In essence, Vendhu Thanindhadhu Kaadu (VTK) is KGF — a rags-to-riches story which traces the life of a young boy, not wanting to be enslaved, leading by example to those who are oppressed around him, and eventually becoming a powerful gangster.
However, unlike Rocky Bhai (Yash) in KGF, who is a gangster by choice and driven by a purpose (his mother’s wish to rack up every gold in the world), Muthu Veeran (Silambarasan TR) in VTK is a gangster by chance who is forced to dive into the clumsy and deep rut of the underworld.
The story revolves around Muthu, a poverty-stricken, distraught young lad from a remote village in Tamil Nadu. He migrates to Mumbai, the city of dreams to create a hopeful future for his mother and sister.
The film explores trust, betrayal, fairness in war and love. It also digs deep into how money and authority can exponentially empower the violent and destroy the lives of the ones who are in the receiving end of abuse.
Everytime Muthu (Simbu) plots to escape, he is further plunged into the depths of the world of crime. Once blood stains his hands, there’s no looking back. He lets fate turn him into a GOAT Gangster, and not a mere scapegoat, by succumbing to the world’s unfair rule — either kill or be killed. However, was it really the only option he had? Isn’t it partially his choice too?
In order to drive home to this point, a parallel storyline is used effectively with Sridharan (Neeraj Madhav) who is also caught in the underworld like Muthu. He goes through similar life-altering incidents, but eventually sets himself free to lead a ‘normal’ life.
There are moments of quirky humor that have worked well in the VTK. For instance, Muthu, the guy who is caught up in the underworld activities meets the love of his life while he sets out to buy a bunch of underwears.
While Simbhu is the hero of VTK on-screen, AR Rahman is the one, off-screen. He simply elevates the film with his scintillating music and background score that gives you frissons at periodic intervals.
The interval block of Vendhu Thanindhadhu Kaadu is as satiating as the one from Kamal Haasan’s recent hit, Vikram. It is because the writers have brilliantly foreshadowed the important element of the film (the unused gun) and hence we know what’s coming. They prepare us minute-by-minute to experience the most anticipated moment of the film and then excite us with a brilliant payoff.
In addition, there are some interesting easter egg-like references embedded in the film. For instance, the ‘girlfriend older than her boyfriend’ aspect from Gautham & Simbu’s previous film Vinnaithandi Varuvaaya and the OG Tamil cinema gangster, Velu Nayakar’s reference from Maniratnam’s Nayakan.
However, what doesn't sit quite well is a dialogue where Sridharan (Neeraj Madhav) says, "Enna Oru pombala maari vechurukanga" (They are treating me like a woman), to express that he is exploited at work. It sounded like he was insulted more by the fact that he was forced to wear lipstick and dupattas, than the sexual abuse he was subject to.
Also, the climax felt a little outlandish with the premise for the sequel being rushed.
Though Vendhu Thanindhadhu Kaadu might come across as a usual gangster saga, it is a unique attempt from Gautham Vasudev Menon, who submits to writer Jeyamohan’s vision.
He puts the story on the pedestal and refrains from stamping his signature (uber-cool upper middle-class backdrop, classy action blocks, heavily English-infused dialogues, hero playing guitars, intense voiceovers). But, we still get a gentle feel of Gautham’s touch in the way love sequences are choreographed.
Vendhu Thanindhadhu Kaadu is running in cinemas now.