Pavithra Srinivasan feels Tamil film Vaagai Sooda Vaa 'looks' good but doesn't capatalise on its strengths. Post YOUR reviews here!
One of the best things about Village Theatres' Vaagai Sooda Vaa, the second film from director Sargunam who earlier gave us the marvellous Kalavani, is its cinematography.
Om Prakash's camera wanders all over an arid, parched landscape, rendering it in sepia tones, capturing the sharp, stark reality of a land and people who literally scrape clay for a livelihood.
Debutant art director Seenu (Sabu Cyril's erstwhile assistant) has simply gone to town with the huts, the props and everything that brings a struggling land to life.
M Ghibran, a welcome addition to Tamil cinema, provides some neat tunes as well, adding some much-needed flavour to the proceedings.
Vaagai Sooda Vaa also comes with a message -- simple and inspiring -- but of the kind that was in vogue around 40 years ago.
The film is set in 1966. The protagonist of the story, Veluthambi (Vimal), has just completed a teacher training course and is looking for work. His father Annamalai (K Bhagyaraj) insists that he do something that furthers his career, so Veluthambi sets out for a remote village, the poetically named Kandeduthaan Kadu, to educate its children for a monthly salary of Rs 30.
Veluthambi's efforts to teach the kids don't work. And there are powerful enemies: the local bigwig JP (Ponvannan)
The set-up is neat, the lead characters mildly engaging, the jokes and old songs featuring veteran actress Saroja Devi are alluring. The build-up is slow, but you wait patently, hoping that it will lead to something extraordinary, a climax worthy of all the effort.
Vimal appears a little uncomfortable in his role as a 1960s teacher. His natural ebullience works in his favour a little, but at times, he looks puzzled, as though he's not quite sure how he's supposed to deliver his lines.
Iniya, who has acted in Yuddham Sei as Cheran's sister, is a welcome find. Shorn of make-up, she's natural, appealing, and very expressive.
Thambi Ramaiyya is his usual hilarious self; Ponvannan is menacing but appears for scant minutes, and there's no time for his character to develop. Ditto for K Bhagyaraj.
Despite the interesting milieu, the movie loses out on the most basic requirement: the story. The plot is wafer-thin, has been seen in countless melodramatic works from pre-MGR days, and gives you absolutely nothing new.
The screenplay barely moves and the influence of movies like Paruthiveeran is obvious. Dialogues are dull at times, and situations are over-explained.
Vaagai Sooda Vaa may have a few advantages going for it, but it hasn't really capitalised on these strengths. This one is no Kalavani.