varnachitram

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Review : Vargam

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In the opening teaser scene in the movie, you see a bunch of people beating a man to pulp. It is darkness and you don’t get to see the faces. After that you see Sub-Inspector Solomon (Prithviraj) lying in a hospital fighting for his life. Then the movie starts and you get to know why Solomon got beaten up. In fact you start wondering why he did not get beaten up earlier.

Solomon is arrogant and corrupt to the core. “I am no Harischandran”, he tells Vavachen (Devan), a political leader with whom he has various issues. It all starts when Vavachen’s brother Dennis comes for vacation in Rajakkad in Idukky where Solomon is the inspector. They get off on a wrong start. First they have a fight in a club where Dennis and gang try to beat Solomon. In turn Solomon catches him with a prostitute and gets Vavachen to pay for it. Dennis tries to kill Solomon, but he gets arrested again. In jail Solomon beats him to death and destroys the body. A grief stricken Vacachen pleads with Solomon to tell him what happened to his brother, but Solomon does not. In turn he gets a transfer to Kasargod and disappears from the scene.

Even though Solomon is corrupt, there is only one person he listens to. The local priest (Rajan P Dev) gets him to contribute to charity for the treatment of a blind girl. Solomon’s father had left him to marry another woman and he holds a grudge against him as well. On persuasion by the priest, he visits his ailing father, but refuses to recognize the daughters of his second marriage as his sisters. His only other friend is a big shot smuggler-businessman Ummachen played by Vijayaraghavan.

In Kasargod, Solomon does not change his ways. There he befriends Abu Backer Haji (Captain Raju) and his son Sharif (Ananthu), who run the underworld business there. His neighbor there is a school teacher (Renuka Menon) and her mother. Once Sharif tries to harm the teacher and Solomon rescues her. Later he asks the teacher to withdraw the case and but she refuses. He then catches her in public as a prostitute and in the shock of that her mother dies.

He feels sorry for that, but the teacher does not want anything to do with him. In the meantime Solomon falls out with the the Haji and his sons who beat him to pulp. That was the first scene we saw in the movie. Solomon miraculously escapes and starts repenting. He wants to be a good man. The teacher comes to know his story from the priest and she helps him. While all seemed well, Vavachan appears again. Their interaction forms rest of the movie.

Though the story looks interesting there is nothing new in it for it is an exact copy of Devasuram, including the climax scene. The director of this movie, Padmakumar worked as an assistant to Renjith who wrote Devasuram. What makes the movie interesting is Prithviraj as Solomon. He portrays the angry, arrogant and cynical police officer to perfection. The scorn in his words and irreverence to everyone is visible both in his body language and in his eyes. Besides giving him a forceful body language, the director who wrote the script has given him some excellent dialogue. Each of the scene has been filmed focusing on Prithviraj, giving him ample opportunity to make an impact and he does it successfully.

There is a scene in the bar where Solomon is playing cards with a bunch of friends when Dennis comes by. Dennis was insulted the previous day and he wants to take revenge for it. He walks around Solomon taunting him. Solomon tries to dismiss him, but he does not go away. Then Dennis places his hands on Solomon’s shoulders and then his reaction changes. He becomes blind with rage and beats everyone there. Later in Kasargod when he encounters Sharif trying to molest the teacher, he does not beat him, but slowly takes his gun, points at Sharif’s face and says in a normal voice that he will shoot him. Thus Solomon remains menacing most of the time without raising his voice. He knows the pressure points of each of his adversaries and makes the best of it.

While Vijayaraghavan and Devan do what they do normally, the other person who got a better role this time was Renuka Menon. She debuted with the hit movie Nammal and moved into Telugu movies doing roles which her parents would not be proud of. Unlike Revathy who got ample screen time in Devasuram, Renuka gets only a small portion of the second half. In her segment she makes an impact as her character goes through abrupt twists in a short span of time.

There are only few characters in this movie and the script is very tight. Besides giving Prithviraj enough opportunity to perform, Padmakumar has also used two contrasting landscapes very well. While Idukki is luscious and green Kasargod is dry and barren. This scenery reflects in what happens in Solomon’s life as well.

Padmakumar also captures the expressions in the eyes of the characters very well. Once when Vavachen comes into Solomon’s office, he arrogantly lists his credentials and in his eyes you can see that feeling. Later when he comes to plead for the body of his brother, his eyes show helplessness. In fact the eyes of all the characters Solomon, Haji, and the teacher get such close up shots as they all go through the highs and lows in their lives.

Usually in such movies, there are a few namesake songs in the beginning and the whole action picks up in the second half. In this movie, the songs come towards the end of the second half and they are forgettable. There is only one irritating point in the movie and that is the use of voice overs for narration. In visual mediums like movies, you show and don’t tell. The narration could have been avoided by converting that into dialogue.

This movie is the coming of age of two people – Prithviraj as an actor and Padmakumar as a director.

19 Comments

  1. The finding of Devasuram and Vargam similarity is one of the jokes of the century. If we do not like a better movie to success and doesn’t like the actor who played it then it is OK. There are 100s of differences in both the movies. I remember about someone’s comment about the similarity of Satyam and Kakka Kakka. Not even a shade similarity was available in both the movies. Vargam was one movie where, even minute things were taken care. All except the climax was brilliant. The similarity of the end scene was just another nonsense. Then we can find all action movies were similar and if someone kidnaps the girl and the hero saves her then it is always Devasuram. The guys who do not see movies and do not like some new stars emerging will find fault with everything, Like ‘Ishtamillatha Achi Thottathellam Kuttam’ syndrome.

    But one thing is sure. The people who made big hits like Commissioner, Chintamani, Narasimham, The Truth etc. should be ashamed to accept the fact that they missed a real good movie supported with a towering performance from the young actor, Prithviraj.
    The dialogue presentation and expressions were excellent as rightly pointed out by the author and many of the scenes are too brilliant with the ample expressions from Pritvi.

    I hoped that in view of the huge success of Classmates, this movie will be re-released in Kerala with good ad. Support. Like Chituram Pesuthadi in Tamil.
    But our filmwalas are the guys who least use their brains. Many of the good movies fail because of poor marketing. They should learn how to market movies, which is lifeline for at least one lakh people in the state.
    Only Lal seems to know the marketing techniques and uses his brain smartly. We should have some smart guys in the distributors list and some good brand production companies, but unfortunately many of the Producers are now running after Serials in TV channels since they do not have the confidence and back of good stories, good directors who thinks.

    Raphel

  2. Raphel,

    Devasuram – Mangalassery Neelakantan is a bad person, hurts so many people, hurts Revathy, finally gets beaten up, decides to turn good leaf, Revathy helps him, Revathy gets kidnapped, gets tied to a fire cracker dump, he saves her.

    Vargam – Solomon is bad, hurts so many people, hurts Renuka Menon, finally gets beaten up, decides to turn good leaf, Renuka Menon helps him, she gets kidnapped, gets tied with fire crackers, he saves her.

    You are right. They are totally different stories.

  3. Rapheal,
    You are right about the movie-Vargham , that is a well paced , beautifuly crafted movie .The performance of Prithviraj is one of the best in malayalam in a cop role, may be outclassed only by Mamootty in ‘Avanazhi’ and Suresh Gopi in ‘Commissioner’. But if you cannot find the similarities between Vargham and Devasuram- that is surprising.And you feel that it is the joke of century that somebody thinking that there is a similarity between the movies-well, i am afraid you are trying too hard to prove your points about Prithviraj and his movies.I am cent percent supporting many of your points on Prithviraj, but that does not mean that we do not accept the facts. Here the fact is that although Vargham is well taken, the similarity to Devasuram is striking

  4. When talking on plain terms some stories may look similar. We can see that in Hindi or Tamil. The 3 cornered love stories, made n number of times in Hindi. But, here, where are his friends like Devasuram, where, he is not saved by his friends not her as in Vargam. He is not against one guy as in Deva and at loggerheads with him always. No such enemy in Vargam. The enemies are made by him by his deeds not by personality clash and by chance. When an out line is looking similar you cannot brand them as same. It is mundane. Then most of Suresh Gopi cop or minister movies are same. What you can expect from Bada-Dosth, the same old undercurrent. What you got from Mahasamudram, the difference is only very bad football. What difference Jayaram’s movies make. People do not expect any change in acting nor outline story. That is the reason why Jayaram or that matter Suresh Gopi’s demises happened. The second demise of Suresh Gopi is just around the corner.
    The way things are taken turns and how shaping up the incidents make a movie, in this count Vargam is good.

    I think Pritviraj is probably the only one actor who is being clinically analysed and measured against everything done or said. Let him act and improve up on which is good for our Industry, since he got ability, Physic, Youthful energy and looks extremely handsome. It is good that we can market out side our tiny state ome actors as well instead of Actresses alone after the one and only Mammotty who had some success.
    Prithvi will make good position in Tamil and probably in Telugu too.
    We have seen quite a good number of actors who looked good but acted very bad or novice and remained novice before vanishing in to thin air. But, this guy is the one who can we bet on for future. He is not going to take any senior actors for that matter as imagined by the them, since his roles are too young to be copied by others in that genre.
    So let him improve up on and be a good actor like Mammo in the years to come.

  5. Raphel, U are taking the things in a wrong perspective… The people here are saying that the movie’s plot looks as if taken straight from Devaasuram… And if u accept it or not, it is the fact… Then about your arguement that no friends help etc, I have only one answer.. The movie’s plot is a copy of Devaasuram, but the movie is not a remake or copy of Devaasuram.. One another thing, if U see in this entire article and it comments, nowhere it is said that Prithvi did not do well… There is not even a slight negative mention about Prithvi’s acting, instead, “everyone” accept that he was the limelight of the movie and he literally carried the movie on his shoulders successfully!!!!

    Then if we are comparing this movie with Devaasuram, then I feel it is yet another feather on Prithvi’s crown… It shows that Prithvi is capable of doing something equally good, that one of the superstars of Malayalam, Mohanlal about whose capablities and talents none have a doubt, had done… So for an youngster in the industry this is a very good yardstick for growing up in his career..

    Unnikrishnan G Nair.

  6. Raphel, I think you should get membership in AMMA. Prithvi could do with some support 🙂

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  8. After reading the review from you guys, I decided to see Vargam. I tried to compare it with Devasuram. I found some similarities in climax scenes where heroine kept in between explosives. But it is not sufficient reasons for accusing Padmakumar. Suppose hero character has negative shades, how can we say it is all such ideas borrowed from Devasuram?

    Earlier I read somewhere that Manichithrathaazhu, was borrowed from Dracula. Even though it was hard to believe, the writer had given striking similarites between the two stories. The comparisons were Van Helsing(Sunny Josepsh), Meena(Ganga), Jonathan(Nakulan) and the dracula element was beautifully replaced by split personality. But only Madhu Muttam can give explanation whether it has inspired him while writing.

    Vargam is very different from Devasuram, thats what I felt at the end. And its a decent film which was highly under rated.

    I wondered, eventhough Pritvi looks stunning in police uniform, there are only few scenes where comes in khakee. why it was that?

  9. Maymon,

    I agree. Vargam is more like Star Wars with Luke (Prithviraj), Leia (Renuka Menon), Darth Vader (Devan) and R2D2 (Vijayaraghavan).

  10. Manichitrathazhu = Dracula !!!! Well, depends what you had while seeing the movie.

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  12. I have seen Vargam on the first day first show……..and it’s actually a good movie ……. a different approach……. but some how it didnt clicked well…….

  13. Pingback: Revisiting Vargam | varnachitram

  14. Prithiviraj says in the interview that Vargam is an adaptation of Devasuram. See 3: 57 at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xiskFG8yKhk

  15. “Prithiviraj says in the interview that Vargam is an adaptation of Devasuram. See 3: 57 at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xiskFG8yKhk

    I think the words “remake” or “re-imagining” would have been
    more appropriate for Prithviraj to use, if he did use it.

    Devasuram is a film…not a book or novel.

  16. “I agree. Vargam is more like Star Wars with Luke (Prithviraj), Leia (Renuka Menon), Darth Vader (Devan) and R2D2 (Vijayaraghavan).”

    I disagree…

    you see Leia and Luke were siblings.

    And R2D2 (who is not even human) has a different personality from Vijayaraghavan’s character.

    Any way, the director and lead actor of Vargam admit
    that their film is a re-imagining of Devasuram.

    …………………….

    And since we mentioned Star Wars (the first – Episode IV)
    it would be good to look into Kurosawa’s The Hidden Fortress
    the basic plot of Star Wars (1977) was lifted by George Lucas
    from Kurosawa’s film, since Lucas was a big Kurosawa fan.
    Lucas has even used the frame wipe editing from Kurosawa’s films.

    At the end of the day…in both of these situations the same thing is happening…

  17. Oh yea!

    That’s what Sergio Leone did too…copied of a Kurosawa movie.

    His A Fistful of Dollars (first of the Dollars trilogy)
    starring Clint Eastwood was the remake of Yojimbo starring Toshiro Mifune. At least Kurosawa sued against Leone for doing that and won the case.

    and of course John Sturges’s western film The Magnificent Seven (remake of Seven Samurai).

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