Vada Chennai

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Vada Chennai
Vada Chennai.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byVetrimaaran
Produced byDhanush
A. Subashkaran
Written byVetrimaaran
Naren Siddharth
Andrea Jeremiah
Aishwarya Rajesh
Music bySanthosh Narayanan
Edited byG. B. Venkatesh
R. Ramar
Distributed byLyca Productions
Wunderbar Films
Release date
  • 17 October 2018 (2018-10-17)
Running time
164 minutes

Vada Chennai (transl. North Chennai) is a 2018 Indian Tamil-language action crime film[1][2][3] written and directed by Vetrimaaran in his fourth film as a director. It is the first installment in a planned trilogy. Produced by A. Subaskaran's Lyca Productions and Dhanush's Wunderbar Films with Vetrimaaran's Grass Root Film Company, it features Dhanush in the lead role as Anbu, a skilled carrom player who becomes a reluctant participant in a gang war between two rival gangsters. Ameer, Andrea Jeremiah, and Aishwarya Rajesh appear in other primary roles, while Samuthirakani, Daniel Balaji, Kishore, and Pawan appear in supporting roles.[4][5]

The film had been in the news since late 2009 with an official announcement only made in November 2011 that the filming would commence by March 2012.[6] After being temporarily shelved, the film re-materialized in May 2015 with a new cast; featuring Dhanush as the lead, making his third collaboration with the director after Polladhavan and Aadukalam. Principal photography for the film which was commenced in June 2016, was wrapped up in February 2018. The cinematography for the film was done by Velraj and editing handled by G. B. Venkatesh and R. Ramar. The music was composed by Santhosh Narayanan, in his first collaboration with the director and the soundtrack album received positive reviews.

Vada Chennai which was initially slated to release on 13 September 2018, during the Ganesh Chathurthi festival was postponed to 17 October 2018, because of the post-production works.[7] The film received critical acclaim, praising the performances of the cast and the script, while criticising the dialogues. Post-release, the film drew controversies, about the fishermen community in which few scenes from the film found offensive, after the director decided to remove the scenes from the movie, and added further new scenes. After the film's success, director Vetrimaaran decided to plan for a sequel for this film.

The film received several awards at the 2018 Ananda Vikatan Cinema Awards, including Best Actor for Dhanush, Best Supporting Actor for Ameer and Best Music Director for Santhosh Narayanan. At the 8th South Indian International Movie Awards, the film received several nominations, including Best Actor for Dhanush, which was the only win at the ceremony. The film was nominated at three categories at the 66th Filmfare Awards South, in which Dhanush won the Filmfare Award for Best Actor.


The film follows a non-linear narrative.

1987: Guna, "Jawa" Pazhani, Velu, and Senthil kill a "high profile" man at a restaurant in North Madras. Senthil requests Guna and Velu to surrender for the murder while he bails them out. A year later, the pair is still in jail, and it creates a rift between them and Senthil, despite Mani and Thambi intervening.

2000: The new warden of the Madras Central Prison plans to weed out all nefarious activities in the prison, which are being controlled by Senthil from the 7th Block. Senthil never steps out of the 7th Block, fearing for his life from Guna's men in the 11th Block. Anbu and Velu's brother Siva is brought into the prison for fighting. Anbu saves one of Senthil's henchmen, Raju, from being killed by Siva. Anbu is placed in the 11th Block under Velu and Mani. During a raid, he gives away a mobile phone belonging to Mani and is almost killed for doing so, before being saved by the warden.

1991: Anbu, Carrom, & Padma

Anbu is a skilled carrom player, and Siva often gets him to play bet matches for him. On the night Rajiv Gandhi is assassinated, the entire hamlet where Anbu lives loots nearby shops and makes away with various goods. A masked girl steals a sewing machine from Anbu, but he lets her go. The next morning, local cops, along with Thambi, come to recover the stolen goods. Despite having his goods returned, the shopkeeper is keen on filing a complaint against Anbu, as Anbu had hit him the previous night, under the pretext of not returning the sewing machine. Anbu, in turn, goes and accosts the girl, Padma, but she refuses to return it. Anbu gets beaten up by the shopkeeper and loses badly in that year's carrom tournament. Anbu and Padma begin a relationship, during the course of which Anbu saves Guna from contract killers during a festival. The killers reveal that they are Senthil's men, and things only worsen between Guna and Senthil.

2000: Raju helps Anbu shift to the 7th Block after he cleverly smuggles in contraband for Raju. Meanwhile, Senthil is still trying to harbor political aspirations through a local politician named Muthu, who is also in prison.

1996: Anbu, Padma, & Pazhani

Pazhani teases Padma after she and Anbu are caught kissing. Pazhani also beats up Padma's brother Kannan. Anbu goes to speak to Pazhani but is beaten up as well. After no one is willing to help Anbu, he goes back with weapons to threaten him but ends up killing Pazhani. Pazhani's men chase Anbu, but he escapes.

2000: Anbu requests Senthil to organize a carrom tournament for the prisoners, which will also help Senthil to make peace with the strict Jail Chief and also promote his political aspirations. The tournament is conducted throughout the Jail. Senthil, Siva and Anbu all proceed to the knock-out quarter-finals. The final three rounds of the tournament are held in the common prison courtyard, which implies that Senthil must come out. Velu and Mani try to utilize the opportunity to kill Senthil and heavily arm their boys. Senthil is alerted and gets ready to kill his to be assassins with their own weapons. However, Senthil's right thumb is injured accidentally, and he withdraws from the tournament. Anbu and Siva proceed to the finals, and Anbu requests Senthil to be present for the finals to raise morale. Senthil agrees and comes to watch the final. Immediately after Anbu wins the final, the tournament tent is collapsed, and two gangs clash. Senthil is able to aptly defend himself. However, Anbu stabs Senthil in the neck with a wooden shard broken from the carrom board, leaving him heavily injured and paralyzed for life. Raju is the only witness but does not talk as Anbu spared his life from Siva. Anbu then explains his loyalty towards Guna to Raju.

1996: Anbu, Guna, & Chandra

After Anbu kills Pazhani, Thambi sends him to Guna. Guna's wife Chandra convinces Guna to send his own brother Shankar in Anbu's place to jail, as it will benefit everyone. Senthil murders Shankar in jail, so Anbu pledges his life to Guna. Sometime later, trying to confirm a party post, Senthil surrenders himself to the cops and calls for a truce with Guna, but Guna comes to know that Senthil has requested Guna and Velu's name to the police hit list. He calls Anbu to help him and provides him with a plan to gain Senthil's trust in prison and subsequently kill him.

2000: Anbu is bailed out of prison by Guna but tells him that he does not want to work for Guna and wants to hone carrom players instead. Anbu then marries Padma.

2003: At a coming-of-age ceremony for Thambi's daughter, a road contractor requests Guna and Senthil to come together to help in evicting people from Anbu's hamlet with the promise of houses and jobs. Anbu's friend Hameed has petitioned against the project, and Guna requests Anbu's help to talk Hameed out of it. Anbu then tells everything to Padma, including Rajan's story and how he had fought for the local people.

1987: Anbu, Rajan, and the Hood

Rajan is the biggest smuggler in North Madras and works for Muthu. Muthu requests Rajan's help with clearing out the hamlets for a road project. Rajan stands against Muthu and vows to protect his hood and stops his smuggling activities. He also marries Chandra. Muthu, seeing that Rajan will not help him, informs the cops about his smuggling activities. When the cops come, Rajan kidnaps the ACP and refuses to let him go until the road project is called off. Rajan is hailed a hero in the hood for stopping the project. When MGR dies, Rajan goes to his funeral. Muthu, meanwhile, instigates Senthil to smuggle contraband and then tips the police, leading to Senthil and the others getting caught. Senthil, Guna, Velu, and Pazhani are beaten up and publicly humiliated by Rajan for working against his wishes, and they hence plot Rajan's death. They get Thambi to call Rajan to a hotel where Rajan tells them that he will help them become big. They are hesitant to kill him, but when their plot gets revealed, they hack Rajan (the dead man from the opening scene) to death. Rajan, while dying, requests Thambi to refrain from doing anything and let things be. Chandra vows to avenge Rajan's death.

2003: At the meeting with the road contractor, Anbu, like Rajan, makes a stand for the people of the hood and refuses to endorse the project. Guna, enraged that Anbu went up against him, lets Senthil's brother-in-law Kumar, a cop, know that it was Anbu who stabbed Senthil. Chandra then reveals how she was behind everything that happened. She had sent men to kill Guna during the festival, but Anbu saved him. She decides to marry Guna to use him to help kill the other three involved in Rajan's death. She added Guna and Velu's names to the hit list and drives a wedge between Guna and Velu. She gets Guna to leave the hood with her. She sends Rajan's men to help protect Anbu from Kumar. Kumar finds Anbu but is beaten by him. Anbu then meets Guna as he leaves the hood and warns him to leave him alone. Chandra gives Rajan's old home to Anbu. The film ends with Anbu taking up Rajan's cause of fighting for the people.

The plot extends into Vada Chennai 2.




During the production of Aadukalam (2011), Vetrimaaran simultaneously readied up another script titled Vada Chennai and it was announced that Karthi signed the film in October 2009.[8] In February 2010, it was revealed that the film would see Karthi play the lead role of a fisherman who is drawn into a mafia gang unwillingly.[9] It was reported that the film would be produced by Dayanidhi Azhagiri and the female lead role would be portrayed by Anushka Shetty, who would play a Marwari girl.[10] However talks with Karthi fell through after the film became delayed and in July 2010, Vetrimaaran revealed that discussions were being held with three lead actors to play the lead role.[11] The film made news without an official announcement over the next year and following the success of Aadukalam, Vetrimaaran began considering other scripts instead.[12]

In October 2011, the producers announced that the film would start soon and would feature Silambarasan, Rana Daggubati and Kishore in pivotal roles, with Vetrimaaran adding that the story of Vada Chennai was first written in 2003 and that he took notes from the first script to make his other two films.[13][14][15] Vetrimaaran's usual team of cinematographer Velraj, editor Kishore T.E., art director Jacki and music director G. V. Prakash Kumar were also confirmed to be a part of the crew.[16][17] The director confirmed that Andrea Jeremiah would play a pivotal supporting role.[18] Divya Spandana, who previously worked with Vetrimaaran in Polladhavan, was approached for a role but did not sign on during January 2012.[19] In a turn of events, Rana Daggubati opted out of the film in February 2012 citing date issues and the film's delay.[20] Furthermore, it was alleged that the delay of the film had also irked Silambarasan, with reports suggesting that Jiiva would replace him if the actor walked out of the project.[21] In April 2012, Dayanidhi Azhagiri announced that the project was postponed and announced that Vetrimaaran would move on to make another film for his production house starring Dhanush in the lead.[22] Vetrimaaran subsequently contemplated making several different projects with the actor in the lead, before beginning filming for Soodhadhi in March 2014. Months into production, the film was also postponed.[23]

In May 2015, Dhanush revealed that he would produce and feature in Vada Chennai and the venture would restart production in September 2015. Samantha and Andrea Jeremiah were revealed to be among the lead actresses, while Santhosh Narayanan would be the film's composer after Dhanush had fallen out with Prakash Kumar.[24] Also, G.B. Venkatesh who assists Kishore T.E. on Visaranai was roped as the film editor, after the latter's demise due to his health problems. The start of the project was postponed until 2016 as Dhanush completed his outstanding projects, with Vetrimaaran revealing that the film would be made in two parts and that the shoot would go on for over three hundred days.[25][26] In late 2015, the team held talks with Jiiva and Vijay Sethupathi about portraying other pivotal characters in the film, though neither actor immediately signed on.[27] Lyca Productions announced that they would produce the film in early 2016 and that Vada Chennai would be a trilogy rather than two films. Samuthirakani and Daniel Balaji were subsequently signed on to portray other pivotal roles.[28] Likewise several actors who have previously worked on Vetrimaaran's films such as Kishore, Karunas and Pawan joined the cast during June 2016.[29] Before the film's shoot started, Samantha opted out of the film citing scheduling issues caused by the film suddenly becoming a trilogy and was replaced by Amala Paul in the leading female role.[30] Vijay Sethupathi also agreed to portray an extended cameo in the film, with Dhanush announcing his inclusion during July 2016.[31] In early 2017, Vijay Sethupathi and Amala Paul opted out of the project owing to a delay in the shoot, with the pair being replaced by Ameer and Aishwarya Rajesh. Before Ameer replaced Vijay Sethupathi, Vijay wasn't too satisfied with the role and had to opt out because of date issues and role satisfication as Vetrimaaran wanted to rope Telugu actor Ravi Teja for the role, as he was impressed with the script and role but couldn't take up the role because of his ongoing Telugu projects.[32][33][34]


Production for the film began on 22 June 2016 with the first schedule of the shoot held at Binny Mills with Art Director Jacki designing the sets of Andhra Pradhesh in Chennai. Amritha Ram worked on the costumes for the film.[35][36] The shoot continued throughout mid-2016 in North Chennai for thirty days, with scenes depicting the 1970s shot.[37][38] The production was briefly delayed as Vetrimaaran sought to get his previous film, Visaranai (2016), ready for the Academy Awards nomination process, which prompted Dhanush to move on to work on his other projects, Pa Paandi (2017) and Velaiilla Pattadhari 2 (2017).[39] The break between schedules also meant that Vetrimaaran began pre-production work on another film starring G. V. Prakash Kumar, which he would make following the completion of the first part of Vada Chennai.[40][41]

The second filming schedule began in April 2017 in Royapuram, Chennai.[42] Shooting ended in February 2018.[43]


Vada Chennai (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
Vada Chennai soundtrack.jpg
Soundtrack Album Cover
Soundtrack album by
Released23 September 2018
GenreFeature film soundtrack
LabelWunderbar Studios
ProducerSanthosh Narayanan
Santhosh Narayanan chronology
Pariyerum Perumal
Vada Chennai (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)

Santhosh Narayanan composed the soundtrack album and background score of Vada Chennai, marking his first collaboration with the director Vetrimaaran, and replacing his usual composer G. V. Prakash Kumar. Initially, the latter was about to compose for the film, but he opted due to schedule conflicts. This also marks the second collaboration with Dhanush after Kodi (2016).

Vada Chennai also marks the 25th film of Santhosh Narayanan as a composer in his career.[44] The official teaser theme of Vada Chennai, was released on 30 July 2018.[45] The makers announced that all the songs in the film will be released on 23 September 2018,[46][47] without launching any singles.[48] The music rights were acquired by Wunderbar Studios, a subsidiary of Dhanush's production company Wunderbar Films, alongside with Divo.[46][49] The tracklist was released on 21 September 2018,[50] which features eleven songs composed by Santhosh Narayanan with three instrumentals. The lyrics were written by Gana Bala, Vivek, Rokesh, Arivu, Dholak Jagan and Sindhai Rev. Ravi. An album preview was released on 22 September, in which composer Santhosh Narayanan, came live through YouTube, Facebook and Twitter.[51][52] The songs were released directly through the internet and in streaming platforms such as Saavn,[53] JioMusic[54] and Gaana.[55][56][57]

The soundtrack received positive reviews from critics.[58] Within 3 days of its release, the soundtrack topped the iTunes charts,[59] and also streamed above 5,00,000 times on Saavn.[60] Firstpost rated the album 3.5 out of 5 stars, reviewing that, "Santhosh Narayanan delivers an earthy soundtrack in his first collaboration with Vetrimaaran".[61] Behindwoods reviewed the album stating that, "Santhosh Narayanan retains the flavor conveyed in the title of the film!" and rated with 3 out of 5.[62] Sharanya CR from The Times of India who reviewed the soundtrack, stated that "Vada Chennai is a special film not just for Dhanush or Vetri Maaran, but also for composer Santhosh Narayanan. True to its title, Santhosh has managed to give the soundtrack a flavour of north Madras by using north Madras words and roping in vada Chennai gana singers across generations for some of the songs." Further adding that "a brilliant stuff by Santhosh, who gives a peek into the film with his incredible music."[63] praised the soundtrack album as it "offers rich tributes to Madras gaana"[64]

1."Sandhanatha"Gana BalaKa Ka Balachander, Gana Bala4:50
3."Kaarkuzhal Kadavaaiye"VivekSanthosh Narayanan, Sriram Parthasarathy, Pradeep Kumar, Ananthu5:12
4."Maadila Nikkura Maankutty"Gana BalaGana Bala, Dhee4:46
5."Ennadi Maayavi Nee"VivekSid Sriram,4:11
6."Epadiyamma"Sindhai Rev. RaviSindhai Rev. Ravi4:13
7."Maathiya Seraiyile"ArivuArivu2:17
8."Alangaara Pandhal"Dholak JeganDholak Jegan3:01
9."King of the Sea" Instrumental3:48
10."VadaChennai Theme" Instrumental2:45
Total length:40:47


Vada Chennai was initially slated to release on 13 September 2018, coinciding with the Ganesh Chathurthi festival. But the makers postponed its release to October 2018, mainly coinciding with the Dusshera festival, due to post-production works.

After receiving an 'A' certificate from the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC)[65] with a few cuts, Vada Chennai was released on 17 October 2018.[66]

The film was also dubbed in Hindi as Chennai Central and released on YouTube by Goldmines Telefilms on 21 June 2020.[67]


The teaser released in July 2018 received positive responses from fans.[68][69] Celebrities such as Shah Rukh Khan and Anurag Kashyap praised Dhanush and Vetrimaaran's work in the teaser.[70]

The official merchandise of Vada Chennai, was launched by Cover It Up and Fully Filmy on 15 October 2018, as a part of the film's promotion.[71][72]


Post-release, the film drew criticism for allegedly portraying the residents of North Chennai in a bad light.[73] The film also drew controversies from fisherfolk community, because of the scenes in the film deemed offensive to the fishing community in northern Chennai.[74] After these controversies, director Vetrimaaran in a video statement, apologised to anyone who may have been hurt by the film. Then the director agreed to remove the offensive scenes from the film.[75]


Box office[edit]

Vada Chennai surpassed Velaiilla Pattadhari to emerge the highest-grossing Tamil film of Dhanush's career. It earned 50 crore (US$7.0 million) worldwide in the first two weeks.[76]

Critical response[edit]

The film was met with critical acclaim, with critics praising the story, screenplay and each actors performance.[77] India today gave a rating of 4 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."[78] The Indian Express said "It is not the story that stands out in Vada Chennai. It is how beautifully Vetrimaaran has captured the lifestyle of a place, which is so close and yet so far away from the advancement of modern civilization." and gave 5 out of 5 ratings for the movie.[79] Sowmya Rajendran 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."[80] Srivatsan S of The Hindu said "The obvious political overtones that have been built throughout will have its relevance in part two. If anything, Vada Chennai reiterates why Vetri Maaran is a master storyteller."[81] Priyanka Sundar of the Hindustan Times found it 'a brilliant beginning to Dhanush-Vetrimaaran trilogy' and rated 5 out of 5.[82] Deccan Chronicle gave 4 out of 5 ratings with a note "Men are flawed, women angry".[83] Filmibeat called it "A Fabulous Journey That Is Realistic, Hard-hitting & Entertaining" gave rated it 4/5.[84] Anusha Iyengar of Times Now news concluded "Do not miss Vada Chennai for the world! This is Dhanush's best film so far and the actor has raised the bar for himself really high. Vada Chennai has all the ingredients that make it entertaining, thrilling and a compelling gangster drama", giving a rating of 4 out of 5.

The Times of India gave 4 out of 5 and stated "The sprawling nature of the narrative and the various events that impact the lives of the numerous characters make Vada Chennai truly an epic."[85] Behindwoods concluded "'VadaChennai' is an admirable gangster drama that you can't miss. It'll leave you yearning for the rest of the trilogy." and gave 3.5 out of 5.[86] Sreedhar Pillai, in his review for Firstpost praised "Dhanush's realistic performance, Vetrimaaran's direction makes this film a winner' and gave 3.5 out of 5."[87] Sify also gave a rating of 3.5 out 5 and said "Vada Chennai takes its time to unfold, and you may enjoy if you muster the patience for it. Give it a chance, watch it for some excellent acting and for its gritty realistic feel."[88] Suhansid Srikanth of Moviecrow gave it 3.5 out of 5[89] Indiaglitz said "To put precisely, Vada Chennai is here to stay even if you like it or not. Watch it for the true gutsy performances of the lead characters and well-researched lifestyle of gangster life in North Madras over the last two decades", and gave a rating of 3.25 out of 5.[90] Film Companion South wrote "The actors are so good (Ameer is a standout) and the film’s parts are so much greater than the whole that savouring them becomes its own kind of satisfaction. With his outstanding cinematographer Velraj, Vetrimaaran unleashes one flamboyant scene after another."[91]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Date of Ceremony Award Category Recipient(s) and nominee(s) Result Ref.
16 December 2018 Behindwoods Gold Medal Best Actress Andrea Jeremiah Won [92]
5 January 2019 Ananda Vikatan Cinema Awards Best Actor Dhanush Won [93]
Best Supporting Actor Ameer Won
Best Screenplay Vetrimaaran Won
Best Art Direction Jacki Won
Best Music Director Santhosh Narayanan Won
Best Stunt Director Dhilip Subbarayan Won
26 February 2019 Edison Awards Best Actor Dhanush Won
16 August 2019 8th South Indian International Movie Awards Best Actor in a Lead Role Dhanush Won [94]
Best Actress in a Supporting Role Andrea Jeremiah Nominated
Best Actor in a Supporting Role Ameer Nominated
Best Cinematographer Velraj Nominated
Best Director Vetrimaaran Nominated
Best Film Wunderbar Films Nominated
21 December 2019 66th Filmfare Awards South Best Actor Dhanush Won [95]
Best Director Vetrimaaran Nominated
Best Film Dhanush, Subaskaran Allirajah, Vetrimaaran Nominated


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