Chekka Chivantha Vaanam movie review: Mani Ratnam's direction triumphs in a story-driven crime thriller
Chekka Chivantha Vaanam is not your regular Mani Ratnam film. It concentrates more on the story than the gloss.
castVijay Sethupathi, Arvind Swamy, Tr Silambarasan, Arun Vijay, Aditi Rao Hydari, Aishwarya Rajesh, Dayana Erappa, Jyothika
Yes, Mani Ratnam’s Chekka Chivantha Vaanam (CCV) lives up to the hype and expectations created by the trailer cuts. It’s a vintage Ratnam film, which concentrates more on the story than the gloss. The director does full justice to his cast comprising multiple stars; every star in the film has their moment under the spotlight without going overboard. The script is structured in a way that it is plot-driven and there is perfect balance between the screen time allotted to each actor.
Chekka Chivantha Vaanam is not your regular Mani Ratnam film that you may have seen in the last 10 years. His focus is totally fixed on the four principal male lead actors. It is totally an alpha male film with women relegated to the background, providing some emotional solace being their sole job and the director is not apologetic about it. There are no dialogues for the only sister to the three brothers in the film. There are hardly any romantic scenes and not even one lip-sync song. AR Rahman’s music is abrupt and remains in the background.
Senapathy (Prakash Raj) is a dreaded, ageing don who rules Chennai. Right off the bat, we are introduced to this God-fearing gangster who goes to the temple with his loving wife (Jayasudha). Senapathy has three sons, the eldest being the hot-tempered Varadan (Arvind Swami) who runs a part of his empire. The second, Thyagu (Arun Vijay), a cunning guy who runs the Dubai end of his business and the third, the ruthless Ethi (STR) who looks after the business in Serbia. Varathan is married to his Uncle’s (Siva) daughter Chitra (Jyotika), who is the right-hand man of Senapathy. Thyagu is married to a Sri Lankan girl Renuka (Aishwarya Rajesh), while Ethi is in love with Chaya (Dayana).
One day, an assassination attempt is made on Senapathy and his wife which sparks a succession war between the children. They also want to find out the person behind the attempt and suspect their rival, Chinnappadas (Thiagarajan). Meanwhile, a temporarily suspended police officer Rasool (Vijay Sethupathi), who is a friend of Varadan, creates doubts among the brothers. Senapathy tells his wife that he thinks one of their sons may be behind the assassination attempt. Soon after, Senapathy has a sudden heart attack and the brothers resume their fight over who will be the next king to their dad’s throne.
The first half is spent in introducing the characters and a lot of red-herrings are thrown about the assassination attempt. In the second half, the tempo picks up as the brothers start fighting each other, leading to the stunning revelation on top of a cliff. The last 15 minutes are gripping get your adrenaline pumping. One of the major factors that work for the film is its perfect casting. All the four male actors have equal importance and screen space, though Vijay Sethupathi ends up with the best one-liners, which make him the scene-stealer in the climax. The women in the film barring Jyotika, hardly have much to do.
AR Rahman’s 'Bhoomi' plays in the background throughout the film. Santosh Sivan’s camerawork, especially the aerial shot in the climax is superb and becomes part of the narrative along with Sreekar Prasad’s crisp editing but it is Mani Ratnam, the storyteller, who triumphs in the end.
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