Tamil movies fans in New Jersey are doubly blessed this Diwali.
Not only did we celebrate Diwali by stuffing ourselves with Laddus at the local Bridgewater Temple, we also had the unsurpassed thrill of watching Tamil film star Ajith Kumar in the new film Vedalam.
Oh, I can hear the silent prayers gurgling through millions of Tamil minds, Kadavule, please give us a wonderful Thala-Deepavali every year?
Vedalam is an exquisite amalgam of revenge, romance, comedy, altruism, spiritualism and violence, the likes of which have never hit Tamil screens.
Even seasoned lexicographers would be hard put to describe Vedalam and Ajith’s peerless performance in it.
In the first half, we see Ajith in Kolkata as the soft-spoken good-natured cab driver Ganesh with holy ash smeared on his forehead and demonstrating great affection for his sister Tamizh (Lakshmi Menon). (These days the Tamil audience won’t recognize a Tamil movie unless a key character is named Tamizh like Telugu films must include the scream Champaestanu at least five times.)
Occasionally, we glimpse the steely resolve and leonine strength beneath Ganesh’s placid exterior when he single-handedly demolishes a gang of savage thugs on a white yacht.
OMG, what a beautifully choreographed fight that has Ajith use the dead body of a thug to defend himself.
If you ask me, Ajith is the true Bahubali of India, not some Prabhas or Gobargas.
It’s a decades-old, ironclad rule in Tamil films that baddies must look depraved and, boy, do the villains look evil in Vedalam. Surely Satan is a Brad Pitt compared to the bad guys in Vedalam.
And all it takes for Ganesh to tame some bad guys into submission in Vedalam is to call them beautiful.
That God takes care of good people is proven when Arjun, a wealthy, ‘foreign-returned’ passenger in Ganesh’s taxi falls in love with the cabbie’s artist sister Tamizh. I loved the scene where Arjun’s rich family comes to Ganesh’s humble house beseeching the cabbie for his sister’s hand.
So realistic, so true to life in India where millionaires fall for siblings of drivers, sweepers, maids, barbers and coolies every day.
Only in Mera Bharat Mahaan doth art immitate life, right?
Director Siva frequently gives viewers shots of Lord Ganesh and sometimes both Ganeshes in the same frame. I had a hard time distinguishing Lord Ganesh from the mortal Ganesh (Ajith) when both occupied the same frame. I’m almost sure the halo was behind our mortal Ganesh a.k.a. Ajith.
If the first half of Vedalam is sheer ecstasy, the second half is nothing short of a cinematic masterpiece.
Our Ajith, he with the paunch, white hair, fiery sneer and deadly arms, is Vedalam, a rowdy who’ll assault anyone for the right sum.
Such is Vedalam’s prowess that even Tamil Nadu police officers gladly pay him generously to save them from other bad guys. How stupid must the CIA and U.S. Special Ops be not to pay ISIS and prevent attack on Americans.
One can’t but marvel at the scriptwriters who craft a scenario where three victims of Vedalam’s thuggery take up shelter in the rowdy’s house. If only Dawood Ibrahim’s victims had taken up shelter in “Bhai’s” house in Islamabad after he bombed or evicted them from their Mumbai homes, life would have been far better for them.
But it’s Vedalam’s change of heart after the murder of Tamizh’s blind parents that took our breath away. At that cathartic moment, there must have been a tsunami of tears in every theatre.
The ne plus ultra of Vedalam is, of course, the “fair & lovely” Ajith (even the bad guys talk glowingly about his fair complexion in the film).
When Ajith flexes his muscles with that trademark insane sneer, he puts Arnold Schwarznegger, Chuck Norris, Sonu Sood and even Rajinikanth to shame.
No guns needed. Just his beefy arms or the dead body of one of his victims will do as a weapon.
When the paunchy Ajith shakes his legs as he yodels Ganpati Bappa Morya on the street of Kolkata, he makes Beyonce and Michael Jackson look like amateurs.
Oh, when the white-haired Ajith romances Shruti Hassan it’s as if the clouds have parted to give us a glimpse of the very heavens. Tho Thweet.
But Ajith is at his best when he dons the good-natured compassionate hat of Ganesh. I looked down at his feet to see if they were touching the ground (when we were young, we were told Gods’ feet never touch the Earth).
In a nod to this handsome saintly star’s secular credentials, we see him singing paeans for Lord Ganesh and soon after spot him in a church. Surely the star even visited Gurdwaras and Mosques when I blinked at the wrong moment.
If Ajith Kumar is the piece de resistance of Vedalam, Shruti Hassan is the icing on this beautiful cake.
Playing a lawyer, Shruti Hassan lends enormous dignity to the legal profession via her antics of hiring false witnesses, shrieking like an abandoned baby baboon every five minutes and plotting various infantile stratagems with her ‘juniors’ to harm Ajith and his sister.
Thanks to Tamil comedians like Soori, Santhanam and Vadivelu, I’ve never felt the loss of Charlie Chaplin. Soori’s ‘adulterous’ comedy track is so beautifully woven with the rest of the Vedalam story that I couldn’t fathom where it began or ended.
Heir to Rajinikanth
Now that Rajinikanth’s films have been kissing the dust with monotonous frequency, the question After Rajini who? has been cropping up more frequently.
Ajith Kumar’s peerless performance in Vedalam is definitive proof that Thala has no challengers for the title of the next Superstar of Kollywood.
It’s the great good fortune of the Tamil film industry that we’re blessed with an actor of Ajith Kumar’s talent and charisma.
Although Ajith has featured in over 50 movies, Vedalam will long be remembered as the jewel in his crown.
In an era, when crude and garish Tamil films are the norm it’s refreshing to watch a gem like Vedalam where Ajith routinely swats 20 heavily armed bad men amid ear-splitting noise without a sweat.
For all those who revel in classy and classic movies, Vedalam is not to be missed.
Vedalam Rating – 6.75/5