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IPPADAI VELLUM REVIEW: Ippadai Vellum begins by introducing its antagonist with a lengthy shot that seems to be patched together as a single shot. We begin with a low-angle shot of a prison, a car enters neatly pushing offscreen the on-screen text that gives us the place and date. We see a leg that is shot in a way that feels like it is stepping on the camera, which then takes flight and soars high to show us this person entering the prison. And it travels along with this person until he reaches Chota Raj (Daniel Balaji), who is inside a cell, and the camera passes through the cell to show us his face.
There is a lot of such visual gimmickry in the film (Richard M Nathan is the cinematographer), which begins as a straight-faced thriller and then takes a comic turn, for better AND worse. These gimmicks (like the scenes bleeding into one another, thanks to the symmetry in the editing by KL Praveen) keep us interested in the film for quite a while, but for some reason, the director starts cutting down on these in the second half.
Coming to the plot, Chota is a most-wanted terrorist, and after getting the message on his next target (obviously, it’s Chennai), he makes his escape in ingenious fashion. As he did with previous film, Sigaram Thodu, Gaurav shows us in detail how the guy operates. Sample: He doesn’t send mails, but just saves them as drafts so that his ISP cannot be traced. His fellow conspirators log in to the same mail, check the draft and delete it, indicating they have got the message.
Meanwhile, we are introduced to Madhusudhanan (Udhayanidhi, with his usual happy-go-lucky guy shtick), a software engineer looking for a job. He is in love with Barghavi (Manjima), whose brother Dheena (RK Suresh), an assistant commissioner, is against this romance. Then, there is Kuzhadaivelu (Soori, funny for the most parts), a dubbing artiste. Madhu and Kuzhandai have a chance encounter with Chota, and the cops arrest them, thinking that they are the terrorist’s accomplices. Can they prove their innocence, especially with Dheena planning to use this to separate Madhu from his sister?
Ippadai Vellum is entertaining to an extent as Gaurav manages to balance the seriousness of the plot with the comedy that arises out of mistaken identity. Up until the interval point, the director seems to be in command, introducing his characters in swift strokes and setting up the conflict. But he becomes less sure in the second half, conflicted whether to treat the film as a comedy or thriller or even melodrama, which we get in the form of Madhu’s mother (Radikaa), a bus driver, and Kuzhadai’s pregnant wife.
And the tonal shifts become jarring. One moment, we are asked to take the happenings on screen in full seriousness (a city facing the prospect of a terror attack) and the next, we are asked to laugh at the misfortune of the protagonists (Kuzhandai has a loss of memory). Even Madhu and Barghavi’s romance begins to grate, and from a resourceful terrorist Chota suddenly ends up as a clueless criminal.