Starring: Prithviraj, Prakash Raj, Gopika, Lakshmi Rai, M.S. Bhaskar, Sampath, Srikanth and others.
Music: G V Prakash
Production: Prakash Raj
A witty satire of the perils of stardom in Indian cinema. Though Vellithriai, the Tamil remake of Malayalam’s Udayananu Tharam, lacks the original’s brilliant touches, it is still entertaining to an extent. Vellithirai brings back the successful duo of Prakash Raj – Prithviraj together and the combination works well, if not as superbly as the legendary Mohan Lal - Srinivasan combo in 'Udhayananu Tharam'.
Saravanan (Prithviraj) is a struggling assistant director. He lives in Kodambakam, where there are several other hopefuls and wannabes: friends and rivals struggling together. Saravanan’s dream is to make his own film and he has a foolproof scheme to achieve this goal: write a sure-fire script and insist on directing it himself. His roommate, Kannayan (Prakash Raj) a sly, struggling and untalented actor hatches a plot to steal the script, pass it off on his own, and insist on being the star of the film. One day Saravanan pitches his story to Trisha (playing herself) and is shocked to discover that Trisha already knows the story. His dreams shattered, he turns to the famous actress Mythili (Gopika), for help. Can Saravanan outwit Kannayan who has now become a big star?
We won’t elaborate more on the plot that takes interesting turns except to say that the climax borrows from the Hollywood satire about moviemaking, Bowfinger. Prakash Raj in an interview to The Hindu said, “Don’t call it a remake. Call it an inspiration.” The Tamil keeps the outline of the original’s plot but changes many details, including the dialogue, which is written with an eye to a Tamil audience. Vellitherai deftly satirizes commercial cinema: and in the process indicting Indian stars and their nearly fascistic behavior on and off a film set. The most pointed dialogue is when Prakash Raj says to his friend, 'Mustafa turning into Hanuman is possible only in tinsel town'. The satirical portions in the film have been crafted deftly, especially the scene between director and star about the absurd age factor of Indian movie heroes.
Prithviraj is wonderful in this role. He doesn’t stereotype the struggling artist but gives the character doubt, integrity, and compassion. Prakash Raj is flamboyant and complex as the bad actor who has to act to save his life. A challenge for any actor: how does a good actor play a bad one? His over the top stylish makeover as the star in the second half may make him look funny, but that is the point: to make fun of this pompous man. Gopika as expected is quite natural. Though the film’s focus on the personal problems of a heroine makes for good viewing, her extended mushy act does get a bit tiresome.
Everyone in Vellitherai has worked hard to make this resemble a movie about a movie as much as possible. M.S. Bhaskar playing the manager’s role, and Charlie as production manager illustrate this best. Cinematography by Paneerselvam is top notch. One of G.V.Praskash’s melodies is really foot tapping: 'Kanavugal' canned at several beautiful locations is a visual treat. But his background score does leave lot to be desired.
The choreography and sets for the songs are tasteful, even ironic. They are at once mocking and sincere, suggesting that commercial cinema is always a compromise: something a serious filmmaker like Saravanan is forced to contend with on his road to success. Viji, the debuting director, who had earlier scored handsomely for his dialogues in movies like Mozhi and Azhagiya Theeya, seems to be learning the ropes in the direction front. Climax for one could have been shaped up better. Overall, movies about movies are rare enough in Tamil cinema and a new addition to the genre is always welcome and the attempt is much appreciated.
Verdict: Good, but not as good as the original.