Vetrimaaran is an Indian film director, film producer and screenwriter who primarily works in Tamil cinema. As of 2021, he has won five National Film Awards, eight Ananda Vikatan Cinema Awards and two Filmfare South Awards.

Vetrimaaran
Vetrimaaran in August 2016
Born (1975-09-04) 4 September 1975 (age 48) [1][2]
Occupation(s)Film director film producer,screenwriter
Years active2007 – present
SpouseAarthi
Children2
RelativesEre. Elamvazhuthi
(maternal grandfather)

Vetrimaaran made his directorial debut with the Polladhavan (2007). His second feature film Aadukalam (2011) won six National Film Awards. He produces films under his production company, Grass Root Film Company. His 2016 directorial Visaranai was selected as India's official entry to the Academy Awards.[3] His film Asuran (2019) received the National Film Award for Best Feature Film in Tamil.[4] He is also the founder of International Institute of Film and Culture (IIFC).[5][6]

Personal life edit

Vetrimaaran was born in Cuddalore in 1975. His father Dr. V. Chitravel was a veterinary scientist and his mother Megala Chitravel is a noted novelist.[7][8][9] He has an elder sister.[10] He later moved to Ranipet.

He is married to Aarthi whom he met at Loyola College where he was studying. They have two children, Poonthendral and Kathiravan.[11]

Career edit

Late 90s–2007: Beginning directions edit

While studying English literature at Loyola College, he undertook a course on television presentation at the end of which he had to make a film. While making the film, he learned of his inclination towards filmmaking. Later, he attended a seminar organised by Balu Mahendra, who at that time was a visiting professor at Loyola. Impressed by the veteran filmmaker Vetrimaaran decided that he'd learn filmmaking from him. Balu Mahendra then accepted him as one of his lead assistants. Following that he faced the dilemma of choosing between studies and Film. He opted for the latter which meant he had to opt out-of his course at Loyola. Balu Mahendra expanded his duties for the Tamil serial Kathai Neram (2000) and the Tamil films En Iniya Ponnilave (2001), Julie Ganapathy (2003), and Adhu Oru Kana Kaalam (2005). He has since credited Balu Mahendra as his mentor and the one who encouraged to follow his dream of becoming a director. He also acted in a brief role as Richard Rishi's assistant in Kadhir's Kadhal Virus (2002).[12]

It was during the making of his mentor's Adhu Oru Kana Kaalam where Vetrimaaran became acquainted with the lead actor of the film, Dhanush. He prepared a script for Dhanush who immediately accepted the offer after hearing the story.[13] After he found trouble finding producers with A. M. Rathnam and Salem Chandrasekhar leaving the project after initial interest, Dhanush's sister Dr. Vimala Geetha agreed to produce the film, but she also dropped the film. Dhanush's father Kasthuri Raja finally agreed to produce the film. However, after two days of shoot, the film was shelved, and Dhanush opted to pursue other films after the surprise success of his Thiruvilayadal Arambam.[14] The film's collapse saw Vetrimaaran approach producer Kadiresan and narrated to him the stories he had prepared, but the producer did not like Desiya Nedunchaalai 47, but agreed to work on another project titled Polladhavan (2007).

Vetrimaaran has since described that he had "ample time" for the production works of Polladhavan as "Dhanush had confidence in him". The film's story was inspired partly by the lost bike of his friend Andrew and the variety of experiences he had tracking down his vehicle. Vetrimaaran revealed that when he wrote the script, he made many changes to suit the visual medium and for Dhanush on his physical attributes while playing an action hero. The film opened in November 2007 to rave reviews, with the critic from Sify stating that "Vetri has made his mentor proud, and his style of narration and takings are very similar to the ace director Balu Mahendra, labelling that the film had shades of Vittorio De Sica's 1948 Italian film, Bicycle Thieves.[15] When questioned about its relevance to Bicycle Thieves, he stated that it "is a disgrace to Bicycle Thieves if it is compared with Polladhavan".[16][17]

2011–2015: Breakthrough and widespread acclaim edit

Following the success of Polladhavan, the entire team of that film: Vetrimaaran, Dhanush, Kishore, producer S. Kathiresan, and G. V. Prakash Kumar collaborated once again for Aadukalam (2011), which deals with the rivalry between cock-fighters in Madurai.[18] During Pre-production and scripting, Vetrimaaran spent a period of two years in Madurai to understand the local dialect and lifestyle of the people living there. Aadukalam was the first film of Vetrimaaran to have a production office set up outside of Chennai.[19] Vetrimaaran took a year to complete the screenplay, script, and dialogues for Aadukalam and held a bounded script for the venture, which is considered rare in Tamil films.[18][20] Vetrimaaran narrated only half of the film's script to Dhanush before the latter was impressed with it and agreed to act in the film.[18] The film was initially titled Seval, but since the rights to the title were already taken by director Hari for his project with Bharath, Vetrimaaran decided to rename his film as Aadukalam.[21]

The film languished in production hell for two years due to constant changing in cast, crew and location, but Vetrimaaran, Dhanush, Kishore, Kathiresan and G. V. Prakash Kumar remained on. Vetrimaaran introduced two newcomers who made their Tamil debuts: Taapsee Pannu[22][23] and Sri Lankan Tamil writer and political commentator V. I. S. Jayapalan,[24] while future Vetrimaaran collaborators Dinesh, Murugadoss and Naren made their breakthroughs through this film.

Upon release, Aadukalam received critical acclaim and was a commercial success. Sify called it "a gutsy and brilliant film" and mentioned that it " lives up to the expectation that the film carried and the credit goes to Vetrimaran whose research and hard work shows on screen".[25]

In 2012, Vetrimaaran launched his own production house called the Grass Root Film Company and launched his maiden project, Udhayam NH4 (2013) with Siddharth in the lead role and his associate Manimaran as director.[26] He wrote the dialogues of Naan Rajavaga Pogiren (2013) directed by newcomer Prithvi Rajkumar.[27] In 2014, his production Poriyaalan, dubbed as a sort of sibling to Polladhavan was released to critical appreciation.[28] In 2015, the Children's film Kaaka Muttai (2015), directed by Manikandan and jointly produced by Dhanush's Wunderbar Films and Grassroot Film Company received critical acclaim from all around India and won the Best Children's Film Award at the 62nd National Film Awards.[29]

2016–present: Further success edit

Vetrimaaran's third venture was the crime-thriller Visaranai (2015) was based on M. Chandrakumar's novel Lock Up. The film deals with the lives of a few Tamil laborers subject to horrific atrocities committed by the police in which they are unable to escape from. Vetrimaaran chose to begin the film before the schedule for his other venture Vada Chennai (2018) and reunited with actors Dinesh, Murugadoss and Kishore, where the first two play the main Tamil laborers, while the latter plays an auditor. Though he had dubbed for Kishore in Aadukalam, Samuthirakani made this film his maiden acting collaboration with Vetrimaaran, portraying as a hard nosed yet sympathetic police inspector, while Telugu film actor Ajay Ghosh made his breakthrough as a Telugu soft speaking, yet "villainous" inspector in Guntur.[30] Upon release, Visaranai received positive acclaim. Twitch Film viewed Visarnai as a top class film about reality comparable to 2012 Cannes favourite Gangs of Wasseypur.[31] Baradwaj Rangan, then of The Hindu wrote "Visaranai is beautifully filmed, though there isn't much room for beauty. The frames appear to have been snatched from the back alleys of life. The verité illusion is aided by the utterly lifelike performances—even if the word "performance" seems wrong."[32]

It was India's official entry in the Foreign Language film category at the 2017 Academy Awards, but failed to get nominated. In India, the film also won three National Film awards - Best Feature Film in Tamil, Best Supporting Actor for Samuthirakani and Best Editing for Kishore Te and G. B. Venkatesh [33] and numerous awards at Ananda Vikatan and Filmfare South.

Vetrimaaran also produced three films in a row with Kodi (2016), Lens (2017) and Annanukku Jai (2018).[34][35][36] His fourth directorial venture which he had been preparing for since 2009, Vada Chennai saw him reunite with Dhanush, Samuthirakani, Kishore, Daniel Balaji, Pawan, cinematographer Velraj, art director Jacki and editor G. B. Venkatesh. The film is about a skilled carrom player who becomes a reluctant participant in a gang war between two rival gangsters. Like Aadukalam, the film went through production and development hell over a period of 9 years with huge changes in cast and crew and a lot of scouting and research, yet Vetrimaaran made sure it was not shelved.[37] The film ran into controversy from the fisherfolk community, because of a love-making scene between Ameer and Andrea filmed in a boat, which was considered to be offensive for the community. As a result, Vetrimaaran in a video statement, apologised to anyone who may have been hurt by the offensive scenes and agreed to remove them from the film.[38][39][40]

After a long delay, Vada Chennai was released on 18 October 2018, opening with critical and commercial acclaim, with critics praising the story, screenplay and each of the actors' performance.[41] Janani K, a critic from India Today gave a rating of 4 stars (out of 5) and said that "Vada Chennai has everything you look for in a gangster thriller. But Vetri Maaran's display of twists and turns will win you over."[42] Sowmya Rajendran, editor-in-chief of The News Minute wrote "From the colourful curses of the street to each of the characters, the film gives us a very real glimpse of gang wars. Vetrimaaran-Dhanush delivers a brilliant gangster film."[43] Baradwaj Rangan of Film Companion South wrote "Dhanush's ascent to stardom has come alongside his growth as an actor, and there’s not one scene where he makes us doubt his character's actions. With his outstanding cinematographer Velraj, Vetrimaaran unleashes one flamboyant scene after another."[44] Vada Chennai earned 50 crore (US$6.3 million) at the worldwide box office and Dhanush received numerous accolades for his role.[45]

Producer Kalaipuli S. Thanu signed Vetrimaaran and Dhanush to a new film, Asuran which saw the duo reunite with music director G. V. Prakash Kumar, cinematographer Velraj and actors Naren, Pawan and Munnar Ramesh, the latter of whom has featured in all of Vetrimaaran's feature films from Polladhavan onwards. The film's plot is based on Poomani's novel Vekkai (transl. Heat) and is influenced by the real-life Kilvenmani massacre that occurred in 1968.[46] Dhanush plays a lower class farmer who has to protect his family when his youngest son murders a rich upper class landlord and would be seen in two looks: one as a young man in a flashback and the second as a middle-aged man in the present.[47][48][49]

Upon release in October 2019, it received critical acclaim. The Times of India, rated 3.5 out of 5 stars, stating that "Vetri Maaran delivers yet another solid action drama that keeps us engrossed from start to finish."[50] S. Subhakeerthana from The Indian Express rated the film 4 out of 5 and reviewed it as "With this Dhanush starrer, Vetrimaaran proves he's one of the finest directors in Indian cinema, yet again. Only a few filmmakers like him can pull off a mainstream cinema, balancing ‘realism’ and commercial elements."[51] Commercially, the film became a blockbuster at the box office, entering the ₹100 crore club and is currently the highest-grossing film of Vetrimaaran's career.[52] It won numerous awards including two National Awards – Best Feature Film in Tamil and Best Actor for Dhanush.[53] In the same year, Vetrimaaran collaborated with Suresh Kamatchi for their production, Miga Miga Avasaram (2019).[54]

He wrote and directed a segment, Oor Iravu, for the anthology, Paava Kadhaigal (2020), starring Sai Pallavi and Prakash Raj. Each of the short films of the anthology touch upon the issue of honour killing.[55] "Oor Iravu" received positive acclaim with Baradwaj Rangan of Film Companion writing, "Vetri Maaran’s is the most powerful, most gut-churning installment. The house becomes a character of its own, with its clearly established geography...It may seem strange to say this, given Vetri Maaran’s terrific run of films, but Oor Iravu is his best-directed work."[56]

Filmography edit

Film edit

Year Film Writer Director Producer Notes
2007 Polladhavan  Y  Y  N Vijay Award for Best Director
2011 Aadukalam  Y  Y  N National Film Award for Best Director
National Film Award for Best Screenplay
Filmfare Award for Best Tamil Director
SIIMA Award for Best Director
Vijay Award for Best Director
2013 Udhayam NH4  Y  N  Y
Naan Rajavaga Pogiren  N  N  N As dialogue writer
2014 Poriyaalan  N  N  Y
2015 Kaaka Muttai  N  N  Y National Film Award for Best Children's Film
Ananda Vikatan Cinema Award for Best Film
Norway Tamil Film Festival Award for Best Film
Audience's Choice Award for Best Feature Film
Tamil Nadu State Film Award Special Prize
Filmfare Award for Best Film – Tamil
Edison Award for Best Producer
2016 Visaranai  Y  Y  Y National Film Award for Best Feature Film in Tamil
Ananda Vikatan Cinema Award for Best Film
Ananda Vikatan Cinema Award for Best Director
Ananda Vikatan Cinema Award for Best Screenplay
Kodi  N  N  Y
2017 Lens  N  N  Y
2018 Annanukku Jai  N  N  Y
Vada Chennai  Y  Y  Y Ananda Vikatan Cinema Award for Best Screenplay
2019 Asuran  Y  Y  N National Film Award for Best Feature Film in Tamil
Zee Cine Award Tamil for Best Director
Behindwoods Gold Medal for Best Director
Ananda Vikatan Cinema Award for Best Director
Miga Miga Avasaram  N  N  Y
2020 Paava Kadhaigal  Y  Y  N Anthology Film; segment: Oor Iravu
2021 Sangathalaivan  N  N  Y
2022 Anel Meley Pani Thuli  N  N  Y Released on Sony LIV[57]
2023 Viduthalai Part 1  Y  Y  N [58]
TBA Garudan  Y  N  Y [59][60]
TBA Viduthalai Part 2  Y  Y  N Post Production[61]

As an actor edit

Television edit

Year Title Creator Director Writer Executive producer Notes
2022 Pettaikaali Yes No No No
TBA Nilamellaam Rattham Yes No Yes Yes With Ameer and Yuvan

References edit

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Works cited edit

External links edit