Chekka Chivantha Vaanam (CCV) – meaning ‘Crimson Red Sky’ – is special as it marks Mani Ratnam to where he initially began… Making a crime genre film.
But if that is not enough, the film is multi-starrer consisting of Arvind Swami, Prakash Raj, Jayasudha, Jyothika, Aditi Rao Hydari, Arun Vijay and Silambarasan.
Collectively, CCV sounds promising. However, does the film adhere to the conventional traits of a gangster film? Filme Shilmy explores.
The film focuses on Senapati (Prakash Raj), who is a god-fearing boss of a crime family on a tour to a temple with his wife Lakshmi (Jayasudha).
Despite being guarded by heavily armed men, assassins disguised as cops attempts taking down Senapathi and his wife.
But they manage to evade the assault with minimum injuries. His children are notified of this that they all reunite as they pay him a visit.
Senapathi has three sons and a daughter, the eldest being the hot-tempered Varadan (Arvind Swami) who runs a part of his empire in Chennai.
The second, Thyagarajan (Arun Vijay), who operates his business in Dubai with Arabs and the third, Ethiraj (Silambarasan) who runs Serbian section of Senapathi’s empire.
One day, an incident occurs and it forever changes the dynamics of Senapathi’s family, resulting in a tale of betrayal, bloodshed and brotherhood.
Mani Ratnam conveys moral messages
Mani Ratnam is known for making films which convey a moral message. This traces back to his earliest works such as Nayakan.
For instance, in that film, the protagonist constantly faced with the dilemma of what is right and what is wrong.
Even in CCV, the main message that is conveyed, I feel, is that no one can dodge bad Karma – what goes around, comes around.
Inevitably, there is the notion that we reap what we sow, in a sense that the three brother characters grow up being exposed to violence and gang crime. Hence, this is the lifestyle they are forced to adapt.
Undoubtedly, this is a gritty and heavy story – which is almost Shakespearean.
Unconventional Gangster Film
Having said that, Ratnam does not follow the Anurag Kashyap way of presenting this dark gangster narrative.
There is a strong focus on human emotions, as per his filmmaking trait.
He does not overload CCV with gory scenes, raw sex depictions and profanities to make the narrative serious.
In fact, it is interesting to see how ‘normal’ the Senapathi family is. Though crime is their profession, we see a vulnerable and soft side to them too.
Even for the female protagonists, their reactions towards violence and gang-crime are also subtle. They are not phased by the violence or crimes that they are witnessed to.
It is interesting to see how two of the male protagonists have an extramarital affair and the female protagonists’ reactions are undramatic. In fact, they even joke about the adultery.
This normality and simplicity are also reflected through the violence. Ratnam does not make the action a focal point of the film. It simply compliments the narrative due to the storyline requirements.
The gritty story presented beautifully
Not only does the director steer away from stereotypical traits, but he also narrates this gritty and bloody tale with his artistic flair.
On the technical aspect, the camera is work fabulous. There is a sequence when the three brothers are tracking down an assassin at a brothel in Pondicherry.
Here, the positioning and movement of cameras with the actors gives a video-game feel to the entire scene.
Plus, AR Rahman’s music enhances the action-packed ambience, making this entire scene an intriguing watch.
As always, Rahman’s music is par excellence. Even though there are no long romantic or dance numbers, the background score is engaging and haunting.
In addition to the music, CCV’s cinematography is superb. Like any other Madras Talkies film, this too has mesmerising cinematography and credits go to Santosh Sivan for this.
Collectively, these technical elements magnify the movie’s stylish and cinematic appeal.
All elements of the film are topped up by performances of the main cast.
Arvind Swami, Arun Vijay and Silambarasan are first-rate at portraying the roles of hot-headed, ambitious and bloodthirsty brothers.
Even though we don’t see them share a close relationship with each other, they naturally seem like brothers.
The three actors are effortless and each brings out their characters’ personalities with such ease.
Vijay Sethupathi as Rasool Ebrahim, a police inspector and Varadan’s childhood friend, is a gem.
He plays a character with grey shades and yet can switch between serious and comedic moods smoothly.
Prakash Raj is his usual best as Senapathi.
Jayasudha, being the legend she is, proves her mettle as an actor once again.
Whilst Jayasudha plays the mother role, she is not a stereotypical mother who gets silenced by patriarchy. She has her own principals and stands by them.
Glimpses of Jayasudha’s role is reflected in the Chitra character – essayed by Jyothika.
Chitra is the wife of Varadan (Arvind Swami). She is the eldest daughter-in-law who holds her family together and is loyal towards her duties.
It is a fact that Jyothika is an ace actor and her performance in CCV is a testament to this.
Aditi Rao Hydari as Parvathi, a reporter and mistress of Varadan is impactful.
Though she does not have much to do in comparison to others, her screen-presence is solid.
Plus, she looks absolutely stunning in the film. After Kaatru Veliyidai and this, we deserve to see her in another Mani Ratnam directorial as the main lead.
The first-half zooms past by. However, I feel that pace dips in the second-half, perhaps due to its length.
Also, the ending seems quite predictable as the audience can guess how this tale would end.
But then again, perhaps there is no other alternative to this plot?
Regardless of the pace, the viewer’s attention is maintained throughout the film’s duration.
Chekka Chivantha Vaanam is a beautifully crafted film.
Despite being a heavy and gritty gangster film, Mani Ratnam’s artistic flair leaves the audience in awe and shock at the same time.
The movie is not just a gangster film. It is beyond that as it has a strong focus on human emotions and conveys moral messages.
This is a unique piece of cinema that deserves to be celebrated and appreciated!