|Music by||Santhosh Narayanan|
|Edited by||G. B. Venkatesh|
|Distributed by||Lyca Productions|
Vada Chennai (lit. North Chennai, English title: Once Upon a Time in North Chennai) is an Indian Tamil language gangster film written and directed by Vetrimaaran. Dhanush plays the role of an amateurish carrom player. Produced as a trilogy by A. Subaskaran's Lyca Productions and Dhanush's Wunderbar Films with Vetrimaran's Grass Root Film Company, it features Dhanush in the lead role with Samuthirakani, Andrea Jeremiah and Aishwarya Rajesh in other key roles. 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. After being temporarily shelved, the film re-materialised in May 2015 with a new cast; production started in June 2016, ending in February 2018.
The film follows a non-linear narrative.
1987: Four men, Guna (Samuthirakani), ‘Jawa’ Pazhani (Boxer Dheena), Velu (Pawan), and Senthil (Kishore), kill a ‘high profile’ man at a hotel in North Madras. Senthil requests Guna and Velu to surrender for the murder while he bails them out. A year later, the pair are still in jail and it creates a rift between them and Senthil, despite Mani (Subramaniam Siva) and Thambi (Daniel Balaji), brother of the deceased man, 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 (Dhanush) and Velu’s brother Siva (Pavel Navageethan) are brought into the prison for fighting. Anbu saves one of Senthil’s henchmen, Raju (Hari Krishnan), 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 (Aishwarya Rajesh) but she refuses to return it. He 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 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. Senthil meanwhile, is still trying to harbour political aspirations through a local politician Muthu (Radha Ravi) who is also in prison.
1996: Anbu, Padma, & Pazhani
‘Jawa’ Pazhani teases Padma after she and Anbu are caught kissing. Pazhani also beats up Padma’s brother Kannan (Saran Sakthi). Anbu goes to speak to Pazhani but is beaten up as well. After no one is willing to help him, he goes back with weapons and ends up killing Pazhani. Pazhani’s men chase them but he escapes.
2000: Anbu requests Senthil to organize a carrom tournament for the prisoners which will also help Senthil with his political aspirations. The final rounds of the tournament are held in the common prison courtyard which implies Senthil must come out. Velu and Mani try to utilize the opportunity to kill Senthil. Senthil is alerted though and is able to save himself. At the last minute however, Anbu stabs Senthil in the neck, leaving him paralysed for life. Raju is the only witness but doesn’t talk as Anbu spared his life. Anbu explains his loyalty towards Guna.
1996: Anbu, Guna, & Chandra
After Anbu kills Pazhani, Thambi sends him to Guna. Guna's wife Chandra (Andrea) 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 Senthil has requested Guna and Velu’s name to a 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 he doesn’t want to work for Guna and wants to hone carrom players instead. Anbu 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, & the Town
Rajan (Ameer) is the biggest smuggler in town 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 the townsfolk and stops his smuggling activities. He also marries Chandra. Muthu seeing Rajan won’t help him, informs the cops about his smuggling activities. When the cops come, Rajan kidnaps the ACP and refuses to let him go till the road project is called off. Rajan is hailed a hero in town 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 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 he’ll help them become big. They are hesitant to kill him but when their plot gets revealed, they hack Rajan to death (the dead man from the opening scene). 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 road contractor, Anbu like Rajan, makes a stand for the people of the town and refuses to endorse the project. Guna enraged Anbu went up against him, lets Senthil’s brother-in-law Kumar, a cop, know it was Anbu who stabbed Senthil.
Chandra then reveals how all that has happened so far are her doing. 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 town with her. She sends Rajan’s men to help protect Anbu from Kumar. Kumar finds Anbu but is beaten by Anbu. Anbu then meets Guna as he leaves town and warns him to leave Anbu alone. Chandra gives Rajan’s old home to Anbu. The film ends with Anbu taking up Rajan’s cause of fighting for the people and the plot extends into Vada Chennai 2.
- Dhanush as Anbu
- Ameer as Rajan
- Andrea Jeremiah as Chandra
- Aishwarya Rajesh as Padma
- Samuthirakani as Guna
- Daniel Balaji as Thambi
- Kishore as Senthil
- Pawan as Velu
- Radha Ravi as Muthu
- Subramaniam Siva as Mani
- Rajesh Sharma as Chanchal
- Vincent Ashokan as ACP
- Sai Dheena as Pazhani
- Sendrayan as Localite Resident (Cameo Appearance)
Produced by Wunderbar Films & Lyca Productions
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. 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. 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. 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. The film made news without an official announcement over the next year and following the success of Aadukalam, Vetrimaaran began considering other scripts instead.
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. 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. The director confirmed that Andrea Jeremiah would play a pivotal supporting role. Divya Spandana, who previously worked with Vetrimaaran in Polladhavan, was approached for a role but did not sign on during January 2012. In a turn of events, Rana Daggubati opted out of the film in February 2012 citing date issues and the film's delay. 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. 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. 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.
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. 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. 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. 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. Likewise several actors who have previously worked on Vetrimaaran's films such as Kishore, Karunas and Pawan joined the cast during June 2016. 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. Vijay Sethupathi also agreed to portray an extended cameo in the film, with Dhanush announcing his inclusion during July 2016. 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.
Production for the film began on 22 June 2016 with the first schedule of the shoot held at Binny Mills in Chennai. The shoot continued throughout mid-2016 in North Chennai for thirty days, with scenes depicting the 1970s shot. 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). 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.
The film's soundtrack and film score is composed by Santhosh Narayanan, collaborating first time with director Vetrimaran and second time with Dhanush. This movie marks his 25th movie as a composer. The jukebox has eight songs, composed by music director Santhosh Narayanan.
|Vada Chennai (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)|
|Soundtrack album by Santhosh Narayanan|
|Released||23 September 2018|
|Genre||Feature film soundtrack|
|Santhosh Narayanan chronology|
|1.||"Sandhanatha"||Gana Bala||Ka Ka Balachander and Gana Bala||4:50|
|3.||"Kaarkuzhal Kadavaaiye"||Vivek||Santhosh Narayanan, Sriram Parthasarathy & Pradeep Kumar||5:12|
|4.||"Maadila Nikkura Maankutty"||Gana Bala||Gana Bala, Dhee||4:47|
|5.||"Ennadi Maayavi Nee"||Vivek||Sid Sriram,||4:11|
|6.||"Epadiyamma"||Sindhai Rev. Ravi||Sindhai Rev. Ravi||4:13|
|8.||"Alangaara Pandhal"||Dholak Jegan||Dholak Jegan||3:01|
|9.||"King of the Sea"||Instrumental||3:48|
|11.||"VadaChennai Teaser Theme"||Instrumental||1:06|
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