Varisu Movie Review: An in-form Vijay and self-aware writing elevate this conventional family drama (2024)

Right from the postersand trailerto the pre-release interviews, everything about Varisu clearly indicated a formulaic family drama. This would have sounded like a foolproof plan a few years ago. But in 2023, an A-list actor sticking to this template isn'tthe most exciting idea. But director Vamshi Paidipally and Co have given this age-old recipe a refreshing twist by adding an ample dose of self-awareness and humour. Largely, the film knows when to take itself seriously and when not to. Take, for example, the scene where Meka Srikanth tries to throw a monologue on the divinity of family and love. Before we roll our eyes or take a dig at the cliche, we hear a burst of loud laughter... not from the fansbutfrom the screen. It is Vijay who echoes the mind of the audience, and says, "Edhuku ipo avan kitta sentiment RR music ellam pottutu iruka nee?" Bingo! A potential 'content' for meme creators dodged thanks to the witty writing.

Starring: Vijay, Sarathkumar, Jayasudha, Rashmika Mandanna, Prakashraj, Shaam, Meka Srikanth

The writers of Varisu don't stop there. They make Vijay mouth dialogues like, "Indha sondhakaranga naale toxic dhaan pa!" in a film that paradoxically talks about the importance of family. Of course, this translates to occasional tonal inconsistencies, but an in-form Vijay and the self-awareness of the film make up for the shortcomings. Throughout the narrative, we see Vijay (who plays... Vijay!) transforming from an ambitious Harvard graduate to a globe-trotter, and then from a start-up founder to a business tycoon. While this arc isn't quite novel for a 'commercial hero', it is exciting to see Vijay slip into these roles with consummate ease. The film is peppered with references from his previous blockbusters. There is the knuckle-busting action from Thuppakki, the thumb-rubbing from Ghilli, and the open-arm entrance from Sarkar. Aside from the obvious call back to Poove Unakkaga, the film also drops enjoyable, quick references to the goat sacrifice scene in Thirupachi, the western-classical dance face-off in Pudhiya Geethai and Oh Baby song from Kadhalukku Mariyadhai.

Interestingly, Varisu which was widely speculated to retain the soul of blockbuster Ala Vaikunthapurramuloo, has its very own riotous boardroom scene, where the hero goes all filmy. But Vamshi does it with a rather tasteful twist. The film provides ample space for Vijay to be at his comical best. Whenever Vijay goes a bit overboard with his antics, Yogi Babu pitches in with his sarcasm, once again turning the stretch into effective humour.

Known for his onscreen monologues, it is nice to see Vijay move away from sermoning despite playing a messiah again. Instead, Vijay embracessilence and allows his physical performance to do the talking. One particular instance where this facet is pronounced is hisconfrontation scene with Sarathkumar's Rajendran. In a scene with the potential to become a long-winding exchange of dialogues, Vijay delivers it all with just a look in his eyes and walks away.

However, Varisu isn't completely devoid of the 'Kudumbam na...' messages, andthe film does occasionally become preachy. But, thankfully these stretches aren't painfully long and never come across as moral policing assignments. However, what becomes painful and preachy is the contradictions in the ideologies. At one point, the makers don't judge or gaslight a woman who wants to move out of a marriage with an adulterer. At one other point, the resolution to this broken marriage is conventional, convenient, and contrived. It almost undoes the goodness of the initial pro-choice angle when it came to divorce and separation. Also, there is a fleeting but completely unnecessary body-shaming scene that is distasteful.

If the novelty of the story is your yardstick to gauge a film, Varisumight not rank high. It has plot points and ideas liberally borrowed from Chekka Chivantha Vaanam, Ala Vaikunthapurramuloo, Dharma Durai, and more. Despite the narrative being predictable, it is the conviction of filmmaker Vamshi and the honest performances of the lead cast that elevates Varisu from being just another run-of-the-mill family drama.

The film in a way is the story of Rajendran, a self-absorbed man seeking redemption and peace; and Sarathkumar ably shoulders the gloominess that comes along with the character, almost making up for his animated performance in the raging sequences. Jayasudha probably can pull off a mother longing for love even in her sleep. But the actor goes on to show why she is still the best fit for such roles. Though the camaraderie between Rajendran and Anantha Padmanaban (Prabhu) helps in making the core want of the protagonist effective, Prabhu has very less to offer otherwise. Similarly, I would have loved to see more of Rashmika Mandanna and definitelymore layers to her character in the film. Seeing a female lead without a clear want or a professionis quite unsettling.

The random appearance of "Indha paadalai paadi kondirupavar ungal Vijay" quote in 1995's Vishnu, is probably one of the oddest yet most memorable fourth-wall-breaking moments of Tamil cinema. Fast-forwarding two decades, we have another V film having a couple of interesting fourth-wall-breaking. The best among them is Vijay casually taking a dig at family dramas while making a confident statement. "Starting nala iruku, ending nala iruku, nadula konjam emotions iruku, avlo dhaan podhum! Kudumbangal kondadum vettri!" Well, it is safe tosay that he isn't overconfident!

Varisu Movie Review: An in-form Vijay and self-aware writing elevate this conventional family drama (2024)

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