I can’t remember the last time Ajith really danced his heart out with the joyousness he exhibits in the opening song of Valimai. There’s even a particular dance step that seems like a shoutout to Vijay’s Pokkiri Pongal. At various points of Valimai, Ajith’s enthusiasm really shines through and it affects us for the better. However, at nearly three hours long, it’s not enough for one character alone to move you. After a certain point, by the law of diminishing returns, even that act gets weary. The broad strokes that Ajith’s character is painted in at the start is not the problem. It is the inability to dive deeper as the film progress that is a problem.
Ajith plays an upright policeman who abhors killing. He believes in looking for the root cause of the problem and solving it. But this lovely idea, this nuance is wasted; Ajith’s character arc does not flesh out the human side of the story that was promised at the beginning. Contrast that to the way the villain’s (Kartikeya) motivations are written. It starts from a very small, niche angle and slowly widens to a nihilistic philosophy that then transforms fully into a Randian take on the world. This difference in treatment of the two characters from writer-director H Vinoth is quite baffling.
It is also one of the reasons the film peters out after an extremely racy first half. Right from the cold open to the documentary-like featurettes about both victims and perpetrators, and a commissioner pondering over the city – it all makes you feel like maybe this is a spin on Gotham and Ajith is playing a variant of Batman. Be it the framing of a set of bikers watching one of their own being killed for committing a mistake, the terrific stunt sequences involving the bikes, the transitions between the hunter and the hunted in said chase sequences, the first half is all aplomb. The first 90-odd minutes are filled with punches and counter punches between the hero and the villain, where each aspect of the film feels well-directed.
However, if ever there was a film of two halves, it is this. The director tries to break the myth-making of Ajith’s introduction sequence (he is likened to the Lord Azhagar who descends into the city), strip the character to its bare bones, and make him rise back to hero status. But this entire portion falls flat thanks to some of the dullest characters ever written. At one crucial point, when the bike gang, after pulling off a near-impossible operation, is trying to escape the hero’s clutches, an important character absolutely kills the momentum by giving us an exposition of why he does what he does. I won’t be surprised if the Tamil meme nation uses this template for a multitude of memes because it was honestly extremely laughable. While the film’s first half takes the course of more show, less tell; the second half is all contrivance and tell, tell, and more tell. At one point, the raucous theatre I was watching at was punctured by an inadvertently loud snore and the subsequent giggles.
It is here that you wonder what really happened to this film. I haven’t read any pre-promotion interviews of Vinoth, but it looks like there are two films here – one that was shot pre Covid and one filmed after, with the latter probably deciding the look and feel of the former. A large part of the second half is filled with secluded locations, which were probably sets erected in accordance with Covid protocols.
Remember the enthusiasm that I talked about at the start of this review? It dies down even from Ajith’s end and this is visible on screen as the film meanders through its third act and climax.
What promised to be a breezy ride instead chokes and sputters. The latest in the V series of Ajith films might not be the ‘victory’ that the theatres and the industry hoped it would be, but it did remind me of this dialogue from V for Vendetta: “This visage, no mere veneer of vanity, is a vestige of the vox populi now vacant, vanished.” And who better than Ajith and Vinoth to know that vox populi, vox dei as they go in for their third collaboration.
This Valimai review is a Silverscreen original article. It was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the movie. Silverscreen.in and its writers do not have any commercial relationship with movies that are reviewed on the site.