A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Quality education should be free and accessible to all students. Privatization of education for profit harms students from lower-income families, leaving them behind.
Positive Role Models
A teacher fights for the education of underprivileged students against all odds. Despite facing violence repeatedly at the hands of corrupt authorities, ruthless businessmen, and politicians, the teacher finds ways to educate students via recorded lectures despite being expelled from the village. The teacher also strives to bridge the caste divide among students.
While most of the characters are Hindus, it is made clear that more than half the students are Dalits by caste. The main character's mentor is a Muslim and eventually becomes the namesake for a free school for underprivileged children. The mentor is portrayed in a very positive light. However, the film fails to address gender dynamics and brushes off any nuance when a woman is being pursued by her male colleagues to the point of harassment.
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Violence & Scariness
Multiple scenes of gratuitous violent clashes including punches, kicks, headbutts, and characters being hit with poles and sticks. Disturbing scenes of police brutality toward the main character, including being beaten with clubs in a police station. In one extended sequence, they are seen limping and bleeding. Students riot outside a police station, smashing property. They are also beaten up various goons. Some slaps are exchanged between characters, in one case by a husband toward his wife in front of their child. A father also hits his daughter. An effigy has gasoline poured on it before being set alight.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Blurred out image of a topless woman on a DVD. Some references to porn movies/adult films. Two male teachers try to "woo" a female teacher despite her repeated refusals. When a woman turns up at her boyfriend's house, his mother mistakenly assumes she is pregnant and declares the same to her neighbors.
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Some name calling such as "fleabag," "idiot," "rascal," and "shut up." "Oh my God" used as an exclamation.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Characters drink and smoke. A character who has dropped out of high school is shown to have an alcohol use disorder. They subsequently quit drinking and prepare to retake their exams.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Vaathi is an Indian action drama that portrays the struggle of underprivileged students losing opportunities due to privatization of education. Dhanush stars as a teacher who makes it his mission to fight for these students, quite literally in some scenes. He gets into a number of fights with various goons, which include punches, kicks, headbutts, and the use of poles/sticks as weapons. The students are also on the receiving end of some violence. In one scene, the teacher is taken to a police station and beaten with sticks, leading to a brief riot outside the building. The movie also talks about caste but does not explain casteism or tackle the subject with nuance. But the portrayal is positive, if superficial. No sexually explicit content or nudity are seen but there is some discussion about a theater showing "dirty" movies and a blurred out image on a DVD appears to be of a topless woman. Language is mild with some name calling such as "rascal" and "fleabag." Some characters are seen smoking and drinking, with one character shown to have an alcohol disorder, of which he gets control of. The movie is in Tamil, Telugu, and Hindi with English subtitles available. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
This Indian action drama, that pans across several decades, starts out with big ideas; corruption, the brutality of competition, the lack of quality teachers, the caste divides inside classrooms. However, Vaathi tends to lose itself in gratuitous violence and hero worship instead of chalking out practical and replicable paths to empowerment. Songs meant to evoke sympathy for the central character -- a teacher intent on making education accessible to all -- only end up glorifying him, not his message. Ultimately the film proves to be boring, preachy, obsessed with proving lead actor Dhanush's machismo, and lacking in nuance when it comes to caste or gender dynamics.
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Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.