While Ram Gopal Verma churns out his cop-and-gangster films by the dozen, down south in Chennai, director Gowtham Menon directed what is argubly the slickest Indian cop movie ever with 'Kakkha Kakkha'. Since 'KK' director Menon made a Bollywood misstep with 'Rehna Hai Tere Dil Main' before returning to Chennai to work on his ambitious follow-up 'Vetaiyadu Villayadu' starring Tamizh superstar Kamal Hassan.
What becomes clear at the very outset, is that Menon loves his cops. Unlike the Indian cop caricature which spans the variety of bumbling fool, corrupt bastard and righteous-hardass-who-breaks-out-of-the-system-to-do-the-right-thing, Menon's cops are flawed individuals who refuse to broken down by a system that turns all the odds against them. His cops are family men whose loved ones are frequently dragged into the line of danger through no fault of thier own, his cops break, bleed and weep. It is this sympathatic and respectful eye that menon views the Khaki establishment that makes it feel like an original.
'VV' begins with a mis-step playing like a typical Tamizh flick to the star system and Kamal Hassan fans by having Hassan's character 'Raghavan' send a gang of goons through windshields and wooden crates. After the prolonged credit sequence, the movie wastes no time in getting to business, when a friend of Raghvan has his daughter kindnapped and dismembered. The case picks up no leads and meanwhile, Raghavan gets a transfer while his friend moves with his wife to New York where they meet with grissly ends. Raghvan moves to New York on the case where the body count multiplies and pretty soon it is clear that a sociopathic serial killer is on the loose. Almost as a parallel track, a warm relationship is forged between Raghavan and Aradhana (Jyothika), an emotionally distraught woman caught in an unhappy marriage. The rest of the movie sees these to seemingly parallel tracks inch stiflingly close to each other.
'VV' is hardly your average Tamizh blockbuster. It's sensibility is more Hollywood which Menon endorses by playing a scene against posters of 'Hannibal'. The action scenes hark of the early Hong Kong John Woo. There are songs, but Menon plays them to an advantage by adding to the story in the form of a montage or a flashback. There is no comedy- no Vadi Velu, no Vivek or other band of comedians doing thier obligatory schtick. There are light moments but never a good laugh that will disipate the disturbing atmosphere. Cinematographer RaviVerman may get gimmicky at times but his style is nonetheless arresting and lends style and finesse to the proceedings. The gore is unrelenting and crimson, the kind to do Tarantino proud and may cause the squeamish to wince more than once.
It is not that 'VV' is without faults. It exposes its villains about mid-way through the movie and for about thrity mins since then the movie seems to be confused and plain slumming ahead without much inspiration. And while the villian in 'Kakkha Kakkha' was an all time great, subtle and affective, the villians here are a bunch of screaming wailing psychos who come across more as annoying than threatening. An item number does almost nothing to help the narrative and at three hours the movie is a tad too lenghty for a serial killer flick.
But in chosing Kamal Hassan as the lead, Gowtham solves any problem of the movie being an absolute bore. Even with the expanding hips, Hassan is one of the most exciting actors to watch, whether he is in drag or strutting around like a bald buffed up psycho. For an actor of his caliber, the role isn't much of a stretch and he imbues the skin of his character effortlessly. Jyothika, just like she did in 'Kakkha Kakkha' turns in an affecting performance that adds one more hue to the movie. Prakash Raj, like all great actors, turns a bit role into a memorable one.
For all its flaws, Menon has created not only a worthy companion piece to his classic 'Kakkha Kakkha' but probably the most exciting piece of cinema this year. Period.