minister of relevant matters, depending on the latter’s mood swings.
Only those who still remember having read in newspapers about the Ariyalur railway bridge demolition and the Vachathi violence in 1987 can easily catch the echoes of those incidents in the film
The screenplay is written in such a way that each character justifies their actions. So anyone can enjoy the film even if they have no great political knowledge, unbothered about the underlying political connotations. At the same time, there is no denying that Viduthalai is a critique of the AIADMK led by MGR, which was in power in Tamil Nadu at the time when the story is said to be happening.
Pa Ranjith’s film Sarpatta Parambarai and Rafique’s Rathasaatchi have also made similar criticisms. Just as in those films, dialogue in sensitive scenes in Viduthalai too get ‘muted.’ The line, “No, he’s really a ‘vaathiyaar’ as he has worked as a teacher,” spoken by a character in the film can be easily decoded only by those born around the 1950s in Tamil Nadu. Similarly, only those who still remember having read in newspapers about the Ariyalur railway bridge demolition and the Vachathi violence in 1987 can easily catch the echoes of those incidents in the film.
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Great visual experience
Everyone, including Soori and Bhavanisree who give realistic performances, and even those with cameo roles in Viduthalai Part 1 have done a very good job. The script put more than three dozen faces on the screen, keeping the viewer engaged. However, it is the meticulous work of cinematographer Velraj and editor Rama that has refused to allow the audience to get distracted even for a moment.
Director Vetrimaaran was deeply invested in this project and that explains the rich visual experience the audience gets. He seems to have made it a two-part film because otherwise the story would take over four-and-a-half hours to be narrated grippingly. This is why in the first half of the first part, he has shown the love scenes of Soori and Bhavanisree in detail. Yet it does not feel tiresome.
Had the director decided to cram the whole story into a single film without a sequel, what is now the climax would have been an interval.
By making Kumaresan easily connect with the common people, the film appeals to the people who don’t care about political policies and principles unless they bring overall benefit to society
On the flip side, there are, of course, a few tiny drawbacks.
The story is narrated through Soori’s voice; the occasional cinematography seems to have used some substandard devices. More importantly, while the name of the character played by Gautham Menon in the dialogue and VFX is mentioned as Sunil Menon, the name ‘Sunil Sharma’ features in the band he is wearing. It is not clear how Vetrimaaran’s team has made such a bloomer.
Vetrimaaran has designed Viduthalai Part 1 with more elegance than his previous ventures. It is part of his workmanship that he does not use the chance for propaganda and instead focuses on visualisation of the tortured minds of the characters.
By making Kumaresan easily connect with the common people, the film appeals to the people who don’t care about political policies and principles unless they bring overall benefit to society.
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