Vendhu Thanindhathu Kaadu movie review: Simbu is terrific as a reluctant gangster

The movie humanizes the lives of gangsters who’re at the bottom of the chain.

Karthik Keramalu September 16, 2022 13:19:27 IST

3.5/5

  • cast

    Simbu, Siddhi Idnani, Raadhika Sarathkumar
  • director

    Gautham Menon
  • language

    Tamil

    Muthu (
    Simbu) narrowly escapes death in the opening scene of Vendhu Thanindhathu Kaadu. It’s a scene that directly speaks about his hardship because the accident occurs while he’s in the middle of his work. He lives in a village where the job opportunities are just a handful. What does he earn then? Almost nothing. His mother, played by Radikaa Sarathkumar, after getting a sense that he’ll come into his own somewhere else, tries to pack him off to a bigger city.

    Therefore, Mumbai, the city that never sleeps, becomes Muthu’s new home. But his new home is not a comfortable one. Although he’s openly welcomed by men who’re more or less in the same boat as him, he seems like a fish out of water. Muthu’s apprehensiveness rises to the surface in bits and pieces. In the small parotta shop where he toils, he learns sooner rather than later that he’s a disposable entity.

    Vendhu Thanindhathu Kaadu movie review Simbu is terrific as a reluctant gangster

    Gautham Menon, who’s made a name for himself as the maker of cop movies, turns the tables with this one and bakes a saga on gangsters. In a scene where Muthu is told to attack a guy from a rival gang, he refuses to take part in the mindless task. But when push comes to shove, he starts firing from his handgun as though he always knew it would help him keep his head intact.

    Vendhu Thanindhathu Kaadu humanizes gangsters. Menon doesn’t sympathize with the world of crime they get into. But he gives them real feelings that they can wrap their fingers around. Before Muthu steps into the underbelly of the underworld, you get little touches in which he’s given short tours of the trade. There are also some dialogues about the connection between poverty and dreams and the endless cycle of violence.

    Imagine being on a giant wheel that doesn’t come to a stop. The thrill of being on top of everything and everybody else disappears when it keeps turning without giving you the chance to get out and take a breath. And for people who are at the bottom of the chain, the perks are not going to be too much. If all the gangsters were making enough money on their hit jobs, they wouldn’t be sweating in eateries. Only the boss, who calls the shots, can afford to stay in five-star hotels. And the rest of them will have to stretch their legs on others’ legs.

    The little touches extend beyond the tours. The first hour of Vendhu Thanindhathu Kaadu is breezy. The man with the muscles, with whom Muthu gets off on the wrong foot, turns out to be a simpleton who yearns to reunite with his wife and child. When I gave an ear to the song “Mallipoo” on a music streaming app, I thought it was unimportant and unexciting. But its placement in the movie is perfect. It throws the cliché away and makes you look at all these different men, who share a single room, with new eyes.

    Vendhu Thanindhathu Kaadu movie review Simbu is terrific as a reluctant gangster

    The songs, which are about half a dozen, are great. They move along with the story. However, the romantic tracks, perhaps, simply needed to be montages. The idea of making Muthu and Paavai (Siddhi Idnani) lip-sync to Thamarai’s verses is laughable. In an otherwise genuine drama, these faux moments rip apart the grittiness. I was ready to buy the whole love-at-first-sight angle that wouldn’t even add verve to Muthu’s step, but I wasn’t ready for this silly attempt.

    And the climactic stretch unnecessarily makes Muthu a larger-than-life rowdy. He is, of course, the hero who sets the ball rolling, and his journey begins from the scene where he asks a few passers-by, in Mumbai, if they can guide him to the parotta shop where his future awaits. But dragging him towards eternal darkness is nothing more than a traditional bait for the sequel. I’m sure there’s space for another saga that includes all the major characters (portrayed by Neeraj Madhav, Jaffer Sadiq, etc.) from this movie.

    And I’m also sure that it’ll put Muthu in a position where it becomes easy for him to forget that he’s just another ordinary guy from an ordinary town. I’m not unwittingly distributing spoilers. These titbits are in the trailer, too. And if the hints are any good, I’m guessing that the sequel will focus on making it a Scarface (1983) for the Tamil audience. Would the actor in Simbu then tower over Jeyamohan’s script (in case he writes that one, as well)?

    I enjoyed watching Simbu as a fellow who does most of the talking within his mind in Vendhu Thanindhathu Kaadu. I’ll miss that in the sequel, though.

    Rating: 3.5 out of 5

    Vendhu Thanindhathu Kaadu is playing in cinemas.

Karthik Keramalu is a writer. His works have been published in The Bombay Review, The Quint, Deccan Herald and Film Companion, among others. 

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