If you look at the cast list in the Wikipedia page for Vamshi Paidipally's Varisu, you will find Rashmika Mandanna's name but next to that, you won't find the name of her character. Of course, this could be just a matter of someone not yet finding the time to do the update – but it becomes a sort of metaphor for the heroine. It doesn't matter what her name is. She is there for a few songs, and fewer lines. It is true that one goes to a Vijay movie ONLY for Vijay. But couldn't they have written a few actual scenes that show why Vijay (that's Vijay's name in the film, too) falls for this woman? Oh, there is a reason, but it is so silly that you wonder why writers were needed for it. To be frank, the whole film is so predictable that you wonder why writers were needed for it. All they needed was scenes from old "family entertainers", plus clips of Vijay's "mass moments".
I have probably said this before, but forgive me for the repetition: I treat these big-hero films like the James Bond or Mission: Impossible movies. I understand that you cannot change the formula. But you can certainly change the flavours you add to each iteration of the same formula. That never happens in Varisu, whose story is a bit like that of Chekka Chivantha Vaanam. Sarathkumar plays a patriarch with three sons, one of whom will inherit his business empire – in other words, become his "varisu". It is to Sarathkumar's credit as an actor that, even with this screenplay and character definition, he manages to deliver a fairly moving performance. Prabhu plays his doctor and old friend, and the few lines they share (like "nee odanja naanum odanjiduven") are the only times you get the sense of a real relationship on screen.
As for the rest of the film, it could be titled "Vijay solves all problems". Again, I get that this is how it has to be. This is the formula. But consider Bigil, which I continue to insist is one of the better Vijay films in the recent past. Each of the women had a genuine issue, something relatable in the real world. Here, the family's issues are treated so randomly that it's hard to care that these people even need a saviour. A woman agrees to go back to her cheating husband - not because he repents but because Vijay saves the day. Worse, we concentrate more on generic mining deals and other things outside the house when the film is supposed to deal with problems inside the house. A particularly excruciating stretch is about how Vijay overcomes a no-confidence motion. Poor Prakash Raj is reduced to being a dummy villain. And poor Jayasudha is reduced to a dummy mummy.
Nothing goes beyond the surface. Had they spent more time inside, we would have had more time to understand the friction between Vijay and his father. But here, we accept this friction not because we feel it due to a series of events but because the screenplay says so. One minute, we are thrust into human trafficking. The next second, the leads are dancing to the super-catchy Ranjithame. Then we get a tragic scene involving cancer. In the old days, these drastic shifts in mood and tone would be called bad screenwriting. Today, because of the way we consume unrelated content at a stretch on our phones, that complaint appears to have become invalid. If one scene does not work, scroll to the next one and forget about the earlier scene that did not work. As long as something is giving you a bit of sensation…
And what about Vijay? Outside the theatre, someone came up to me and asked if I had seen the film. Just to gauge his reaction, I said "not yet". He said he really liked it, and said, "Vijay needs a break like this". What he meant was that Vijay has been making very intense action films, and it's nice to see a "family entertainer" like this, where he is light and casual. I guess I belong to the other camp, where I'd rather see Vijay in a focused film like Master or even a Thuppakki, where there is actually something at stake than giving the fans a bunch of whistle moments. He still looks young. He still dances like a dream. He still does the little comedy bits well. He still references his earlier catch-phrases ("I am waiting!"). So I figure the real question at the end of Varisu is not whether "is it good?" but "is this enough?"!