After the disappointment of 2022’s “Beast,” Vijay launched “Varisu,” a return to the family drama formula that has been on the decrease in recent years. The Tamil film industry has always relied on the cliche of “family sentiment” as one of the few necessary ingredients for the “masala” film, but it has been a while since a straight-up family drama has made its way back into the mainstream, with “Kadaikutty Singam” (2018) being the most recent notable example.
It’s possible that ‘Varisu,’ with a budget of 280 crores, is the most lavish film ever made in this genre.
The film opens on the Rajendran family, headed by patriarch (Sarathkumar) a billionaire mining mogul with three sons, eldest (Meka Srikanth), middle (Shaam), and exiled youngest (Vijay) (played by Vijay himself). Jayaprakash, played by Prakash Raj, is the family’s major nemesis and business rival who will stop at nothing to topple them as leaders in the mining industry.
Predicting who will succeed Rajendran as mining tycoon is a crucial plot point, and the first half of the film does a good job of laying out the family dynamics of each character in relation to the other and tracking their shortcomings and defects.
The movie is packed with allusions and meta-moments. In one scene, Vijay performs a rendition of the theme song from the hit TV show “Metti Oli,” which aired in the early 2000s, anticipating the melodramatic comparisons that would be made between the film and the show.
From his first major hit, 1996’s “Poove Unakkaga,” until his next major effort, “Master,” in 2021 (nimbly omitting 2017’s “Beast”), Vijay’s whole body of work is heavily referenced. In some places, Vijay directly addresses the audience, and the language is frequently ironic.
There is a lot of obvious pandering to the fan base in this picture, and every time something is referenced, the audience goes wild with applause and whistles. For me, these occurrences were about even in their success or failure in provoking a smile or a frown.
Vijay gives a good performance as the film’s liveliest and most nimble character despite the rest of the cast’s tendency to be static caricatures. One can only assume that the normally great Prakash Raj has been muted in order to let the show’s real star shine through. The other two outstanding performances are by Jayasudha (as the mother) and Sarathkumar (as the father Sudha Rajendran; the writers have been very inventive with these names).
Rashmika Mandanna’s Divya is the most superfluous heroine of recent memory; she’s just there so that Vijay has someone to dance with during the song scenes and to draw in the crowds.
Thaman S’s score complements the film nicely. There wasn’t a single song that was obnoxious or unpleasant. The album’s high points are the blazing “Thee Thalapathy” and the heroic “Vaa Thalaivaa.” There are some problems with the music videos for these tracks.
Similar to the 1996 film “Life of Ram,” the music video for “Vaa Thalaivaa” features footage from across the country. Instead of showing us the world as it is and how we fit into it, we are given gaudy, poorly edited greenscreen.
In the popular song “Ranjithame,” Vijay is given the traditional opportunity to dance wildly for almost a minute at the end. But this isn’t the same Vijay from 15 years ago; he’s clearly having trouble with the choreography and appears to be in discomfort.
To me, the moment has come to stop using this gimmick because it is now unbearable to watch.
The film’s technical aspects are likewise inconsistent throughout. The primary set is a luxurious, up-to-date home for a family that naturally lends itself to beautiful photography. At one point in the film, Vijay exits a Rolls Royce wearing a suit that precisely matches the colour of the car.
What a significant impact these tweaks make to the final product. There is no denying that this film is visually stunning, yet several scenes feel lifted directly from Bollywood hits like “Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham.”
The film largely achieves its goals as a safe “masala” flick and a wave of nostalgia for Vijay fans. It’s a treat the whole family can share, and Vijay has done well to position himself for Pongal success.