Did Sivanandi (Sathyaraj), the local big shot who loves to point his rifle at people, shoot down his daughter Lathapandi (Sri Divya) because she dared to elope? That’s the kickoff point for Varuthapadatha Valibar Sangam, which translates loosely as The Society of Happy Youngsters. It’s an odd start for a comedy – after all, how do you manufacture laughs from what appears to be an honour killing? Director Ponram’s approach is to treat this narrative thread as entirely incidental to the proceedings. We move, quickly, to the aimless Bosepandi, MA M Phil (Sivakarthikeyan), the head of the titular society, whose responsibilities include (a) sending love notes to the local schoolteacher (Bindhu Madhavi), (b) falling, subsequently, for Lathapandi, and (c) ensuring that the entertainment event at the temple festival isn’t a devotional drama (Valli Thirumanam), as proposed by Sivanandi, but a series of risqué item numbers by “Dindigul Rita.” (One of the songs, inevitably, is Nila kayudhu, whose intensely orgasmic stretch prompts a blackout.)
The film has enough silliness to qualify as mild amusement, especially in the scenes with Bosepandi and his friend Kodi (Soori) – but these gags would work just as well as a compilation clip on YouTube. The plotting is too loose to warrant a two-hour-and-forty-minute movie, with sentimental detours and meandering subplots like the one about Sivanandi’s stolen rifle (though we do get the superb sight gag of said rifle being used as the middle stump in an impromptu game of cricket). You wish they’d retire Oora therinjikitten as the default go-to song to register heartbreak in a comedy, but a bigger problem is that Sivanandi’s part-villain-part-comedian character never gels. And what about Lathapandi? She progresses from Class XI to Class XII during the course of the film, and she becomes the object of Bosepandi’s affections when she sheds her school uniform for a sari, which is when he sees she’s really a “woman.” (Or to put it as classily as the film does, “summa gummunu irukka.”) Why make her so young? But the actress is good. She knows the language, knows how to work a reaction shot, and she looks like she belongs in this milieu. It will be interesting to see what Tamil cinema makes of her.
An edited version of this piece can be found here.
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