A con artist is caught by the cops and is swindled off the money by his own partners. Meanwhile, a person who he had scammed hires a gangster to finish him off. Can he outwit these people and turn over a new leaf?
Sathuranka Vettai shows what good writing can do to a film. The film is an expertly woven tale of a remorseless con man, for whom, "money is the ultimate". The film narrates his story in six episodes which charts his rise, fall and redemption. In the first two, we see how he operates, the next two tell us why he is so and what his motivation is, and in the final two, we see how he tries to turn over a new leaf and how he has to rely on the very same talents that had made him notorious to redeem himself and shut the door on his past once and for all.
Gandhi Babu is an ingenious scamster who exploits the greed of people to makes loads of money with his get-rich-quick schemes that include topical ones like multi-level marketing (MLM) and emu farming. During one such attempt, he is caught by the cops, but despite the hundreds of cases against his name, he is freed. But he is kidnapped by a gangster who has been hired by a person he had cheated earlier. He agrees to return the money but his partners swindle the money leaving him in a precarious situation. He manages to save his skin by playing on the gangster's greediness and outwits them to shed his life of crime and begin one anew with the girl who loves him. But the gangster enters the scene again and demands what he was promised. With both his and his wife's lives at stake, can Gandhi Babu outsmart his adversaries?
The real hero of Sathuranka Vettai is its script, which, with its twists and turns, keeps us guessing for most parts of the film. The lines are razor-sharp (Nidhi irundha needhiya easy-a velaikku vaangidalam, Naama solra poi-la konjam unmai irukkanaum) and come thick and fast. The characters too are interesting and painted in different shades — a gangster who speaks in chaste Tamil (though this fluctuates now and then), a cop who understands this criminal's ideology and so on. Even Gandhi Babu is refreshingly compassionless for a leading man, and Nataraj nails the character perfectly. His body language and his modulation make us believe that this is a man who can get away from the toughest situation with his wits. The only character that is painted in white is the heroine, who seems too good to be true. The film is also self-aware — when Gandhi Babu narrates his flashback (which is presented in 2D animation), he tells point blank that he isn't doing so to gain sympathy; he tells mother sentiment has become a cliche and still goes ahead and uses it.
But there are places where the film isn't entirely successful. To begin with, it needs to have been sharper and shorter (the numerous reaction shots that Vinoth uses during the scams are not really needed). The craft is also not quite polished and there are instances when the filmmaking feels crude and we get a feeling that Vinoth is playing to the gallery. But considering this is a first film, we can look over these as niggles. But the manner in which the film turns melodramatic towards the end doesn't go with its irreverent tone (Gandhi Babu is made to dig his own grave by the villains who want to finish him off and this is intercut with his wife going into labour). For a film that is terrific for the most parts, the ending is less thrilling and tame.