Novels have always been a source of inspiration for filmmakers across the globe. And then there are those that inspire more than one filmmakers, in two very different parts of the world.
Robert Ludlum’s 1980 novel The Bourne Identity, for example, not only laid the foundation for Matt Damon’s blockbuster Bourne series (2002) but also gave us a Tamil film way back in 1989.
Kamal Haasan and Prabhu’s Vetri Vizha, adapted from Robert Ludlum’s The Bourne Identity, released in India in 1889. 13 years post the film’s release, Matt Damon and Doug Liman came up with a film based on the same book. It later kickstarted a franchise which became a worldwide hit.
In one of the interviews, the director of Vetri Vizha, Prathap Pothen said, “It just so happened that I was reading (The Bourne Identity) at that time and it seemed terrific. It was basically Kalidasa’s Shakuntala with a lot more action.” The film’s story was credited to Prathap Pothen’s friend and writer K Rajeshwar and Shanmugapriyan.
Vetri Vizha is undoubtedly one of the best spy thrillers ever made in Indian cinema. The film ran for over 175 days in theatres and was declared a hit. The film keeps you intrigued from the very beginning and doesn’t give you the time to predict what’s next. There are fights, betrayals, love and mystery in every other scene. In fact, the character played by actor Prabhu, and a couple of other characters in the film, wasn’t a part of the novel. It was created by Pothan as they felt that Prabhu had to be in the film.
The film is about an undercover police officer who loses his memory during a fight and tries to piece back his life while a deadly gang is after him.
Produced by Sivaji Productions, the cast of the film includes Radha Ravi, Amala Akkineni and Khushbu. Vetri Vizha also marks the debut of popular theatre artiste and Bollywood actor Salim Ghouse in Tamil cinema. Though he appears about one hour into the film, his screen presence is remarkable. It’s still one of the best negative roles written in South cinema. Post that, he acted in many Tamil films including Chinna Goundar, Magudam, Thiruda Thiruda and more.
Ilaiyaraaja’s music was one of the highlights of the film. His song Thathom Talangu Thathom had a touch of Michael Jackson’s Smooth Criminal music video and was much talked about. The film was also dubbed in Telugu as Vijethalu and released the same year.
Vetri Vizha could have been made into a trilogy as well. But for sure, its a missed opportunity.
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