Film: "Sathuranga Vettai"; Cast: Natraj Subramaniam, Ishara Nair, Ponvannan, Illavarasu, Vallavan and Dharani; Director: H. Vinoth; Rating: ***
The reason newcomer Vinoth's "Sathuranga Vettai" is an almost flawless film in the genre is because it succeeds in managing to con the audiences as well, more than once. Revolving around six episodes based on true incidents, the film reminds us of the times we've got conned in real life. It's not a film about people who con but one about those who get conned, why they get conned and how they get conned.
In one of the scenes, the hero tells the police (while being interrogated) that people come to him to get conned and he only makes use of the opportunity, cashes in on their weakness and he's extremely right about it. When he woos customers in a gold scam, you realize that he only made use of their weakness.
Who doesn't like gold at a discounted price? He cashes in on this weakness, fools people into believing that a certain jeweller is offering gold at a flat 50 percent discount and swindles the money collected from it.
In another scene, he says that to successfully con, one ought to lie with some percentage of truth in it. This explains why he's named 'Gandhi' Babu (since he's named after Mahatma Gandhi, and the world expects him to be truthful). At this juncture, you're reminded that the hero is no different from those with similar names in real life. The director's intention was to bring to our notice similar characters in real lives such as the high profile people who con on a very different level.
Each con episode is funnier than the previous one. From how a company (MLM - stands for Multi Level Marketing, indirectly points at products that are sold by Amway) sells tap water as mineral water that can cure cancer, to the gold scam - each minute leaves you rolling with laughter. It is backed by equally funny and powerful dialogues that add a lot of weight to the film.
The film is good but lacks consistency, especially in the second half. There are moments that are extremely brilliant as well as dumb. Since it is promoted as an Indianised con film, it is forced to take the path of commercial cinema. If it had stayed loyal to its genre, unarguably, it would've been a cult film, next to "Soodhu Kavvum". The romance in "Sathuranga Vettai" is cliched and extremely melodramatic, which makes the story seem very predictable.
Thankfully, the lead performances keep us hooked. Cinematographer-actor Natraj's effortless performance as a conman is far better than many leading heroes of Tamil filmdom. When he delivers a two-minute dialogue with ease and confidence towards the end, you're dazzled by his talent. While he may not be cut out for romance (which is evident in the film), he's unmatchable when it comes to being comical even in a serious role.
Newcomer Vinoth is here for the long haul. Some of his dialogues when dissected have extremely strong references to several burning issues in the country. He has also managed to extract some fine acting from a bunch of newcomers and relatively new actors.
The music and score by Sean Roldan will register deep within. His pick of instruments to differentiate the timeline of the story stands out, while cinematographer K.G. Venkatesh fittingly captures the mood of the film through his lens.