Vettai – The Madhavan/Arya Brother Cop Movie I Didn’t Even Know I Wanted

My neighbor brought me back a stack of Tamil DVD’s from her trip to Chennai and I’m slowly making my way through them.  I was looking for a lighter movie and took a chance on Vettai (The Hunt), a 2012  Tamil action comedy.  Arya AND Maddie in a movie together?  I’m in!  This movie just made me smile for so many reasons.

Vettai establishes the dynamic between the brothers with a scene from their childhood.  The older brother is actually timid and scared of everything.  When a bully hits him, the two years younger brother comes to the rescue.  Their father is a policeman, who then beats the younger son for getting in a fight.  He stoically takes the blows silently while the older brother weeps and wails even though not a single blow touches him.

That dynamic continues to the present day.  Madhavan who is physically large and imposing plays a very timid adult.  He’s scared of violence and confrontation.  His younger brother (Arya) is a rowdie, and quick to fight and intimidate anyone who threatens Maddie.  Their policeman father suddenly dies, and by family tradition, Madhavan as the oldest son should take his father’s place.  Arya convinces Madhavan that he should take their father’s job, the same one that their grandfather held.  Maddie tries to get Arya to do it instead, but he has 4 charges against him.

At first Madhavan enjoys the stature his uniform gives him, but he doesn’t know what to do when a young girl is kidnapped by the local goons.  He calls his brother Arya, who comes to the rescue.

  

Never underestimate the powers of disguise in a hoodie or a rain coat!

Madhavan gets the hero accolades, while Arya acts as his secret enforcer behind the scenes.

Interspersed with the action scenes, we have the romantic storyline.  Arya meets a very assertive young woman (Sameera Reddy) when he accidentally knocks over her motor scooter.  She turns out to be the young woman that their uncle wants to arrange a marriage with for Maddie.  It was a nice fake out.  Arya then is attracted to the younger shy sister (Amala Paul).  The romantic scenes give a lot of comedy and sweetness to the movie, and some nice music numbers.  I loved when Sameera’s character forces Arya to change his view of his brother, “Are you the older brother?  You don’t even have a job.  Don’t you think you should address him with respect?”

Things come to a head when Madhavan is badly beaten by the goon gang.  As you can probably guess, Arya teaches him to release his inner lion.  Cue training montage and action scenes.

This isn’t the greatest movie in the world, but it was entertaining and I loved the chemistry of Arya and Madhavan together as brothers.  Madhavan was really, really great in all the scenes where he is the gentle timid sensitive giant.  He has a great comic touch.  In his native Tamil, I think he has an even greater comfort in playing comedy.  I haven’t seen as many Arya movies.  I’ve seen his action film Urumi, and I’ve seen his sweet romantic roles like Raja Rani and Size Zero.   He carries most of the water in the romantic scenes in Vettai, and there’s a funny subplot with an NRI that is supposed to marry the sister Arya loves.

Three and a half stars out of five.   Nice entertaining light action romantic comedy.  Plus Arya and Madhavan dancing together!  Who can ask for more than that?

Irudhi Suttru/Salaa Khadoos – I loved Maddhavan in this female boxing movie

Irudhi-Suttru

I watched Madhavan’s recent boxing movie, Irudhi Suttru (The Snob) in Tamil.  It was released and filmed at the same time as the Hindi Salaa Khadoos.  I watched it in the original Tamil because that was the version available on Google Play, and I wanted to download it to watch on a flight.

Irudhi Suttru had a woman writer/director, Sudha Kongara, which I don’t think I knew going in.  I learned from Wikipedia that she was an assistant director to Mani Ratman for 7 years.  Maddy was really good, and it’s so great for him to come back with a dramatic role like this.  The newcomer Ritika Singh, the young woman boxer was also great.  It got a bit trite in the dialogue in the second half, but was still quite good.

Madhavan’s character Prabhu had been a talented boxer, but his temper and lack of finesse with the politics of the boxing federation has left him sent to the backwater of Chennai to train women boxers.  Our introduction to Prabhu has him kicking out a married woman he’s having a sexual affair with out of his bed.  We learn that his wife has left him, and he has had a string of these affairs.

After he arrives in Chennai, he watches and assesses the talent of the young women being trained by the local coach (played by Nasser), when he spots the sister of one of the boxers attacking and punching to the ground the boxing judges she feels didn’t give her sister a fair shake.

Prabhu tracks down Madhi at the fish market because he is much more interested in training her, than the sister Luxmi who has been already been training for years.  He offeres her money to come train every day with him, to replace the family income she would lose by giving up her day job.

This causes jealousy with the older sister Luxmi, and at one point Luxmi does something that injures Madhi before an important fight.  We’ve seen the journey, setbacks and comeback fights in boxing movies before, but here we have a young female boxer who gets a huge crush on her coach, who she calls, “Master.”  He shuts that down immediately, not in an unkind way, but a matter of fact, “it happens” kind of way.

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The setup first half of the film was very good, but the dialogue in the second half got a bit predictable and trite.  The songs were okay, but not outstanding.  My favorite was probably this one with the two sisters celebrating having some spending money for once:

 

I don’t know what to think about the ending.  The writer/director left it ambiguous as when the young woman wins her final bout, she runs to her coach and flings herself at him and wraps her arms and legs around him.  Is this still just a coach/student relationship?  You can view it both ways.

When Prabhu gives up his position in the boxing federation so that she can fight, Madhi says to Prabhu, “Is that not love?”

And then when she jumps in his arms at the end, but he doesn’t initially put his arms around her.  I think he awkwardly sort of hugs her back, but it could be left for either interpretation.  If you want to think, since she had gone back to always calling him, “Master” that it was just a student/coach relationship, you can think that.  If you want to think it had gone beyond, you could read that in, too.

And I don’t know what I want it to be.  I guess I lean towards the coach/ student bond.

The one scene that bothered me, was when he thought she threw the national finals fight (when her sister broke her hand) and he throws her to the ground, and then kicks her.  I know Prabhu’s supposed to be this volatile character, but the kick really bothered me.  The yelling I could deal with, even though he was really harsh.  He’s supposed to lose it.  A friend told me she viewed it that it showed how he viewed the girl just as he would have a male boxer, and treated her just the same.

I loved that the actress playing Madhi was so athletic.  I learned later that she is a MMA star in India, and had never even acted before.  I think that was smart of the filmmaker to choose someone so believable in the training and fight sequences.  I can’t believe she didn’t know Tamil and learned all those lines phonectically!  She was great!  Now I’m sort of wondering if she was more natural in the Hindi version of the film.   I haven’t seen Mary Kom yet, so I can’t compare this film to Priyanka’s performance.

But Maddy!  Oh my gosh, it was great to see Madhavan be a bad ass bad boy at the beginning especially.  And then I loved how he was this great coach, and just dealt with her crush — hey, it happens, don’t worry about it, now go put on your track suit and let’s get to work.  He is a flawed character.  I contrast it to SRK in Chak De! who seemed more saintly than this.

And he looked AMAZING!  I wasn’t sure about that whole longish hair and beard when I first saw the trailer, but man, did I love it.  He was so big and buff!!

With a plot like this, you can’t help but think a lot about the Clint Eastwood film Million Dollar Baby.  Now obviously, Clint Eastwood is a million years old in that film.  But it’s also a boxing coach relationship with a young woman, and how intimate and close it is, even if it’s not sexual at all.  Maddy wasn’t QUITE old enough to be fatherly.  At least not in an Indian film world.  (And thank god he didn’t have to kill her in the end!)

I give three and a half stars out of five.  Definitely worth a watch.

On a complete side note I feel like I have been seeing the actor Nasser EVERYWHERE recently.  He was the Dad in Jeans which I recently watched.

And then he was a supporting coach in Irudhi Suttru
Then he was the villain in the Telugu movie I just watched!
In looking up his name, I discovered he was in Baahubali!!  Mind BLOWN.