Vadhandhi: The Fable of Velonie is pretty worn out in terms of its pace but still tempts you to flip the page till the end to know what really happened!
The eight-episode Tamil series starts with discovering a dead body on a movie set that the crew soon assumes is the heroine of the film. Before you know it, word spreads like wildfire and the word of her demise is on the news. The director of the film soon gets a call which in fact is from the very same actress they presumed was dead. She lets them know that she’s alive and well, which later upon investigation makes the authorities realize that the body is of an 18-year-old girl named Velonie (Sanjana) who has been missing for the past three days. What follows after is Senior Inspector Vivek (S.J. Suryah) digging deep into Velonie’s world and constantly getting caught in a web of lies with each episode bringing out a new suspect.
Directed by Andrew Louis, Vadhandhi shows how an ignorant mother who constantly questions her daughter’s virtue, a society filled with perverts constantly gazing at her, and the system as a whole failed a girl who just longed to be loved and happy. The series unabashedly shows the dark side of things which can get pretty difficult to fathom sometimes. Case in point, there’s a scene where, when Velonie’s dead body is put at the back of the ambulance, an enraged police officer stops the van and makes sure the man sitting at the back goes and sits in the front. When the police officer asks the man’s true intentions of sitting behind, he replies “I can’t do anything, sir, her body is already rotten”. That’s the moment that sent chills down my spine. I knew as the plot unfolds, the journey of watching it would not be easy for me as a woman. The story is filled with many such perverted vultures ogling at Velonie as their prey. Be it at the lodge that her mother runs, her college, or her church, she always has to walk on eggshells.
The slow pace of the show is the story’s weakness and strength. And I say this because while as a viewer it can make you feel exhausted at a lot of points when the whole mystery is solved at the end, you realize that it was truly worth the wait and why the story was written in such a manner. The series also mirrors the current reality of how the media plays judge on someone’s character and sows seeds of gossip in the public’s mind. There are so many opinions on the same incident and everyone seems like they are first in line to character-assassinate the victim. As each suspect has his own story to tell, we see a new version of Velonie’s past through SI Vivek’s perspective in every episode, some of it is true and most of it is an illusion.
S.J. Suryah’s performance is truly the backbone of the show. His obsession with bringing justice to Velonie to the point where it affects his own personal life is portrayed with so much conviction. His character reminded me a lot of Kate Winslet from Mare of Easttown, who was just as crazy about finding the truth as he was. Ditzy yet confident, Velonie has so much emotional baggage and trauma attached to her which Sanjana brings out seamlessly. It would’ve been good to see more of Nassar who plays an author in the show, nevertheless, his narration and the way he writes about Velonie feel poetic. On the other hand, Laila who plays Velonie’s mother gave below-average dialogue delivery which made me dislike the character even more than I already did.
The production design of the show stands out throughout and feels so authentic and raw. SI Vivek’s house especially made me feel nostalgic for my native place constantly. Be it a hospital, a small hut, or a police station, not once did it feel like a set and that helps give the story that small-town vibe it's going for.
Vadhandhi definitely has its misses but you overlook them because your mind is too busy either processing how women are so ruthlessly objectified in this story or just too curious to know the ending from all the suspense that is built. The climax does take you in a completely different direction which comes as a total shocker and you’re just left wondering about Velonie and her want to live like a free bird but everyone around her either wanted to clip her wings or cage her which unfortunately is still the truth of our society for many women.
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