A movie review by Balaji Balasubramaniam

Cast: Vijayakanth, Meena, Prabhu Deva, Kousalya, Livingston, Anju Arvind, Anand, Senthil, Ramesh Khanna, Devan, Vineetha
Music: S.A.Rajkumar
Direction: Vikraman

Mudhalvan was a movie which made us wish that the happenings in it became reality. Vikraman's Vaanathai Pola is designed to make us yearn for a family like the one which has been depicted. Though the basic story of an elder brother working hard to raise his brothers has been told before, the brothers here love their older brother too and unlike movies like Dharmadurai and Padikkaadhavan, are willing to sacrifice everything for him. The relationships between the brothers and between them and their sisters-in-law have been narrated with simplicity but in a manner that touches our heart.

Vikraman's movies have typically been soft, simple stories told with a natural touch. He lays emphasis on sentiments and shines light on the goodheartedness of people. They are, without exception, feel-good movies and he has managed to touch a chord as seen by the huge success of movies like Poove Unakkaaga, Suryavamsam and Unnidathil Ennai Koduthen. He follows the same formula in Vaanathai Pola. This is less a story than a series of incidents tied together. There are no twists, almost everyone is good and those who seem bad turn over a new leaf (and not just in the climax). But he does ensure that we finish the movie with a warm feeling in our hearts. And that's not something many movies manage to do.

Vellaichaamy(Vijayakanth) thinks the world of his three brothers, even giving up marriage when he learns that the woman he loves plans to send them to a hostel after the wedding. He works hard to raise them and they too reciprocate his love and affection. The eldest of the three, Muthu(Vijayakanth again), is a cook in a small hotel. He marries his childhood sweetheart Gowri(Meena), the daughter of a rich man. Shanmugam(Livingston), the second, is training to be an inspector while the youngest Selvakumar(Prabhu Deva) is studying to be a doctor. The union of Selvakumar with his college sweetheart(Kousalya) threatens to separate Vellaichaamy from his brothers.

The movie falters a little initially. The encounters between Vijayakanth and Meena, where she mistakes him, feel stretched since we know exactly what is going to happen. Also, Vijayakanth's character takes a hit when he sings the song through which Meena recognises him as her childhood friend. Though Meena's father, who wants to marry her off to a rich man, asks Vijayakanth not to reveal himself and he also refrains from doing so for a while, he himself breaks the promise by singing the song. It is also debatable whether a girl like Meena would accept Vijayakanth blindly just because he was chosen as her husband when they were young.

The movie shines once Meena moves into the household. Be it helping Prabhu Deva steal a smoke or dealing with an overly shy Livingston, the relationship between them is a joy to watch. The movie manages to be light-hearted while at the same time introducing the right amount of sentiments. The scene where everyone praises Meena's cooking and her response to this is a perfect example of this. The portions involving Anju Arvind, Livingston's wife, have also been handled extremely well. Her explanation for her behaviour towards Vijayakanth Sr. is a pleasant surprise and the way Vijayakanth treats her is touching.

Inspite of a separate comedy track with Senthil and Ramesh Khanna, its the mildly funny scenes in Vijayakanth's house that are more effective. His mother's confusion because of her blindness results in a couple of very funny scenes. The shyness Livingston exhibits towards Meena is also funny with his appreciation of her cooking being the best part. The antics of Vijayakanth, Senthil and Ramesh Khanna in their hotel are more sad than funny since they point out the bad hygiene prevalent in many of the hotels crowding our busstands.

The movie has one of the more impressive star casts in recent times. Vijayakanth, enjoying a spike in his career with the success of Kannu Padappogidhaiyaa, stands out in a dignified performance as the oldest brother. Surprisingly, his other role, though young, is also mellow with just a single fight to his name. None of the others have a lot to do but they all do justice to their small roles and have their moments. Meena looks pretty while Kousalya, appearing in a string of movies recently after a rather prolonged absence, impresses in the scene where she goes with Prabhu Deva to meet Vijayakanth. Kaadhal Vennilaa... is the best of S.A.Rajkumar's songs and he repeats the point by playing it over and over again throughout the movie. Mainaave Mainaavee... is the other melodious tune while Engal Veettil... sounds good because of the picturisation of the family members singing and dancing together.