Vella Raja review: Amazon Prime's first Tamil web series has its highs but fails to realise its potential

Haricharan Pudipeddi

Dec 11, 2018 12:24:50 IST

On paper, Vellaraja is as exciting as Sacred Games, and that’s a compliment the former really deserves. In both these series, the existence of the primary character – about whom we hear a lot throughout - is in question. If it’s Nawazuddin Siddiqui in Sacred Games, it’s Bobby Simhaa (Deva) in Vellaraja. Both are dreaded crime kingpins, wanted for various unlawful activities. However, unlike Nawazuddin’s menacing character Ganesh Gaitonde which still remains fresh in our memory, Simhaa’s Deva isn’t a character you’re going to remember for a long time. This also applies to most of the characters in Vellaraja, which has its highs but never fully realises its potential.

Poster of Vellaraja

Poster of Vellaraja

Directed by Guhan Senniappan, Vellaraja predominantly unfolds in a lodge where Deva seeks refuge with a large consignment of cocaine in his possession. As a crime story, Vellaraja has a lot going for it. It revolves around a cocaine heist gone wrong, corrupt police officers, a fearless lawyer willing to take on the system and much more. For a story that pretty much revolves around Deva, we’re introduced to far too many characters which really don’t make sense in the bigger picture of the story. It just feels like all the characters were brought under one roof to build suspense which then gets dragged for ten episodes.

Parvatii Nair’s character for instance comes across as very interesting in the beginning. She plays Teresa, a cop who is specially appointed to deal with the drugs situation in the city. In her own voice, we’re told she has been transferred over 20 times so far in her service and has an impressive track record with her cases. She’s a badass when it comes to dealing with crimes, but for the most part of the show – easily the most annoying stretch — we see her reading case files and talking to rowdies, learning as much as she can about Deva. When you finally see her in a brief action episode, you’re not as excited as you were when she was first introduced. The same applies to Deva as well as we get to learn about his past quite late in the show and by then all the thrill has fizzled out.

Vellaraja redeems itself strongly somewhere in the sixth episode and by then a lot of time is wasted on backstories of characters we really don’t care about. There’s a terrific action stretch involving Deva, and we get to understand why he’s feared and wanted dead by other gangs, but again this short-lived burst of thrill doesn’t quite elevate the show.

Guhan and Lokesh Kanagaraj, the director of Maanagaram, as writers of the show, shine in parts and never on the whole. A lot of time is invested in narrating stories of characters that are least important instead of focusing on the prime characters – Deva and Teresa. We learn about Parvatii’s character from her own monologues, and I kept wondering why she didn’t have a solid back-story which could’ve really made us root for her.

If only Vellaraja was a five or six part series with tighter editing, it could’ve worked really well. Unnecessarily extended in parts, the show still manages to deliver more than expected for a first attempt in the web series space.

Updated Date: Dec 11, 2018 18:23:20 IST