From Polladhavan to Vada Chennai, how Vetrimaaran became one of Tamil cinema's most celebrated filmmakers

Raja Sekar

October 29, 2018 13:51:40 IST

Vetrimaaran is one of the most celebrated Tamil filmmakers of this decade but unlike his contemporaries, he hasn’t done many films. In eleven years, Vetri has directed only four films and all of them have achieved "classic" status. Although the director said that he made Dhanush’s Polladhavan just as a minimum guarantee film, it was a sensation among youngsters and after the release, the sales rate of the Pulsar bike in Tamil Nadu actually increased. Polladhavan also gave two fantastic actors to the industry — Kishore and Daniel Balaji.

Vetrimaaran. Image via Twitter

Vetrimaaran. Image via Twitter

The biggest strength of Vetrimaaran is his patience. The closer-to-reality scripts and the humongous effort he puts in the pre-production is what makes him different from other filmmakers. One major curse of the Tamil industry is that directors don’t have the luxury to spend more time on the writing. If directors get a hero’s call sheet, they are forced to lock a script within the stipulated time but Vetrimaaran is an exception.

For his National Award-winning film Aadukalam, Vetri spent nearly two years in Madurai to understand the lifestyle of the local people, their dialect and mannerisms. Any other filmmaker would have written the script, hired a few assistants from Madurai territory and appointed a local production manager to begin the shoot but Vetri stayed true to his profession. Eventually, awards and box-office success kissed the forehead of Vetri, who also openly accepted that Aadukalam had its fair share of inspirations from Amores Perros but most of the Tamil filmmakers feel insecure to reveal the source of inspiration.

Vetri’s Polladhvan was based on the story of his friend Andrew who lost his bike in North Madras area. When Polladhavan was compared with Bicycle Thieves, Vetri said that comparison is a disgrace to the Italian classic. Vetrimaaran is a rare Tamil filmmaker who understands the business and has cracked the formula of attracting audiences to his critically acclaimed films.

As a producer, Vetri waited a long time before the release of Kaaka Muttai, the film won several awards in the festival circuit and all those accolades were properly used for the promotions. The award-winning tag actually helped Kaaka Muttai to secure a fantastic opening and the film also became a massive commercial success.

After tasting two back-to-back hits, any filmmaker would have gone ahead and joined hands with a leading star but Vetri roped in Samuthirakani and Dinesh for Visaranai, which is based on the novel written by M Chandrakumar. Visaranai also won several awards and the film tasted a commercial success because of the clever marketing of Vetri. Films like Kaaka Muttai and Visaranai only proved a point that award-winning films have the potential to mint good money at the Tamil Nadu box office.

In an interaction, Vetri said that his goal in Visaranai was to achieve break-even status. It’s very rare to see a filmmaker who understands the business dynamics and at the same time, doesn’t compromise much on the aesthetics.

For those who don’t know, Vetri started writing the script of his gangster trilogy Vada Chennai in the year 2003 and only the first part of it released a few weeks ago. For fifteen years, Vetri sculpted the script of Vada Chennai and he was ready to wait some more time but only his friends pushed him into the sea.

A still from Vada Chennai. Image via Twitter/@sridevisreedhar

A still from Vada Chennai. Image via Twitter/@sridevisreedhar

“Though the idea was conceived in 2003, I waited for fifteen years because of various reasons. When we made Polladhavan, Tamil cinema wasn’t open to accept films like Vada Chennai. I again thought of making Vada Chennai after Aadukalam but due to budget constraints, I dropped the idea. We finally started the film before twenty-nine months only because Dhanush was in a position to fund the film. Even then, I was reluctant because of the ensemble of actors and the massive budget but my friend Manimaaran asked me to start the jail set work as it would be the driving factor to complete the film," said Vetri at the press meet of Vada Chennai. The film has grossed nearly Rs 50 cr worldwide and the expectations are skyrocketing for the other two parts of the trilogy which is sure to sell like hotcakes in the Tamil Nadu market.

Another big strength of Vetrimaaran is that he is a great lover of literature, thanks to his initial days with Balu Mahendra. Vetri once recalled that while working with Balu Mahendra, his work was to read large volumes of novels and submit the synopsis to his master. This novel reading habit and closely working with writers is another advantage for Vetri. His Visaranai was partially based on the novel Lock Up by M. Chandrakumarl and his next with Dhanush is based on Tamil novel Vekkai. As a matter of fact, Vada Chennai was narrated to him by a North Madras native and he wrote the story in a piece of paper.

There were many filmmakers who started their dream film without knowing the ground reality but later dropped the idea halfway, including the legendary Kamal Haasan. Vetrimaaran is someone who has a picture perfect vision and the patience to live his dream at the right moment. One special quality about Vetri is that he doesn’t do a film for the sake of fame or money. If we ask any Tamil movie buff to name top fifteen movies which were released after 2000, at least three out of four films of Vetrimaaran will be on the list, which highlights the greatness of the filmmaker.

Updated Date: Oct 29, 2018 14:06 PM