K Subhash’s Chatriyan was an exceptional cop film that brought together Maniratnam’s writing finesse, the villainy of Thilakan and Vijayakanth’s maass appeal to great effect. Rarely has Tamil cinema tried to return to that bar. The cops of our recent films have been the cops of the rowdy types – raucous, street-smart, brash and all-knowing. Sethupathi is in the recent mould, but tries in all earnestness to be a Chartriyan homage…and almost succeeds.
Vijay Sethupathi puts his versatility to test and comes out swinging like he’s always been a maass hero. Yet, he goes about rearranges the popular-hero-playing-cop formula. On Vijay’s shoulders, the khakhi breathes earthiness, character and soul. All at once, a guy single-handedly thrashing a battery of goons isn’t larger than life.
The smarts of the writing is in turning the cop thriller on its head. Sethupathi lets you relax in the comfort of familiar maass film touches, then threatens to get into some very ugly corners, only to pull back in time to repeat that stunt.
Because nothing is predictable in a Vijay Sethupathi movie and he’s a new player to this game, you’re left with no devices to foresee where the plot’s headed. Vijay Sethupathi’s Sethupathi holds back when you expect him to blow up and erupts when you don’t want him to.
Sethupathi begins with ‘Mazhai thooralaam…’, a moving tribute to the unsung sacrifices of policemen. That promise to walk us through the world of what is both the most hazardous and thankless jobs in India, holds through the movie.