Writers International Edition



Synopsis: A super cop tries to track down the brain behind a series of robberies and murders, but things turn personal when his family become pawns in the criminal’s game.

Review: H Vinoth’s Valimai begins with a series of chain-snatching incidents and a robbery committed by masked men on bikes in Chennai. The public is up in arms against the police force, who are clueless. In an internal monologue, the police chief wishes for a super cop to prevent such crimes. The action then cuts to Madurai, where a temple procession is underway. And so is a murder plot. And then we are introduced to ACP Arjun (Ajith Kumar), the film’s protagonist, whose introduction is intercut with scenes from the procession. Like a God who is held up high, we see this character being rising up from the depths (here, from within a car). In short, a whistle-worthy hero-introduction scene.

Arjun gets posted to Chennai and starts investigating a suicide case that seems to be related to a larger crime that is afoot. As he begins to track the case, he realises it is connected to the chain-snatching and drug-smuggling cases from before. But when the gang’s mastermind (Kartikeya Gummakonda) realises that Arjun is on to him, things turn into a dangerous cat-and-mouse game, in which Arjun’s family become pawns. Can Arjun save both his family and the city from this dangerous criminal?

It’s a clash between stunts and sentiment in Valimai, a somewhat engaging but overlong action movie that hides its simplistic writing with elaborate action set-pieces. We keep getting a sense of Vinoth trying hard to strike a balance between making a gritty action movie and satisfying the demands of a star vehicle. Despite the scope for rooting the action scenes in emotion, the film is content with treating them as just standalone set-pieces. We see this approach clearly in the superficial manner in which the film deals with its secondary characters and their relationship with Arjun. They are mainly one-note – loving mother (Sumithra), drunkard brother (Achyuth Kumar), supportive colleague (Huma Qureshi, who gets one kickass moment and then is relegated to being a sidekick) – or worse, caricatures – corrupt cop (GM Kumar) tattoo-sporting, Goth-like villain’s girlfriend. Even the arc of a dejected brother (Raj Ayyappan) who goes rogue isn’t built convincingly. This is why the film feels less impactful when we are not in the middle of of an action sequences.

But Vinoth makes up for this with the stunts, which are mostly big-screen spectacles that are superbly choreographed (Dhilip Subburayan is the stunt choreographer) and are undoubtedly the film’s highlight. A bike chase in the pre-interval portion and a chase involving a bus, a truck and many bikers in the second half are definitely edge-of-the-seat stuff.


The entire fandom of Ajith is working itself into a frenzy over Valimai, which releases on 2 February. Earlier, the film was meme gold, with everyone asking for an update. But, director H Vinoth, the brain behind the film, the man whose idea so impressed Ajith that he’s working on his third straight film with him, is a picture of calm. None of the excitement around him seems to ruffle him.

But, this is a state Vinoth has learnt to be in. He agrees it is very easy to allow the pressure to get to him. “By nature, I’m prone to padapadappu [excitement], but having seen how people observe everything I say or do, and how they react to what I speak, I’ve learnt to calm myself. If I speak too much about a film, it will be used as troll material. If I don’t speak, that is also material. So, I prefer this calm,” he says during the course of a 40-minute interview.

Despite having climbed the ladder of success at a rapid pace in the past five years, and having a body of work he can be proud about, Vinoth is brutally honest when he says that he did not enter cinema with the passion that others had. “I did not study cinema. And so, I tell myself I don’t have the right to proclaim that I’m here to make a certain kind of film or one that takes a certain stand. It is difficult to pretend to have a stand when you don’t,” he says.

The director, who has made Sathuranga Vettai, Theeran Adhigaram Ondru and Nerkonda Paarvai, the remake of Pink, is also particular that the film goes on to make money for the person who backed it, and goes on to give some kind of satisfaction or tripti to the person who pays to watch it. The latter is an attitude he has been carrying forward since the time he worked as an electrician. “For a family to go out and watch a movie, a person spends close to Rs 1000 or Rs 1500. If that person is an auto driver, it is the earning of three days, if a construction worker, it is the amount he gets after two days of hard labour. I have to respect the fact that this money they give my film is the result of their uzhaippu [labour]. I get name and fame and money because they trust in what I am giving them,” says Vinoth.

The director had once spoken about how much he loved reading short stories. But today’s Vinoth has changed. He says that he is drawn towards data, and what it tells. “There must be some education, some awareness,” he says. “I am particularly worried about fake news. Every other day, something or the other is announced as fake. What if someone misses reading that and believes something to be true? It impacts their life.”

“I love data. I think it’s very important to get that right. The story is there to draw people in, but what is inside is the truth, the numbers. The story is the scaffolding for the data I want to share with people,” shares Vinoth.