Dhanush will haunt you! Selvaraghavan’s film history from the perspective of Naane Varuven

Selvaraghavan is Dhanush’s brother, the writer of Dhanush’s first film, and the director of ‘Uncredited’. These two brothers have worked together in four movies. Mithran Jawhar’s ‘Yaaradi Nee Mohini’ (2008) was a remake of the Telegu film written by Selvaraghavan, with Dhanush playing the lead role under a different director.

Dhanush went from Tamil cinema to Bollywood and having conquered both, played one of the ‘coolest’ action characters of the year in The Gray Man (2022), latest film by Vince Russo, director of Hollywood’s Avengers film. Now as he returns to Tamil cinema, he can look back at his cinema career.

After Hollywood, we meet Dhanush in the movie Thiruchitrambalam (2022), directed by Mithran Jawhar, who directed several successful films in Dhanush’s early days, and Selvaraghavan’s Naane Varuven (2022). Dhanush reunited with both these directors after more than ten years but tries to do something very interesting with them. He tries to create two different films that go beyond the trends of militaristic patriotic cinema, films that cover social issues, historical epic films, high-budget fantasy type ‘Pan India’ films, secret investigation stories, political dramas, etc. Dhanush has a vision and a mission. Taking inspiration from his own cinema history, he tries to give a different flavor to his audience. Thiruchitrambalam was very successful that way. In this article we’re going to talk about the film Naane Varuven directed by Selvaraghavan.

In his successful films as a director, Selvaraghavan has always spoke about the darkness in people’s hearts when it comes to youth, love, civilization, career success etc. That’s why he shows the frightening experiences that can happen in love, marriage etc.

Simply put, he creates thrillers and horrors by showing the darkness in humanity. At other times he addresses the fears in our own hearts.

Thulluvadho Ilamai (2002) was written by Selvaraghavan and was the first film Dhanush acted in. A low-budget film that was only released in a few theatres. Although it is a school-age film, it does not feature young children raised like flowers. Children from a dark past. Kaadhal Kondein (2003) is about an orphan boy named Vinoth who falls in love with a middle-class girl from a rich family. How far Vinod goes to get that young girl because of his love. Then the film Pudhupettai (2006) portrays the horror and darkness in the world of a criminal. Mayakkam Enna (2011) explores how a talented photographer pursues career success and love.

Some of these films were not super-successful at the box office, just average. Films were even criticized as ‘slow’.

Selvaraghavan never thought that the plot of the film should be out of this world. Instead, he is brutally honest about the topic he is exploring. There are main characters in Selvaraghavan’s films, not heroes. Those main characters are villains in the real world. In 7G Rainbow Colony (2004) directed by Selvaraghavan, in which Dhanush did not play the lead role (would have been cool if he did), the main character puts the girl through much trouble to win her love. In Pudhu Pettai (2006), Dhanush’s character Kokki Kumar is a murderer, and on the day of his friend’s sister’s marriage to the young man she loves, he forcibly marries her and rapes her. He does this while he is married to another woman. In the history of Tamil cinema, it is the worst act by a leading character in a film. But on the other hand, that is the real life of people in the underworld like Kokki Kumar.

To win the girl from the movie Kaadhal Kondein, Vinod does extremely wicked things.

Selvaraghavan is the devil in Tamil cinema. The one who shows us the dark side of our own hearts.

So, what is this new film that such a director like Selvaraghavan has directed with his younger brother?

The truth is, compared to some of his previous movies, Naane Varuven falls a little short of expectations, especially when it comes to the flow of the story.

However, this film brings out Selvaraghavan’s unforgiving use of cinema as usual. That’s why this movie can expose a deep-seated fear in the lives of the middle-class today.

Dhanush, not Selvaraghavan, wrote this movie. But, Dhanush has written a film that fits Selvaraghavan’s style.

In the film he raises fear from within the story of a man who has a good job, an understanding wife, a loving child, a good income, and an apartment in a city. Prabhu, played by Dhanush, is that successful middle-class father.

(Just for fun we’d like to remember that Dhanush’s real name is Venkatesh Prabhu, and that Sivaji Ganesan’s son Prabhu Ganesan is playing a supporting role in this.)

This father’s life is perfect. But this character is not glorified as a hero on the movie screen.

In the very beginning of the movie, Yogi Babu says that everything in Sir’s life is perfect, that Sir is always happy.

But this perfect life faces danger. After the Covid pandemic, in the modern world where inflation and economic crises have emerged, the fear of many middle-class people who have risen to the top is that perfect lives will be destroyed. The fear that their dark past will come back to haunt them.

The first half of the film is entirely about that fear. In the second half, the story steps into another dimension. Meet Prabhu’s twin brother, a man with a beast trapped inside leading an ordinary life.

Out of the two characters played by Dhanush, Selvaraghavan portrays the character of the murderous villain as the main character. That character receives the ‘hero introduction’.

The middle-class Prabhu receives no hero introduction and no special music. But his evil twin brother does. The audience cheers for this villain.

When we say villain, is that character really a villain, or is he the biggest victim in this story? Should we all sympathize with him? Is that why Prabhu’s twin brother is made the hero of the story? Or do bad people falsely talk about their pains to gain sympathy?

They are separate matters. Anyway, the second part of the movie takes the story in a different direction, as is usual in Selvaraghavan’s films. Almost all his movies are like that. One kind of story in the first half and a different story in the second half. Two movies within one.

The first half of Naane Varuven is an urban apartment horror. The second half is a revenge drama.

In the first half of Kaadhal Kondein, an innocent poor young man falls in love with a beautiful rich girl. In the second half, a girl and boy struggle to escape from a mentally ill killer.

At the beginning of Pudhupettai, a frightened, abused, weak, and innocent young man gets involved in an underworld gang. In the second part, a story of a thug who has no love for anyone appears. In the first part of Irandaam Ulagam (2013), a young man goes after a girl. The second half goes to a parallel universe. Three people exploring the jungle in the first part in Aayirathil Oruvan (2008) and a political story of a hidden Chola kingdom in the second part. The first half of Mayakkam Enna is the love between a friend’s girlfriend and a boy who has clue about his future. The second part shows a full-blown family and professional life.

So, having reminisced a bit about Selvaraghavan’s cinema past, let’s return to the film.

It is because of this second half that the movie feels a little weak. There are a few shortcomings. The revenge drama has not been designed properly. Many more aspects of the main villain’s character could have been revealed to the audience. To tell the truth, that’s the Dhanush we all want to see. It feels as if they wanted to send the audience home quickly, as the last scene suddenly came, and they quickly untangle the remaining questions in the movie.

But, even with those small flaws, the movie tells the story in a very interesting way. A villain is not ‘the hunted, but a hunter.’ The movie’s song for him says that he is someone who sees the beastly nature in people and the human nature in beasts.

But this horrible villain wishes for only one thing. Love. At the beginning of the movie, there is a beautiful scene about how this beast loses love. It is the scene where the ‘good boy’ and ‘bad boy’ are first recognized among two twin brothers in the family. It starts with a place where the ‘good boy’ betrays the ‘bad boy’ because of a small fight. After that, the father gives the ‘bad boy’ a very severe punishment. The mind of the ‘bad boy’ is greatly traumatized as a result of that punishment.

This ‘bad boy’ doesn’t get love from a young age. Instead, he is left alone, and his mind pushed deeper and deeper into a dark abyss. A mental abyss is worse than a physical one in this world. It’s nearly impossible to come up. Perverted, broken ideas work in that darkness. In today’s world, drug or alcohol addiction, suicide, and crime are manifestations of the pain of people who have fallen into such a mental abyss. Such pain has also manifested as historical artefacts.

That way, you can love this movie regardless of its minor flaws because of the dark dimensions that the movie Naane Varuven touches. Yuvan Shankar Raja’s music, which matches the mood of the film, also adds to the darkness of the film. More than Yuvan Shankar Raja’s smooth love songs, the songs that matched the beat of the heart when we commit a ‘sin’ always excelled. Both Rendu Raaja and Veera Soora songs are excellent in that way.

We don’t promise that it will be hundred-percent close to the level of Selvaraghavan, Dhanush and Yuvan Shankar’s past productions. But it has features of that past. Still, a Dhanush film rarely bores you (Unless someone like Gautham Vasudev Menon creates a dull film like Enai Noki Paayum Thota in an evil scheme to bore you to death with voiceovers). Dhanush’s films are not boring because Dhanush is in them.

Dhanush, a generational talent in India, haunts throughout the film. At one point, Dhanush will win your sympathy on screen, at another time win your love, and at another time fear, disgust, and cheers.