Note: Please do yourselves a favor, dear readers. Go watch Chennai 600028, easily the best film of the year, as yet. Saroja, saamaan nikaalo!
Rest of you all, who are still reading this post, this is another dull, “not-so-short” notes on a month-and-half old film – a modified version of a quick write-up (albeit with a lot of additional notes and changes, I’m afraid) on the film I originally wrote soon after I saw the film, but didn’t publish for reasons best known to none.
Ameer’s Paruthiveeran (just like his previous venture, Raam) is yet another of those “new age” films, remarkable in its mise-en-scène, but unremarkable in its aspiration; and spotlessly hollow in its inspiration. In short, insipid filmmaking.
The film is set in Paruthiyoor, right in the heartland of rural Tamilnadu, commendably capturing the characteristically sultry locations, the people and their mud-walled houses, the native dialect and the way of life, with an assured hand. But, that’s all there is to it.
Veeran (Karthi), the protagonist of this film, is a one-dimensional caricature; a stereotype of the sandiyar image, conceived without much sensitivity, the few moments that betray the vulnerability of the character notwithstanding. Ameer establishes his protagonist as an aruvaal-happy, aimless urchin that we perceive through films and media – pleased at ourselves in finding it all senseless – through a series of sketches which in essence pander unreservedly to the audience (curiously enough, pander to both the “urban class” and the “rural class” with equal success here!), but passed off as something more serious and ambitious. Veeran’s ultimate objective is to be serve a term in the Chennai Central Jail. This is digestible if said in wry humour, but the director wants us to take this at face value, as a fact. In a realistic portrayal, we expect protagonist to exist within a real system. But, here, Veeran is, well, a veeran, the hero, even if not in the traditional sense. He can just go sever the ear of a policeman, or knock down a seemingly significant denizen of the village, for petty reasons; well, actually, for the laughs. Honestly, I too laughed at some of the nakkal-naiyyaandi jokes in the beginning, but grew tired of them too soon.
Thankfully, post-interval, the story actually unfolds, and, there are some good moments with Muthazhagu (Priya Mani) – the scene where she’s thrashed by her dad (a moving moment when she scoffs at her paatti asking for more food), and the scene where she tearfully pleads with Veeran work pretty well; the stock, grayish-toned flashback with the kiddies romancing, notwithstanding. But, the love story – after Veeran heeds to Muthazhagu, that is – is developed so hurriedly that there’s little one has had invested on their love as the climax draws near. And, the denouement sticks out like a sore thumb.
Here, I must digress a bit and elicit a problem that I face with a lot of films. (I’d say positively argue that it’s a natural problem with story-telling in general.) A problem with stories that take unexpected turns coming out of nowhere. Yes, it’s so characteristic of fickle human life and all that, but then you expect the filmmaker to reflect on the same, or at least acknowledge that. Else, it’s like a bad television show, as Woody Allen would have put it.
As if this abrupt turn wasn’t enough, the film conveys a silly moral out of this for the story. Muthazhagu says, “Nee senja paavathai ellaam en madiyila aethittiye da…” Now, this can be taken as a dying woman’s rambling, but Ameer is actually serious about it. Ameer’s viewpoint on Veeran is dubious and conflicting in its truest sense. It’s supposed to be a realistic portrayal of a hoodlum, but he is severely censuring of Veeran’s indulgence in petty crimes and hollow bully attitude.
On a positive note, the performances are impressive on the whole (Saravanan warrants special mention). Karthi is pretty good for a debutant, but he’s way too earnest and slightly overdoes his act, constantly “offering” us something, through gestures, body language and a bit exaggerated dialect et al. There’s not one lazy moment where we’re not “told” who he is. Also, I am much ambivalent about the extensive usage of native, amateur actors. The dialect is spot-on, but the dialogue delivery is so hurried (I don’t mean ‘fast’ here), and the acting is shuffled. (So much for the native flavour, the dialect is actually inconsistent at places. Some chaste Chennai slang words pop in the dialogue. Lazy writing.)
More brownie points for Yuvan’s superb music score – “Ariyaadha Vayasu” and “Ayyayyo” stand out among the songs – which works so well for the film.
Baradwaj, in an excellent review (albeit a positive one) as usual, puts forth an excellent set of points, making almost this entire write-up redundant – the movie’s preference to sensationalism (a nice dig at how the hero of today “won’t just switch off the lights, he’ll leap up and break the glass bulbs with his aruvaa!”) over sensitivity (though am surprised that he brackets Pithamagan along with), on how “[t]he infrequent bits of exposition are almost apologetic,” how the last act of the movie was curiously unmoving (not curiously so, in my case).
Well, as for me, I don’t go to theatres determined to see a story unfold per se, but it’s not that bad an idea, I think.