‘Namma Veetu Pillai’: Sivakarthikeyan bounces back with engaging family drama

Kollywood threw up Otha Seruppu last week that had Parthiban at the start of the film, and had only him throughout. There, he was alone and almost engaging in a storytelling session with the audience. This week’s release, the Sivakarthikeyan-starrer Namma Veetu Pillai (NVP) is starkly different. When we see Arumpon (Sivakarthikeyan) first, post a lengthy story narrated by his grandfather (Bharathirajaa) detailing their family tree, he is in the middle of a kabaddi match. Hundreds are cheering him from the sidelines. The frame is filled with people, and the cinema hall is filled with sounds from trumpets and nadaswarams.
That’s a sound you’ll hear for the rest of 150-odd minutes of Namma Veetu Pillai, a film that brings back to theatres some elements that Tamil cinema has long been associated with – ‘thangachi-annan pasam’ (brother-sister affection), tonnes of festivals and heck, even a liberal dose of melodrama. It is to director Pandiraj’s credit that he manages to weave in adequate elements of love, sentiment and friendship in the dozen major characters (yes!) that will dominate the screen.

Namma Veetu Pillai
Genre: Drama
Cast: Sivakarthikeyan, Aishwarya Rajesh, Anu  Emmanuel, Bharathiraja
Storyline: A brother’s affection for his sister comes to test after she gets married
There is also conflict at the centre-stage of the film that is not quite direct. It arises thanks to Ayyanaar (Natty, an actor who I have been rooting for since En Kitta Modhadhey) who stands between this almost-sachcharine affection between Arumpon and Thulasi (Aishwarya Rajesh in a strong role done well). NVP is the tale of how the brother dotes on his sister and how he has to deal with her marriage to Ayyanar, someone Arumpon is not particularly friends with.

I wished that this ‘enemity’ had become the core of NVP, but Pandiraj has other ideas, ones that are partly engaging. There’s a major flashback in the second, which details the friendship between Arumpon’s dad and his bestie. A Hindu-Muslim angle presents itself. Village festivals and weddings go by. All these might remind you a bit of Rajinikanth’s Petta, but NVP is clearly not a star vehicle. It takes on severely-emotional tangents towards the end, probably justifying Pandiraj’s dig at his own work, terming it Pasamalar’s latest version.

Sivakarthikeyan comes to NVP after two not-so-favourable outings (Seema Raja and Mr Local), and this setting is, clearly, his turf. He aces the emotional scenes, and his camaraderie with Soori, though short, is enjoyable. His romance track with Maangani (Anu Emmanuel) is a direct lift from the sequences of many of his own earlier films, but there is composer Imman’s score and Nirav Shah’s frames to cheer for.The editing reminded me of the kind of cuts in a director Hari film (festivals and friendships blossom within the space of a few scenes and songs, and disappear even faster), but packaging them all neatly in limited time, and not letting the audience get bored, certainly spells ‘task accomplished’ in bold.

Reviews: Syeraa Narasimha Reddy Is More Hysterical Than Historical

Syeraa Narasimha Reddy is a fast- flowing frenzied hysterical homage to an unsung martyr of Andhra Pradesh who fought the British goons with his faithful bunch of unarmed warriorsBy the time the British villains stopped snarling and sniping at the trembling desh-bhakts of our country their days were over. At least as far as Indian cinema is concerned. Syeraa Narasimha Reddy propounds the most basic kind of patriotism practised in cinema: portray the invaders, in this case the Britishers as cheap avaricious villains, pitch them against a one-man army and let the drama unfold.

Syeraa Narasimha Reddy is a fast- flowing frenzied hysterical homage to an unsung martyr of Andhra Pradesh who fought the British goons (the film tells us that’s what they were and who are we to argue?) with his faithful bunch of unarmed warriors. While the legendary Chiranjeevi occupies the central part with confident swagger the supporting cast especially in the mob sequences, are reduced to two basic emotions: cowering and glowering.The Britishers are played by a bunch of inept actors one more oafish than the other. One smirking ruler, a Ranveer Singh lookalike orders the villagers to send all their daughters to him before their weddings.“One at a time,”he adds considerately. Not impressed by his generosity our hero the  hotheaded Narasimha cuts off the over-sexed colonizer’s… no, not what you think…. just his head.

One wonders if there is any historical truth to this demonization of the British. And if not, why can’t they take action against being portrayed as brutal louts? Or is the prerogative of being touchy restricted to us Indians only?

Big names from the South are reduced to mere perky props. Anushka Sharma makes a fleeting appearance as Rani Laxmibai to tell us Syeraa Narasimha Reddy’s valorous  deeds against the despicable firangi dudes. It isn’t every clear why we needed her intervention to appreciate the enormity of celebrating the life of a freedom fighter who remains largely unknown. But then clarity is not a virtue to be sought in a film that serves up reams of rabblerousing rhetorics and dollops of deifying drama.

The prevalent mood of the film remains unflinchingly eulogistic. In almost every frame  at any given time there are five dozen junior artistes gazing reverentially at their beloved leader. The look of unadulterated love is easy when it’s Chiranjeevi on the pedestal. The rest of the cast, including Tamil cinema’s superstar Vijay Sethupathi, is  reduced to glorified lamp posts. Nayanathara and Tamannah make pretty lamp posts. While the latter impresses in a fiery dande number,  Nayanthara has an embarrassing  sequence where she fawns over her co-star like a fan gone berserk.

Kannada superstar Sudeep plays the kind of ambivalent warrior whom we never know, which way he would go. Reassuring that at least one co-star isn’t required to keel over with spams of hero-worship.