Earlier on in the movie, Ajith aka Thala ambushes an international weapons exchange in a tent, between an American and an European( on the basis of their appearance alone). Set to the tune of a grungy score, the sepia reflection from the explosions outside accentuate his silhouette sincerely from head to toe, when one of the alarmed men ask him who he is.
That’s enough for him to break into one of the many unhurried existential koans in chaste Tamil, with scant regard to the understanding of his audience in the tent or us.
Moments later he’s surrounded on top of a dam from all directions by an army of hundreds of gun men— mind you, all true blue pale skinned foreigners — when he again begins to talk to himself, probably in an endeavor at breaking the fourth wall about why one can never lose till he “never ever gives up”. Healthy life policy alright. But why did he have to enunciate so languorously, such pearls of wisdom in Tamil from an era Valluvar was yet to hit puberty; that too in the midst of a firangi military ambush?
Such misplaced lines in ill placed situations isn’t the only problem with Vivegam. Thing is it wants to do too many at once. Be a bondesque spy thriller, a spousal relationship manual, motivational material and fodder for humor, that comes dead on arrival.
Take for instance the continuous reiteration of the chemistry between Yazhini and AK. The stretch involving her packing his clothes voluntarily for a mission is point enough to reassert their compatibility. Especially in what is striving to be a taut spy thriller, where she essentially serves as a light subplot to humanise our protagonist. But she keeps popping up from time to time like a malicious pop up from a recently closed porn site, during bike chases to enquire about his well being. During gun shoots, where he’s hanging by a branch to confirm his time of arrival. And in the finale, to sing along to enliven a hand to hand combat. I won’t be surprised if over time, Vivegam makes its way to recommended therapy in marriage counselling.
Also the director doesn’t believe in the basic intelligence of the audience or in the concept of leaving some things to their imagination. Most of the scenes play like three dimensional power point presentations. So for example if a character talks about poverty you see a slab of a poor naked child on the left bottom of the screen. Or if they’re talking about earthquake you see an earthquake GIF following solicitously. Imagine a graphically created phoenix glide across the screen, on the prompt of “phoenix” as a subtle metaphor of our hero.
Vivegam is also one of those times you feel like you’re in the front row of a “spoken tamil” class, with participants from Gujarat, Pakistan, America and Africa competing with one other to mangle the language to an unrecognizable extent. The sheer unintentional fun of seeing Vivek Oberoi converse in Tamil, in a post coital tone with Ajith is alone worth the price of the ticket.
Vedalam, the previous collaboration of this duo was no masterpiece, but it had a lot of money shots for the die hards. It was content with providing lousy entertainment, with little regard to both, subtlety or logic. It’s genre let it leverage its star’s wattage to expand to the hilt within the milieu. But Vivegam strives at every step to subvert the spy genre to the “mass” sensibility, while ensuring that the fans of the star are tickled enough.
So there are these mandatory montages of sugar/BP induced slo-mo long strolls which have become typical of this actor; public safety awareness messages sandwiching every action block and the hapless central villain diligently servicing the hallow behind our hero in each board room conversation with his nefarious colleagues. Vivek Oberoi does the honours, mouthing these campy lines with little remorse, with the expression of a freshly minted dad outside a maternity ward.
Vivegam is a little way too verbose for a spy thriller. The thing is it would’ve been the same, even if it were a Visu film.