Sangathamizhan isn’t what you expect from Vijay Sethupathi. But it’s a better film when compared to Rekka, Kavan, Junga, Oru Nalla Naal Paathu Solren, or Sindhubaadh—for that matter. Agreed, the actor has set a benchmark for himself by starring in quality films—including Aandavan Kattalai, Vikram Vedha, Chekka Chivandha Vaanam, 96 and so on. But it’s not fair to expect a Seethakaathi or a Super Deluxe from him every single time. Once in a while, it is okay if Vijay Sethupathi beats up a bunch of men, while they fly in the air, following a single punch.
Here is why I didn’t mind Sangathamizhan. Vijay Chander’s writing is somewhat consistent. At least, in the beginning, he cares to establish this is what the audience is going to watch for the rest of the two hours. There is zero cheating business. You clearly understand the tone of Sangathamizhan and the director’s intentions. In a fleeting shot, the camera focuses on a panther idol; then, you get the actor’s close-up and slow-mos. Enough said.
Sangathamizhan’s leading ladies—Raashi Khanna and Nivetha Pethuraj are not loosu ponnus. They are independent women. They speak their mind. For instance, Kamalini (Raashi) doesn’t shy away from professing her love to Murugan (Vijay Sethupathi). She appears sorted even after a drink. In a phone conversation, she casually says, “I am confident this relationship will work” and states why. I am not saying I was okay with the makers casting Raashi Khanna—because I believe the film sincerely needed someone who understands and speaks good Tamil, considering its premise. (You name a film ‘Sangathamizhan’, and cast a non-Tamil heroine. I don’t understand why. All right; you may say “commercial reasons”. Again, I don’t understand how and why.)
You don’t judge Kamalini for who she is. When Soori passes off a comment at her, Murugan intervenes, and says, “Decent-a pesunga, sir.” This is the writing I was talking about. In the second half, Thenu (Nivetha Pethuraj) daringly asks a local politician to plant saplings in and around. I was rooting for her and I was rather disappointed that Nivetha’s character didn’t travel throughout. Had I seen a Tamil ponnu like Aishwarya Rajesh or Priya Bhavani Shankar in the role of Raashi Khanna, I would have been happier. This doesn’t mean I didn’t like Raashi Khanna—just that I felt a Tamil-speaking heroine could have done more justice to the character.
Sangathamizhan, of course, is a cliched film and doesn’t take itself too seriously. (Vijay Sethupathi calls Soori a ‘hero’. He is; Vetrimaaran is directing him next). But you gotta agree, it is Vijay Sethupathi’s mass-iest film till date. You see the self-indulgence. Lots. But it works. Naan Kadavul Rajendran appears in a Nithyananda-like cameo and predicts Murugan’s future—assuring someday he will get a call from Mani Ratnam’s office. Further, he says, Murugan will act alongside Rajinikanth and Nayanthara. A big sigh. But hey, these things thankfully don’t go overboard. Agreed; it is annoying. But it is also fun.
Had some other actor starred in Sangathamizhan, it would have been a dud. Thanks to Vijay Sethupathi; it’s amazing how he lends his star power to a painfully mediocre and a predictable, run-of-the-mill story. See, this guy is neither conventionally good-looking nor has a six-pack. Yet, manages to effortlessly please the audience with charisma, style and swag.
Soori gets the most interesting dialogues in Sangathamizhan. In a confrontational scene, he says, “Double action padam-na, idhu dhaane, sir? Onnu, Apoorva Sagodharargal-route, illenaa, Raajadhi Raja.” I was laughing out loud. Please, feel free to judge me. What I don’t understand is—some of these reviewers laugh at such scenes, but come out of the show, and say, “I didn’t like the film.”
When you have no problem if Rajinikanth, Ajith or Vijay mouth punchy dialogues, you should also not have a problem listening to Vijay Sethupathi.
Sure; Sangathamizhan is a bang for your buck and has those must-have-mass movie ingredients, which will appeal to the B and C centres. But you don’t often see him in colourful MGR costumes, shaking a leg for jarring mass songs that bring us to our feet. That’s the whole point, right? Projecting Vijay Sethupathi as a ‘mass star’.
Once, I remember asking Vijay Sethupathi, why he still does films that we don’t want him to do anymore. He spoke in length about taking the middle road, balancing the arthouse cinema and commerce. “I can’t do a film for myself all the time,” he jokingly said. “Siladhu mokkaiya dhaan theriyum,” he acknowledged, adding, he often does movies on a goodwill basis.
I get why Vijay Sethupathi did Sangathamizhan. Perhaps, he had his reasons. Maybe, he liked working with Vijay Chander. Maybe, he had given a word. Maybe, he wanted to do a film for a legendary production house. Maybe, he doesn’t mind a bit of self-indulgence. I wish the film had released on Deepavali. But at the same time, I don’t mind admitting that Vijay Sethupathi deserves a better film than Sangathamizhan.