Vetrimaaran is a force to be reckoned with when it comes to telling socio-political stories through his stories, screenplays, and narratives. Nobody in recent times in the Tamil cinema space has come close to Vetrimaaran when it comes to making films that are a perfect mix of commercial cinema and soul-stirring, taboo topics that nobody in the past has managed to even speak about through this medium called film. Technically too, his films always stood out, and the last big theatrical release this man had was “Asuran,” starring Dhanush and Manju Warrier. Vetrimaaran’s current outing, “Viduthalai,” which means liberation, is all about understanding the balance between the life that police officers live and the extremists’ group in the state, which is fighting hard for the people of their community so that they thrive and their demands are met.
The Train Accident
The movie begins with a 12-minute long one-shot showing the site of the accident where the train accident took place. As the camera goes deeper into the scene one gets to see the carnage, death, and destruction caused by this accident. Many are severely injured, and many are dead; surrounded by emergency help and many are being transported to nearby hospitals. The local and the union ministers at the sight are disturbed to see the level of atrocity caused by this accident. It is soon revealed that this accident was induced by the extremist group “Makkal Padai” who wanted to prove a point to the state government by not wanting to allow a mining company to take over their village for a project. “Makkal Padai” wants the mining project to be out of the state because they believe the land belongs to the people and only they should gain from it and not some private organization.
“Makkal Padai” should make sure they let the government know that they are the ones responsible for blowing up the bridge that led to a massive rain accident. The Chief Secretary and the minister of PWD come out openly at the press conference and let the media know that the man who masterminded this terrorist activity is Perumal, who has never been seen; the police record does not have any photographs of him. The government announces Operation Ghost Hunt because Perumal is known as a ghost, a nickname that stems from the fact that nobody has seen him, but people know that he exists and that he masterminds such gruesome attacks on people and government officials. The government is keen on getting hold of this man to end the separatist movement that he has been running under his name. The government, at any cost, would want the man behind bars so that the mining company would trust them with the contract and the work could begin as soon as possible. The benefit of this mining project is basic infrastructure and jobs, leading to the construction of schools and hospitals for the locals. This train accident triggered the government to finally take up stern action again on “Makkal Padai.”
Kumaresan’s Tryst With Extremists In The Border Town Kumaresan, a newly recruited man in the police force, is on his way to join the Ghost hunt. He is unsure of what kind of life awaits him on the mountainous terrain. The entire movie is told from Kumaresan’s perspective and what he thinks of the incidents that are taking place, with him narrating the entire experience to his mother. The bus he is traveling on is randomly stopped by police for a routine check. They come to know of Kumaresan, and that he is a recruit for their force. Kumaresan witnesses the police killing one person who tried to run away from them. The man was carrying many bombs on him, which he had to abandon on the bus. There is a possibility that the police got a tip about the explosives that were carried in the bus, which made them look for them as a part of a seemingly random check.
Kumaresan is taken to the place where all the police officers are trained to fight the extremist group. Kumaresan joins as the new driver on their force. Their stay is up the hill, and while he is getting used to the terrain, the film showcases the kind of life police on the ground level must face just to live off the meager salary. People like Kumaresan come from lower middle-class families who would want a steady job to make ends meet. Taking on the role of a police constable with a bare minimum salary is something that would serve him well right now. A steady income is something he and his mother look forward to. But on reaching this place, Kumaresan was introduced to another form of caste and class politics that he had not come across before. The coalitions and conflicts are head-on and convoluted. “Makkal Padai” are sure of what they want, while the government is also sure of the demands it can meet. What Kumaresan does not understand is that being a nice person will probably not help him in the long run. He has a helpful nature, and he makes sure to stick to the rule book, which says that police are supposed to serve people who are in dire need of assistance.
Kumaresan soon comes to terms with the fact that orders have to be followed and that helping the locals is not part of the rule book handed down by his current superiors. He is slowly learning the meaning of the word bureaucracy and how it is required to maneuver through professional life, especially now that he is newly recruited personnel. Kumaresan is also attracted to the granddaughter of the woman he rescued, and they start hanging out with each other. Their attraction and fondness for each other is palpable, but Kumaresan is unable to wrap his head around the idea that many locals are sympathizers of Perumal, and he is not coming to terms with this belief system that those locals cannot be trusted. The locals have their reason to support Perumal because he stood up for them when nobody else did. Perumal is like the Pablo Escobar-esque figure, where he is given the status of a God who would just show up to help people get out of trouble. The police are trying to shatter this image of him, but so far none of them have been successful.
‘Viduthalai’ Ending Explained – Did Kumaresan Finally Arrest Perumal?
No operations are successful at catching Perumal red-handed because “Makkal Padai” is ingrained in the local system of the village, and it is hard to decipher who is supporting “Makkal Padai” and who is against them. The locals are standing tall against the brutal police force because they have so far applied only torturous tactics on the villagers. Not one of them except Kumaresan has been decent with the locals because he feels it is his duty as a police constable to be nice to people around him, and it comes as a part of his obligation to remain loyal not just to the force but also to the people who need his help. The Chief Secretary, to tighten the grip on “Makkal Padai”, brings in Sunil Menon as the new operation head of Operation Ghost, and believes in what Kumaresan has to say, which is to be friends with the locals. Make them feel included and reduce the fear they have of the police. This will help them slowly open themselves to the police and make them willing to share information about Perumal. Sunil is a ruthless police officer, but he knows where his ruthlessness needs to stop, and he needs to start being the kind of diplomatic gentleman that would make the locals finally aid him and his people.
The police finally plan to get hold of the families of the main leaders of “Makkal Padai,” and through that, a lot of them will come out to bail their family members out. This information is passed on to Perumal’s men, but it does not help them because the police end up arresting the entire town, including the women. One of the women folk includes Tamilarasi, Kumaresan’s love interest. Tamilarasi also reveals that her uncle is a full-time sympathizer of “Makkal Padai”. Kumaresan is completely at a loss of words on what to do from here on.
As all the women and men from the village, including Tamilarasi, are brought in for interrogation, Kumaresan goes from pillar to post, hoping to set her free by letting them know of Perumal’s hideout. He surpasses all the orders given to him and directly approaches Sunil Menon, who provides him with backup. Kumaresan comes close to nabbing the main man, and they go through hurdles to finally catch Perumal. He is taken away, and thus begins the saga of why Perumal does what he does. Tamilarasi is brutally raped too, but nothing is found of her after the interrogation. The last shot of “Vidhuthalai” has Kumaresan’s voice over telling the viewers about his hopes of things getting better for him from here on, for he was the one who arrested Perumal. Destiny had different plans for him from here on. Kumaresan’s biggest flaw until that time remained that he always tried to be a good person and did not try to work in the system to change the system. His ultimate goodness will only make him more disliked by his colleagues and his superiors. Will Kumaresan survive the brutal world of police, where bureaucracy never works?
Vetrimaaran never leaves a stone unturned when it comes to speaking in detail about socio-political stories. It can be from any section of society, Vetrimaaran makes sure to give the audience a gut-wrenching tale of a community, oppression, and how people fight back to get what is rightfully theirs. With “Vidhuthalai” Vetrimaaran gives us the story of people from the scheduled caste and tribes who face constant pressure to give up their land. To make sure that does not happen anymore, they have a hero who stands up for them and pushes them to fight back. The director does not leave anything behind when it comes to the direction, and the narrative style.
The first 12-minute opening shot of the train accident will be etched in our minds for a while because the slow reveal of the carnage and the damage caused to the people is gruesome to watch. The direction of this artist stands out because it is heartbreaking to see Kumaresan go from a helpful person to a desperate man and makes the movie all the more complex. The screenplay was a little bit jumpy which slightly affected the direction. The soundtrack by Illaiyaraja has a haunting effect on the narrative as the story goes from being hopeful to knowing things will not happen the way the audience wants. “Vidhuthalai” is another thought-provoking tale of how the powerful take advantage of the oppressed in every way possible, hoping there wouldn’t be any consequence for their actions. There were no major twists and turns in the movie, just a straightforward tale of a man just discovering the downsides of being a member of the police force. This film needs and deserves your attention.
“Vidhuthalai” is a Tamil language film that is running at theaters near you.