Reverse Symmetry and Other Nuances: Lessons from VadaChennai

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With Vada chennai (2018) & several other films released this month, Tamil cinema is approaching towards its next leap where the entire nation is looking upon us for great content. How has vada chennai been able to create such a huge impact? In Spite of kammatipaadam (2016) making it huge from our very own malayalam industry, why is Vada chennai garnering so much attention? Many people have been talking about why this attention is being awarded to vada chennai, but none have shed limelight on how Vada chennai could’ve been a ‘even more splendid watching experience’.

Like many others, I’m going to start this by pointing out some of the aspects that I felt necessary for Vada chennai as a film to declare itself superior among the rest. Go ahead only if you have watched the film.

No Hero & Villain!

The concept of hero & villain is being ditched in Vada Chennai. The focus is brought on to the lead characters of the story. In Fact, the director does this by setting us from the first frame by showing us the 4 primal characters among whom the conflict arises in the story. It is only after this that we are introduced to Dhanush (Anbu)- Our hero, who is nothing but another lead character in the story.  When films start tending to ditch the concept of hero & villain, it will automatically result in better cinema. Vada chennai does that perfectly.

Symmetry is good, but Reverse Symmetry?

We’ve come across symmetry in characters. Infact, Anbu & rajan (ameer) are clear cut symmetrical characters in this story. We have ample scenes that justify that their traits were similar. Like,Anbu wanting to give away stolen equipments the moment thambi (daniel balaji) asks for it. The way anbu wants to teach the kids of the area what he knows (Carrom Board). It’s just complete symmetry in their traits. However, the arc of anbu is quite questionable which we will see in the later section.

But, what the writer has done with Guna (Samuthirakani) & Senthil (Kishore) is just thought provoking. If one views the events in a linear chronological order, we can find that senthil from the beginning is very ambitious towards something & takes only his own decisions to do that & reaches a top only to fall down badly in the end. But, if we take guna, he’s outsourced opinions by many around him from the start ( like velu, senthil) & only then he starts taking certain decisions on his own to reach a top. In Fact, we are in the middle of his character arc in the end of Vada chennai (part 1). But, As told by Vetri Maaran himself in an interview, their character arcs are just reverse of each other, we could conclude that the writer has achieved a reverse symmetry in these two characters!

Macro event triggers a micro event, but what does a macro character do?

There is a concept of a macro event & a micro event. In most cases, a macro (bigger) event influences or triggers a micro (smaller) event to occur. This when viewed on the screen makes it a organic treat to watch. Vada chennai had many of these events. In the first, we had rajiv gandhi’s death influencing the small area of vada chennai. Then, we had MGR’s death influencing another horrific death in the small area of Vada chennai. Also having such real incidents in a story makes it less fiction more of semi-fiction which results in better connectivity with the audience.

This story doesn’t stop with this concept just with events. Even characters have this trait. A more powerful character in this story influences a less powerful character in it. Anbu (dhanush) is a result of many such powerful forces that determined his life’s decisions. In fact, anbu is almost like a doll that was being used by many. From the start, he steals because his mother asked him to do so, He plays bet matches because siva anan asks him to do so, he kills a goon because of the future of his girlfriend, he enters jail because guna asks him to do so & kills senthil because guna asked for it. In the end too, he goes against guna because he realises the ooru (place) needs him in the place of rajan.

Not very long lasting characters in the first watch!

Despite all this, Vada chennai would’ve been far more great if it had not been restricted to the 2 & half hours that it is. Many of us had problems with anbu’s character arc. We are consoling ourselves in the name of shorter duration by putting anbu in rajan’s shoes. But, the events on the screen don’t do this fully. Infact, this duration even makes the characters to not long last. We hear a dialogue by rajan when he is being stabbed that says ‘in the end you guys have made me look at my brothers this way’. This line does give us a hint about his character, but it could’ve been portrayed to us better on the screen giving us more depth. Also, this hint takes a repeat watch to find our brains to comprehend. With other characters too, we require a one or two repeat watch to comprehend many traits.

Too much detailing gone unnoticed!

Aadukalam (2011) was able to do this with its lead characters. But, Vada chennai couldn’t because of so many characters. If the first entire part had been only to establish the characters, then it might have been different. We have so much detailing in this film that just fades away so fast. We have scenes of sexual abuse inside the jail where guna’s brother does it to the load man (johnny alias hari krishnan).Its shown to us for a split second when guna’s brother is being murdered. Not many would have comprehended it though. These just pave way for an entire episodic kind of gangster drama.  

We have a scene of group of young boys taking a drag out of the beedi and one says ‘naangale sorandi eduthu vazhichituirukom’ which means they are taking out pieces of Ganja from their hair like dandruff (which they put to evade the checking) & smoking it up. Now, this kind of detailing inside jail is just next level. We also have one character talking about smoking lizard’s tail to getting high. Also, the detailing involved in the first 15 minutes is also immense but too much to take for us as an audience. This again, if it was in a series template with a longer duration, the maker could’ve played out quite easily and could’ve brought a series that would’ve been at par with international standards.


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