A partly satisfying indictment of corporate culture and consumerism
Much of the drama in Mohan Raja’s Velaikkaran happens in the month of April. To be more specific, between April Fools’ Day and Labour Day. From a fool to a good labourer — that’s the transition Arivu (Sivakarthikeyan) hopes to bring about among his co-workers, in the aptly-titled Velaikkaran.
The company he works for, Saffron Industries, makes products such as bread, chips, energy drinks, instant noodles and more, and his job requires him to meet high sales targets.
He looks at this job as his ascent to the Indian middle class. Having grown up in a colony of plumbers, electricians, welders and domestic helps, Arivu hopes that the colour of his collar turns white rather than the shades of blue that he sees all around.
Socially-conscious Arivu sets up a community radio in his area of ‘Kolaikaran’ Kuppam and tries to discourage co-habitants from entering the convenient choice: a life of crime. The walls of this radio station are lined with images of Ambedkar, Che Guevara, Periyar and Vivekananda, and he believes in emancipation through education.
Straddling both the dirty, crime-ridden world of Kolaikaran Kuppam and the deceptively clean world of the corporates, Velaikkaran questions Arivu’s efforts to earn his upward mobility. In other words, Velaikkaran looks at what a man must sell from within to become a great salesman.
Like his previous film, Thani Oruvan, Mohan Raja shows how effectively one can make an intelligent big-budget movie. Problems can no longer be solved through violence, and his heroes too have become as intelligent as the opposition. The audiences are never taken for granted, and that results in a film that’s largely engaging.
But it comes at a cost. The film tries to squeeze in far too many issues, often not giving each of them their due importance. For instance, the film takes up a feminist angle with Nayanthara playing a fiery journalist. Given how she’s underutilised in an undeveloped role, the film’s stance of feminism becomes counterproductive.
Reminding you at times of Madhur Bhandarkar’s Corporate (2006), Mohan Raja’s Velaikkaran is strongest in the interactions between Arivu and Aadhi (Fahad Faasil). With great performances by both the leads, Velaikkaran can be seen as Sivakarthikeyan’s coming of age as an actor. The film’s political undertones aside, there’s just a lot of fun watching a film that calls the bad guys ‘Saffron’ Industries.
Velaikkaran Director: Mohan Raja
DramaCast: Sivakarthikeyan, Fahadh Faasil, Nayanthara
Storyline: An employee reacts against the misdeeds of his employer