You need to turn on a different switch in your mind when you start watching a ‘masala entertainer.’ They generally pick one legitimate issue and make it all about the machismo of the leading actor. But we are not here to discuss the pros and cons of such a treatment since we have taught ourselves not to think about it while watching these movies. We prefer to focus on whether such superficial treatment is engaging or not, and we are happy to say that it is so in the case of “Vaathi” (also titled as “Sir”). We knew that there were going to be quite a few monologues; that was to be expected, but we would have still liked a lighter touch on some of the more drawn-out emotional scenes, especially the one where Balu is seen leaving the village. But that is strictly a personal preference, one that we couldn’t help expressing even though we knew we would find something like that in “Vaathi.”
Other than that, it is always a delight to watch Dhanush on screen. His easy manner and natural presence really endear him to the camera. P. Sai Kumar, who plays President Papa Rao, is rather spectacular. The way he shifted from just wanting pictures with everyone to being an evil stooge and, finally, a man who lets the wisdom of the good forces take over was perfect. Now, let us take a look at the story of the man who made education accessible for students with his tireless efforts.
Why Does Balu Go To The Village?
Due to the ruthless privatization of education, the amount of money charged by educational institutions has risen drastically. A bill might soon be introduced that would regulate how much the institutions can charge the students. This would mean a serious dip in profits. Therefore, Tripathi, who runs a chain of schools, colleges, and coaching centers, proposes that the private institutes send some of their teachers to the government institutes as part of a collaborative effort to help the underprivileged have access to schooling. But Tripathi’s plans on sending only the least qualified staff so that it makes no difference to either his business or the current state of government schools and colleges. One of the junior lecturers working in his college is Balu, aka Bala Gangadhar Tilak. To the teachers being sent away, Tripathi promises that if all of their students pass the exams in the subject they are teaching, they will be promoted.
An enthusiastic Balu makes his way to the village, as he sees this as a stepping-stone to his career. But to his dismay, he finds that students don’t come to classes. The village is an underdeveloped area where sending kids to school often means foregoing a source of income for the household. Not just that, but nobody trusts the teachers from the city to stay in the village for a prolonged period of time. Balu gathers the students and their families in one place and tells them the inspiring story of APJ Abdul Kalam and how some sacrifices and hard work in the present could mean a bright future tomorrow. Another time, he teaches the students to look beyond the barriers of caste and learn to study and work together. While Balu’s heart is in the right place, in his discourse on caste and class, he conveniently overlooked their systematic structure and placed the onus on the individual to “rise above it.” It is clear that the hard nuances of the situation did not matter to him or the writers.
Meanwhile, a year passes, and all the students that Balu has been teaching clear their exams. But this angers Tripathi, who had neither expected nor wanted such a result, as this negatively affects his business. Upon learning of Tripathi’s intentions, Balu decides to continue teaching the kids to prove a point against Tripathi’s classist attitude. Unable to fire Balu due to contract issues, Tripathi makes a plan to rescind the collaboration. While it is a good move on paper, it isn’t followed by the bill, rendering it useless, and Balu couldn’t work in the village anymore. But Balu still tries to continue teaching the kids in a makeshift hut of sorts, which is soon demolished, and Balu is unfairly beaten by the police. Defeated, he goes back home, unable to teach the kids or make a difference like he wanted to.
Meenakshi, his love interest, follows him to his place and encourages him not to give up, as his loss would also signify the loss of all his students’ futures. That is when Balu comes up with the idea of recording his lessons and sending them over to the village on video cassettes. The kids learn his lessons by pretending to go to the cinema every day, and Balu visited them once a week to clear their doubts about the subjects. But Tripathi catches wind of it, and he tries to stop the students from going to a rather important exam. However, Balu is there with the students that day, and with a mixture of luck and fighting prowess, the students are able to reach the exam center in time. As expected, each and every one of them cleared the exam with a good rank and is now capable of getting into a college of their choice.
‘Vaathi’ Ending Explained: Why Does Balu Let Go Of His Credit?
The students have all gotten a good rank, which means that they can get into a course or college of their choice. But it cannot be denied that they still don’t have the money for it. This is when Tripathi steps in. He tells the students that he will sponsor their education, but in return, they must say that they all studied at his institute for their exams. Balu learns of this, and he tells the students to do as Tripathi says. Tripathi had looked down on them for being from the lower strata of society, but today, he needed them to stand by him and maintain his image in that very society. His money would only help these students, and in return, once they settled in life, they could put in their own efforts to teach more kids. If they let their pride get in the way now, they wouldn’t be able to complete their education, and all the efforts so far would have been in vain, which is why he lets go of all credit for his efforts for a better future for the children. When Tripathi gloats over Balu that he did not get any credit for his work, Balu reminds Tripathi that he had purchased his credit and he will be sponsoring the education of all the children from his own pocket. It is a win that is as hollow as it could be.
What Works And Doesn’t Work For ‘Vaathi’ Film?
There is a somewhat patronizing tone to “Vaathi”—the one where someone decides to preach to a marginalized community by assuming their ignorance. In the first half of the movie, when Balu is giving his speech to the people, asking them to send their kids to school and, later, asking them to get over their caste prejudices, he doesn’t provide any hard and fast answers but chooses emotions as a medium of communication, even though the problem runs deeper. It can be argued that “Vaathi” is not here to solve problems but simply entertain, and we would agree, but we have to ask whether, in this day and age, when people are slowly waking up to these problems and their nuances, is a preachy attitude the right approach? The answer will be varied. Other than that, it was an engaging movie and a few hours well spent. We would recommend it as a good day watch.