'Chekka Chivantha Vaanam' Review: Fast-paced crime saga packs a heavy punch

Chekka Chivantha Vaanam (CCV) is arguably one of the biggest multi-starrers released in Kollywood in recent times. Considering the theme of Mani’s previous outings Kadal, OK Kanmani and Kaatru Veliyidai, the audiences had mixed feelings about the gangster saga prior to its release.
'Chekka Chivantha Vaanam' Review: Fast-paced crime saga packs a heavy punch

Chennai

But CCV is a winner from the start. The film begins with Vijay Sethupathi’s voiceover on the origin of Senapathy, an ageing don while we get an aerial perspective of Chennai’s cityscape. After Mani’s Aayutha Ezhuthu, this might be one of the most engaging portrayals of the city. 
Soon enough, we are introduced to Senapathy (Prakash Raj), who is visiting a temple with his wife (Jayasudha). In a span of five minutes, Rahman’s BGM captures the mood and tone of things to come. The duo is caught in an ambush, a shootout ensues, and the couple is grievously injured.
Enter Senapathy’s eldest son Varadharajan aka Varadhan (Arvind Swami) who rushes to the hospital with his wife Chitra (Jyotika) while his younger brothers Thyagu (Arun Vijay) a businessman and Ethi (STR), an arms dealer fly down to Chennai from abroad. The trio attempt to track down their father’s assailant through Varadhan’s friend Rasool (Vijay Sethupathi), a police inspector, with dubious morals. However, a power struggle comes into play and the siblings begin arguing over who could be Senapathy’s true heir. The first half comprising flashbacks and character intros brings things to a boil pre-interval, setting the scene for a crackling third act. 
The multi starrer offers ample opportunities for all the actors to perform, set within a crisp runtime of 143 minutes. The women in the film Jyotika, Aishwarya Rajesh, Dayana Erappa and Aditi Rao have distinctly different personalities, and form a great foil for their partners. For instance, Arvind Swami, has an affair with Aditi Rao Hydari’s character, which he justifies as, ‘Anga naan oru adiyaal. Aana, inga naan dhan raja’ (I’m a henchman to my father. But with you, I feel like a king). Jyotika on the other hands steals the show with her naivete. While Arun Vijay maintains a sense of poise and calm, STR’s character is attention seeking and he does justice to the role. 
Mani’s favourite, Swami’s screen presence, performance and makeover are things that won't go unnoticed, but it’s Rasool who is the lifeblood of CCV. Audiences wondered how Vijay Sethupathi would blend into a Mani Ratnam film. But the actor has outdone himself and gotten under Rasool’s skin.
Santosh Sivan’s cinematography and AR Rahman’s shapeshifting BGM are noteworthy and complemented the screenplay well. The perpetually present ambient score serves as the beating heart of a breathlessly paced film. Although the album was a hit, there are no standalone tracks in the film and every musical note is just part of a dense, complex narrative. CCV could come across as a watershed for multi-starrer entertainers, and Mani has proven once again how to make a blockbuster that values content over gimmicks. Welcome back, Mr Ratnam, we missed you so long. 

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