The opening credits of Ippadai Vellum bring together some terrific set of Indian achievers in various fields. There is Sachin Tendulkar, Kalpana Chawla, Abdul Kalam, Sundar Pichai and the likes. When pictures of such greats popped up immediately after the National Anthem, a stray thought asked me if I should stand while watching the film. I said, “No. We haven’t gone that far yet.”
Well, for a film that starts talking about India’s greatness (without using dialogues), Ippadai Vellum simplifies too much for the sake of the audience. It is like you go to a fast food shop and order a masala dosa, and end up getting bite-sized pieces of the dosa (with the potato poriyal, chutney, and three types of sambar with it). Gaurav Narayanan, the director, does not even wait for you to tear baby dosas from the daddy dosa. In spite of this spoon-feeding, the film has, at its heart, some interesting ideas (however, please, do not try them at home or elsewhere).
Udhayanidhi Stalin belongs to the category of actors that needs the strength of the screenplay (along with several other factors) to taste success. Ippadai Vellum shows how an actor who does not have too many chips on his shoulder (for stardom and acting ability), can manage to walk through just fine. Udhay has never been the top star. His films do not break records and maybe, this has given him the room to experiment. He came out of the shadow of mindless comedies last year with Manithan, and now he does the same with Ippadai Vellum.
This movie comes from the director of Sigaram Thodu. I remember watching that film three years ago and enjoying it. Sigaram Thodu, too, had exciting little ideas (remember the prison break scene?). Here, it is about how terrorists use email to communicate with each other. When Daniel Balaji, who plays the main antagonist Chota, drafts an email and logs out without sending it to anybody, the first question that would irk the viewers would be, “Why didn’t he send it to his fellow terrorists?” That is answered in the climax appropriately.
But then, this is primarily a film that depends on coincidences. And rightfully so, we will have to believe when Udhay (playing a smart man who’ is jobless due to recession) gets picked up by the police in connection with terror-related activities. On the other side, Soori (playing a dubbing artist) is brought in by the same force for the same reason. The conversation that takes places between these two people at the hospital, where they are admitted, balances humor and tension (faced by Udhay’s character) in a genius manner.
The film takes a subtle dig at the way we look at terrorists. Look at how Daniel Balaji’s character is introduced. The voice-over in the beginning says that it took six months to catch the bomb-maker Chota because he is not a Muslim. There is also a religious angle to the love story of the leads. Udhay’s Madhusudhanan and Manjima Mohan’s Bhargavi are in love with each other. This angers Bhargavi’s brother, Dheena Sebastian (played by RK Suresh). Overall, the social commentary, within the framework of the movie, works. The characters, or the story, does not paint the town in religious colours. It would have been a different movie had it done that.
Maanagaram, the hyperlink charmer, which released earlier this year, was a rather nuanced take. This one does not trust the audiences’ brains as much as it relies on Madhusudhanan’s quick thinking. This detracts from the little suspense the film boasts of. You will not bite your nails in anticipation of what is going to hit you; you will merely go with the flow.
Nonetheless, I am going to call Gaurav Narayanan the chhota (little) Murugadoss of ideas. If the latter writes scenes to make his heroes and villains seem intelligent, the former does that as well, albeit with lesser known actors.
By the way, Gaurav, tell me, what is the connection between the Tendulkars, the Chawlas and Ippadai Vellum?