Soodhu Kavvum

So, after a good while, I got myself to watch a film at a theatre – importantly, one I made the mind to write about. I’ll start with the nice things I have to say and then to some things that are nagging me. No, don’t jump to the nagging part and leave rude comments. Read fully now!

Soodhu Kavvum is refreshing – does not revolve around two people falling in love or a hero stealing millions of dollars or good v. evil. It does not show what film makers have been long alleging what viewers want to watch. It is a collection of ‘incidents’ that in the end (sort of) make sense.

The rather startling (almost absurdist) nature of the incidents in the film – much of it a near-real reflection of the life around us – sets the pace for the film we are waiting to watch. Das is a simpleton, lives by rules, drinks more than many people would like to see, has a heart of gold (in spite of being a kidnapper) and is largely risk averse.

The three lead actors (Pagalavan, Kesavan and Shekar) look and talk like any Tamil lad you’d know (of course you can see beyond the TamBhrams, can’t you?). Pagalavan runs away from Trichy (after having carved a Nayantara sculpture) to his friends house in Chennai – one that has TR posters all over the house. Kesavan gets fired from work (after rejecting a girl’s advances about which she complains to the authorities, his manager reprimands him and he yells back in frustration for which he is eventually fired and blacklisted). Sekhar, who used to be a valet, also loses his job in his greed for driving a luxurious car. With no means for their next meal (or say next month’s meals), they get down to drinking!

The three of them, happy-go-lucky – no worry about any distant future, little respect for the law, no love interests to pursue, no families to keep, clever with their language – definitely do not make for deep and well-rounded characters. But it doesn’t stand out as a sore thumb because everything you need to know not to hate them is there for you to see. Everything else is tactfully hidden away or submerged in more absurdity.

The TASMAC scene where the spiral of noise develops into a physical fight, ends in the three lead actors continuing their drinking at Das’s house. In a strange sense of calm (after escaping arrest or at least some treat from the Lathi), they change their location and drink away in peace.

The scene that follows is one of my favourites – the scene where Shalu really gets “introduced”. Das speaks (listens to and often gets distracted by) this young girl he calls Shalu, one the audience can see on the screen. So, after clues that are easy to miss until this point, we learn that Shalu exists only in Das’s imagination. When told he must see a doctor about his hallucination, Das rather nonchalantly says he’s done that and taken medication that made her go away but missed her when she wasn’t around; therefore stopped taking medication.

After this, we see her as Das’s imagination. She sits on his laps, talks to him and he yells back to the utter dismay of the others on the scene, runs around in merry and even dies mid way. In an interesting scene, she enters skimpily clad (what’s called swimwear by Das). We the audience don’t really flip because we know she is imaginary (wouldn’t have been much different if she came there naked either) and we reconcile with her being Das’s. But Das flips and asks her to change her clothes, leaving the other men in the room merely distracted.

For reasons I cannot fathom myself, I am reminded of the imaginary wife SPB’s character has in manadhil urudhi vendum. In a vastly different context, Das (a lonely criminal with a heart) imagines a companion for himself – the easiest way for him not to burdened by interventions but still have company when *he* chooses. If I may dare go one step ahead, the film almost reinforces that Das will perhaps never be able to find for himself a girl like Shalu (fair, modern-dress clad, no frills and supportive of his lifestyle) which is why he goes ahead and makes her up. I’ve a little bit more about her, per se, but I’ll come to that in a bit.

Oh, there is a politics angle to this, one that Das had sworn never to enter into. A wife-beating honest politician with a crook for a son, a CM who eats pizza from the carton, other politicians and secretaries of politicians who look down upon uncorrupted politics – the film rubs in your face the sorry state of political affairs we are in the middle of. These are sequences you should weep about, but you don’t because while watching the film, it doesn’t sink in yet. It’s mostly funny.

Talking of funny, what keeps the film going is it’s repeated questioning of ‘meaning’ or ‘purpose’. Nobody seems to care about anything. They lose their jobs, but drink about it. They kidnap people but walk/ drive about as free men. He imagines a woman but lives on with it. Arumai Pragaasam (the politician’s son they kidnap) goes away with the money, they deal with it. A deadly policeman comes looking for them and they surrender themselves. That chase scene where Bramma, the deadly policeman, looks to the boys for a light and they drives themselves to the dead-end is a exemplary. They knot together all things we take too seriously in our lives and make fun of it, in turn make fun of us.

It’s in the making fun of us part that I want to bring the women in. There are two and a quarter women in the story. The first is of course Shalu. She disturbs me and leaves me undecided. The girl, whose clothing is very modern and speech unaffected, could easily have been written as a property in a mass villain’s armour (a la the Billa, Mangatha ‘babes’). But he is no mass villain and she is no property. She encourages him, helps him, advises him and entertains him. She is just there for Das and of course for the audience.

It would have been very easy to take offence to this and rant about how women are used as imaginary entertainers – but is that the point? That the film is taking one for the team of film makers who do so? That it is indeed a satirical poke at treating women like that? Or that if you want women that way, you can only imagine them?

Then there is the woman in Kesavan’s office who gets him fired and blacklisted: pretty much a modern day soorpanaka, only she ends up cutting Kesavan’s hand in the process. Arumai Nayagam’s mother plays an important role in pushing the narrative forward – the mother who is often beaten by her husband, who cooks and feeds her son, falls for his ploy, and is easily swayed. She seems to use her brain only when she has to save her wayward son from his captors. It’s rather interesting how she is repeatedly seen as the one that can be ‘used’ to complete the task – a pawn, a vulnerability.

With that, I am convinced that Shalu characterisation is far from clever. It would be easier to believe she is eye candy, convenient glamour quotient. So are all the women who danced for Kaasu Panam Dhuddu Money Money.

Soodhu Kavvum is a very smart film. It does break ways in several ways. It takes story telling to a parallel plane and speaks a language hardly spoken before. Ten years from today, (academic) writers will look into Soodhu Kavvum (and similar films) as a movement worth writing about. Today, fans will clap and laugh in the theatre and leave content. But I will find something amiss. And you will call me names for saying that!

My feminism

I got called a female chauvinist last evening (actually my writing was called a female equivalent of chauvinism – the assumption that chauvinism is male by default was curious). While I do not respond to all accusations/ name-calling towards me, this one gave the final nudge publish the post I’ve left lying in my drafts for so long.

What is my feminism?

A good friend once asked me why feminists fight so much among themselves. For one who has been following any kind of –ism, it’s natural to know that definitions are subjective and open to interpretations. Feminism is no different. For this reason, there is no consensus about what feminism should mean (if at all it should mean the same thing to all).

As someone who appreciates subjective opinion (and debate of objectionable opinions), I venture here to define what feminism means to me. Feminism is the pursuit of equality: equality of rights, fair treatment, reasonable expectations, unequivocal respect and due share of voice. My feminism is about pointing out the bias in the status quo and debate for positive change. It is about challenging patriarchy and seeking a more gender-neutral public (and private) space.

Why is it important?

I’ve been told several times that feminism is no more relevant – women can vote, pilot flights and marry the man of their choice –  therefore, we must all drop the feminist hullabaloo and go on with our business. Another argument from the feminism-is-no-more-needed brigade is that women are equal to men now and talking feminism creates a wrong impression that there is indeed inequality.

Let me explain this with anecdotal evidence. Someone I worked for, a man I had immense respect for as a professional, went to a conference once. He was totally underwhelmed at the discussions that happened there and was complaining about all the speakers and their incompetence. However, when he spoke about a lady, who happens to be the CMO of a major corporation, he said “I don’t know who she had to fu(k to become the CMO. She has nothing else going for her”. If that isn’t enough reason for you to believe there is still bias that needs to be challenged, I can go on with the anecdotes. Or would you rather I point you in the direction of some research?

Then why rant about religion, caste etc.?

Because they are all equally important. None of us are fools to think all women have the same difficulties or the same privileges. Dalit women, homos3xua! women, urban (/rural) women, Muslim women, obese women have all their own set of issues that need to be spoken about and dealt with. Perhaps, the reason why one feminist has an entirely different point of view about a certain issue from another is that there are very many layers that need to be taken care of.

While white, middle class feminists in the Europe are worried about how feminist is high heels, there are a group of them fighting to be able to compete at the Olympics. The reasons priorities change are various – but almost always comprise of religion, caste, culture, history, sexual orientation and the like.

Writing a feminist account arising from being a woman alone (if that is even possible) would be half-baked and useless.

Why do I do movie reviews?

If you haven’t already read the disclaimer on my blog, let me explain this to you. I do not treat myself as the sole authority on goodness/ badness of films, in fact the technicalities are sometimes irrelevant to me.

As the blog header points, the only thing that is of concern to me is the representation of women (femininity, female perspectives etc.). We’ve all read enough research to show that films go beyond entertainment and help shape the cultural and political leanings of the society. I believe I have a point of view that arises from education and experience, is legitimate and is meant to begin a healthy debate. I don’t give scores to films, I don’t rank them on any scale, I don’t even ask you not to watch a film. If at all, I only ask you to watch a few films I’ve found interesting – from my (by now sufficiently disclosed) ideological perspective.

So what makes me right?

My point of view – derived from observation, reading, and debate. While I always argue for equality and fair representation, never once have I argued that women are better than men at anything or must be held higher. That, is in fact, the opposite of what I endeavor to argue.

Now that you’ve heard me out about my feminism, if you still want to debate, bring it on, I say!

Aarohanam – the search within

The story of a mentally disturbed mother is rather personal to me – something that is close to my heart and the words that flow below may be highly biased from that perspective.

Aarohanam is the story of a mother who leaves home or the story of two children in search of their lost mother – depending on how you look at it. Nirmala goes missing one day, setting her children – a daughter who is preparing for her weddingin 10 days and a school-going teenage son – in search of her amidst fatigue, panic and restlessness. The film goes back and forth the lives of the family, their travails and troubles.

Nirmala is seen as a woman of strange behaviour – she gets angry too often, her actions are out of her control during such phases, saami aadifies, leaves home, hurts herself, is even suicidal. Unable (or unwilling) to deal with this, her husband abandons her and her children to live with another woman. Nirmala does random jobs to bring up her children.

Her behaviour is seen through the eyes of various people. Her husband, for one, thinks she is mad. He beats her, drags her home when she runs away once, has no faith in her and does nothing to help her. There is a scene where in the police station, her son tells the police officer that she sells vegetables for a living and the husband retorts with “ava ovvoru naal ovvoru velai seiva saar. Dhidirnu idli kadai poduva, insurance agenta velai paappa. Kuppai kuda porukkuva”. Also adds “iva yaarodayum otthu poga maatta”. The husband displays absolute indifference to her behaviour – almost as if he wants to have nothing to do with it.

The children, even though are the most affected by her, stay by her side. They are embarrassed, troubled, hurt but hang around anyway. The son is more expressive in his embarrassment than the daughter but they are both affected profoundly. The scene in which Nirmala burns her hand because her son came home with his father (who had abandoned her) is a heart-wrenching piece of story telling. The sheer fear in the eyes of the children and their surrender to doing anything just so their mother wouldn’t hurt herself is shattering.

The landlord and his wife, the Muslim couple are the charitable elders in her life. They see her as a troubled child, as if the world is conspiring against her and she needs to be protected. The landlady takes care of Nirmala’s children while she is away at work, they lend her money, give her advice when she is depressed and shoo her husband away when he is troubling her. They support her in their own little way and help her stand on her own. The scene where the neighbourhood doubts Nirmala’s ability to conduct her business successfully, the landlady says, “ava thane poi bank padi yeri saamarthiyama loan vaangi irukka”. The landlady plays the role of a mother to a troubled child.

Sandhya, the rich businesswoman sees Nirmala’s behaviour as a relief in some way. She thinks Nirmala is better off because she has a vent for her emotions that Sandhya herself did not have – a classic grass is always greener on the other side scenario.

For Nirmala, this was a rather normal life. She has no idea why her anger reaches unmanageable levels – she thinks she has been wronged and it is only natural to behave that way. The scene in front of the children’s school where she waves a knife at someone who (claims to have) helped her is one such incident. Her life swings between extreme anger, happiness, pride and depression.

Just for the sake of logistics, I have no idea why that MLA character is there in the film. That song at the end of the film is too long for comfort that you just sit around and wait for it to be over and the story be told. The beginning scenes where Sandy and Jay talk about their lives and how Jay gave up her singing career (?) because she had to take care of family is force-fitted. So is that piece in the song that Jay sings. If this is meant to be about the three ladies and their lives, it doesn’t come across as that. The last pep talk that the Doctor gives about Nirmala’s high energy is strange.

All said, Nirmala’s is a moving story. Her lonely struggle against the world (perhaps made up in her mind by her bipolar disorder) is painful. What’s more emotional is the story of the daughter (elder) and the son who try to cope with her in spite of it all. This story had to be told – for psychological problems aren’t at the tip of the Maslow’s pyramid.

Viswaroopam – the world of possibilities

<Spoiler alert. You’ll be able to put the whole story together at the end of this post.>

For an action thriller about terrorism arising out of Afghanistan, Viswaroopam is tad too rooted in Tamil (the language) Nadu (the place) – for its own good. Kamal Haasan is a master story teller – he tells you a story and leaves you to build a few hundred ubakadhaigal depending on your value systems. While you are already gagged by the overload of imagery and meanings, you reach out to every bit of energy left to consume some more.

Nothing above Godliness

While the most propagated aspect of Viswaroopam is religion, it is the most understated. For a film that is about crime/ terrorism in the name of religion/ God, Viswaroopam cannot talk enough of it. There is some reference to religion in every sequence and for one to remove religious scenes would be to ban the film entirely. Oh wait.

A good number of characters in this film are Muslims, they dress like the Muslims we’ve seen on TV, they cover their heads, they sport beards and guns, they speak Arabic and are fighting a J!hadi war. The women cover their faces, are subservient to their husbands and carefully bring up their children. As a community, they are also friendly, trusting, loving, intelligent, driven and political. At one point Wisam (alias Viswanathan alias Viz – Kamal Haasan’s character) and Omar (Rahul Bose’s character) mirror each other – as if they are both looking towards the same end only through different means.

Talking of religions stereotype, the scene where Dawkins convinces an antique store owner that he is a Muslim is clever. Instead of sending someone who looks Asian or African – easily identifiable as a Muslim – they send Dawkins, a Caucasian male. He goes there and identifies himself as a <insert Muslim name that I forget now>. The store says “are you the guy?” and he confidently and hastily replies “yes yes. I converted. Allahu Akbar.” In fact, just before this scene, the FBI let him go from a locality without a word – note that they’ve surrounded the area suspecting terrorist activity!

On the other hand, when Viswanathan, Dr. Nirupama (Viswanathan’s wife) and Ashmita (Viswanathan’s ally) get caught by the FBI, there is a rather philosophical conversation that Dr. Nirupama has with the investigating officer (who happens to be an African American woman).

Investigating officer asks Dr. Nirupama: Who is your God? Allah?
Dr. Nirupama: That is my Husband’s God. Not mine. (So nonchalantly as if that does not contain any deeper meaning at all)
Investigating officer: Then who is your God?
Dr. Nirupama: My God is one with four hands.
IO: Then how do you crucify him?
Dr. N: We don’t.
IO: Then?
Dr. N: We dunk him in the sea.

Caste-ing the wounds

While it would have been easy to write characters that are neutral to everything else, Kamal fills them with an identity that real people would be made of. Viswanathan and Nirupama are a Brahmin couple – Nirupama engaged in oncology research while Viswanathan is a home maker (?), dance teacher and cook. They speak the language – in fact, while Nirupama goes back and forth between pannindrukkel and pannindrukkinga and I was going back and forth about calling that callousness or a subtle representation of her identity crisis. There is not much show that she is indeed Brahmin – no prayers, no vegetarianism, no madisaar.

In a rather unimportant scene, Kamal Haasan takes a dig at Brahminism when he says “vaama paappathi. Idha rusi paathu uppu kaaram sariya irukka nu sollu” and feeds meat to a Brahmin girl – who, mind you, tastes it with utmost enthusiasm. (While all of you who want to take offence to this can, I believe it is a very strong political statement and its welcome.)

Manavaatiye manaalanin baagiyam

The film begins with Nirupama seeing a psychologist about her unhappy marriage (or the guilt about her affair because of her unhappy marriage). She calls it a marriage of convenience that she agreed to because she wants to run away from the middle class life in India and pursue her PhD. She explains that she was found this groom and she agreed because he was also in the US (adding to my understanding that she is also a Brahmin and she had been found a groom who is Brahmin). While all these sound like random statements, I believe they add such cultural context to the story which (I started this post by saying) is essentially Tamil.

Nirupama goes on to get attracted to her boss (who is also Tamilian – only rich) and employs a detective to follow her husband in the hope that he’d have an illicit relationship too. He, on the other hand, proudly claims that he’d cook meat for his wife because she likes meat and he likes her.

Men must be men

In that conversation with the psychologist about why she isn’t attracted to her husband (where she also claims that she doesn’t sleep with her husband – “naan avar kitta sollitten. Naan inge padikkadhaan vandhirukken. Enakku paduthunde padikka pidikkaadhu”) is the scene where Viswanathan is introduced as this effeminate Kathak dancer.

The scene is played out in a way to say: as a solution to her lack of attraction towards an effeminate man, she falls for Deepak (her boss). As if he is the man that her husband is not. While you are chewing on it, Kamal Haasan plays that back on your face a few scenes later. When Viswanathan and Nirupama are held captive, they slap her and she asks Deepak to man up and save her. He, in response, asks her to get Viswanathan (calling him idhu – as a dig at his unmanliness) to help her. She then tells the captors, “ipdi katti pottu adikkarele. Katta avuthuvittu adingo” and the response that Viswanathan gives for it is priceless! Just while you are charmed about it, Viswanathan mans up (goes to masculine body language) and saves her indeed. Sigh.

In the end, she accepts Viswanathan as her husband and sleep with him only after she learns he is a quintessential man – bravery, righteousness, masculine body language and short hair in place. In fact, Kamal Haasan goes that extra mile and rubs it in your face when Nirupama says “he is my husband” one too many times in the last 20 minutes. She goes on to tell his she is sorry for her behaviour earlier on. Sigh. The unbearable oversimplification of s3xuality and the glorification of manhood – in tact!

War and Peace

This film is about Jihadi warfare and it couldn’t have been made without the debate on war and peace. Of course there is. In some places it is subtle, for example when Wisam, Omar and a few others go to a village that was attacked by the Americans, they meet an old lady who says “modhalla englishkaaran, apram Russian, apram American, ippo neenga….munnaadi vaal molaicha korangunga” and walks away as if a small child stole a few fish from her basket and she does not want to venture beyond cursing.

Omar has this mannerism where puts his two fingers on one’s forehead (like a gun) and makes a boom noise when he means to forgive someone for an act of friendly defiance. He does that to his own son (who wants to become a doctor but Omar wants him to be a warrior) when the boy is seen playing doctor-patient with his mother. The son picks up the gun-with-fingers-shooting-noise gesture and runs out doing it. Other children in the village join him along with a few elderly people and they run around enacting their state in a war torn land as if it were a silly game.

In a few situations, it is also melodramatic, still meaningful. This scene where Omar loses his family and sheds a few tears, he asks if they weren’t God’s warriors and fighting for the sake of Allah: Wisam simply says your question has the answer. We are warriors we have no time for tears, only for blood. Suicide bombers who love playing the swing, people who expose themselves to radiation and are ready to die a slow death, children who want to be doctors, Pakistan!s who bring in information from the !SI, opium sellers who are hanged for a genuine mistake, the film is filled with messages of injustice and inequality, which almost empathises with Jihadi feeling, rightfully so.

Death, guilt and the extra baggage

When he is not shooting horses to death to relieve them of their pain, Kamal Haasan fills every little gap with dialogues. In the scene where Obama is talking about Osama being captured, he goes, “oruthar saava ippadiya kondadradhu Deepavali madhiri”. Ashmita says, “asurargala irundha appadithan”. The Sir/ Mama (played by Shekhar Kapoor) goes, “idhappoi andhe asuranoda uttraar uravinar kitta sollu”.

When Wisam realises that the opium seller is going to be hanged because of a mistake Wisam’s accomplice did, he says, “idhukku allah nammala mannikka maattar”. His accomplice says, “unga Allah nu sollunga sir. Enakku idhu punaipper mattum thaan”.

In a not so serious occasion, the scene where Nirupama tells Viswanathan she isn’t coming home for dinner (while she is away with Deepak) and takes offence at every question Viswanathan asks about it, the guilt reference is masterfully done.

The feminine soft power

In spite of all the layers of meanings that Kamal Haasan adds to the film, he sticks to basic stereotypes about femininity – perhaps an attempt to make a realistic film (?). Ashmita is a strange (mis)fit into the film. I can’t much recollect what she does in the film except agree to the accusation (?) that she is a smart ass. Working so closely with Viswanathan and his boss, I am presuming she is also some kind of a RAW agent (that Viswanathan is). Oh wait. She stitches up Viswanathan’s wounds. Ya. She does.

I spoke about the effeminate man and a woman’s inability to be s3xually attracted to him just a few lines earlier. Nirupama is this quintessential woman (albeit some nuclear oncologist) – she seeks to be protected, wants to close her eyes (quite literally) at the sight of trouble, is ready to ‘die’ with her husband. She is shocked at the mention of the word bra (which she gets used to when practically everyone in the scene has said it – another brilliant scene). In spite of all the high talk of philosophy, Nirupama is an ordinary person.

In the end, Viswanathan does all the physical fighting, while Nirupama waits in the Police vehicle for the bomber to be murdered, runs with a microwave oven to save New York City from a disaster! Handsome men, pretty women – don’t ask me what’s there to change!

Kadal

You’ve read my disclaimer before, haven’t you? Also, please look up at the headline of the blog before you continue reading. Thank you.

Good v. Evil

Essentially in the film, there are a few good people (the Gods – like Father Sam) and a few evil people (the Satan – Bergmans). The film is about how good wins over evil (or not). In the middle of all this, there are some ignorant, drinking, sleeping-around, victimised, poor people all over the village. They are too pre-occupied between good and evil, so practically unimportant. The good v. evil thing is so over played that you’ll see all the good people in white and Bergmans is in darker shades of grey. Then there is talk of one becoming utthaman, about being Satan, so on and so forth. Almost like in the 60s films, everyone is either good or evil. Or ignorant. There!

In a very interesting beginning to the story, Bergmans is shown to have taken to religion to feed his family and Sam to find peace. Bergmans then becomes the Satan after being shown the door for having a s3xua| relationship with a co-worker, while Sam continues his service. What could have gone on to become a rich v. poor story falls apart there and becomes something else.

Hop on hop off

While we are at good and evil, one must also note how easy it is go from good guy to bad guy and back. Wayward, angry, abuse-spouting boy becomes a beach-side dancing, responsibly fishing, boat driving youngster, who then becomes this vengeful, gun-wielding, murderous, sub-Satan who falls in love and becomes the good guy again – taking on the Satan himself to save the girl who changed him. No baggage whatsoever.

Religion

Christian village, religious indifference, slowly gaining faith, then the loss of faith in the poli saamiyaar, rebuilding Christ – the entire film is against the backdrop of religious philosophy. Perhaps one of the few films I’ve watched that integrate religion into every little aspect of the film – which, for me, is appreciable. However, in the middle of all this, it seems as though religion is the root cause of all problems. Just along somewhere.

The angel

Getting into the ladies zone: The story is about a boy (Thomas alias Tom) who changes his ways for the girl he loves. Before we get to how he does that, let’s introduce her, ya? She is Beatrice. She is a nurse.  She always wears white (non-nurse like clothes), perhaps because she is from a convent (?), or because she is an angel. She smiles widely, jumps up and down when she wants people to hurry up, laughs all the time, is scared of Mother Superior, jumps over the gate late in the night to enter the convent and does not understand what paavam is.

She runs away from the hospital with her IV in tow. She hops on to a boat, goes a distance, returns and hops on to Thomas’s boat, does a bicycle ride with him, argues and flirts all on the way to saving a woman in labour.

When Thomas tells her that he is a murderer, she says “adhellam okay. Inime pannaadhe, sariya?” She has no personality. She is just a glorified Hasini from Santhosh Subramaniam. I say glorified because there is a tangential story about her troubled childhood with the Satan for has father. Her over-enthusiasm and effervescence is attributed to that childhood and the loss of emotional growth or something to that effect.

Worst of all, Thomas sees her, falls in love and changes his path to be with her (perhaps because he realises it’s dangerous for her if he continued his evil ways). All credit is handed to her in a platter. If only all it took to change a man was fair skin, white clothes and a borderline imbecile.

In the end though, while Thomas and Father Sam did all the fighting, Beatrice was emotionally affected and had to be treated. Thomas had to come and help her revive herself!

The other women

While this one woman changes our hero, the other important (as claimed) female character is a pawn in the Satan’s hand. She is carefully used to throw Father Sam into prison and duly eliminated by the Satan. Mother Superior loves wordplay, Thomas’s mother is an (alleged) prostitute, and such other women, I don’t know why they are even there.

In all, it’s an ordinary film with a run-of-the-mill story, loosely written characters who have nothing interesting to say, leftover scenes from Mani Ratnam’s old films enacted by younger/ newer people.

I’m not only disappointed. I feel cheated by Mani Ratnam (and Jeyamohan). I’ll go back and watch Iruvar again to wipe off the sin!

Alex Pandiyan: Deeper than you think!

 

When I tweeted this from the theatre after watching the film, someone I know asked me “why do you watch these movies in the first place?” #NyaayamaanaKelvi 

Now that I’ve watched the film, I must say that much of the criticism the film has been getting is unwarranted. I believe it is politically motivated and therefore I take a strong stand to tell you, my reader, that Alex Pandiyan is deeper than you think!

Innovative story line

To begin with, this film has a very ulaga-thiraippadangalil-mudhan-muraiyaaga based story line. Who in the history of Tamil cinema has kidnapped the CM’s daughter? Which CM has got disloyal secretary, commissioner, religious guru etc.? Which heroine in Tamil cinema has falling in love with the kidnapper? Which hero has uyira-panayam-vechu saved the heroine? Many films, you say? Okay. Let me ask you some more questions.

Which heroine has said to the villain, “unakku dhairiyam irundha avar kayatha avuthu vittu adida. Nee ambalai nu othukkaren“? Which hero has toppled a Tata Sumo with an aruvaal? Which mother has ennai thechu kulippaatti uttufied a stranger? Who makes a profession out of allowing his kaalai maadu to mate pasu maadus in the village? Conviced? I thought you’d be. Moving on.

Naatukku thevaiyaana nalla karuthukkal!

You see, we argue time and again that cinema has a great impact on culture. Then we show our people all sorts of nonsense. But Suraj has taken it upon himself (along with the music director, lyricist and every one, of course) to give the perfect advice to a girl who has vayasukku vandhufied and is being publicly paraded. Watch that video and tell me if you don’t agree. I will debate you till my last breath about it!

Maanam kaakkum magaa Annan!

Santhaanam plays the role of a perfect elder brother. He is the role model for the elder brothers of today playing protector, care-taker and provider- all in one. One 70% of the film is about Santhaanam *saving* his three sisters from the predator that is Karthi! At one point, the Amma character only comes to a level where Santhaanam has to protect her.

In the process of this protection, there are many many mutthaana karutthukkal the female future generation of the Tamilnaad is in dire need of! For example, “ponnum pori urundaiyum onnu. Adha badhrama paathukkanum. Namuthu pochu boni aagave aagaadhu.” He adds, “ungala boni panra varaikkum konjam namuthu pogaama irunga ma”.

Life need not have any purpose

While we are all sitting around trying to figure out what is the purpose of our living on the earth, Suraj makes a rather philosophical point in his own absurdist style. He shows in his film that there need not be a purpose for people to enter or exit a film (and by extension, life).

Take that Saravanan’s character for example. He does nothing for the furtherance of the film. In fact, his brother who gets motta adichufied, Prathap Pothan, Milind Soman, Suman, Visu, his wife character, Santhanam’s three sisters and mother, Santhanam, Anushka, Karthi – none of them do anything for the furtherance of the story. And I strongly believe this is Suraj’s way of reiterating what Nietzsche (is believed to have) said: A casual stroll through the lunatic asylum shows that faith does not prove anything.

Love knows no boundaries

There is this one last thought I want to leave you with. I believe is my responsibility to detangle Suraaj’s masterfully woven message about love. Love knows no boundaries, love has no reason and love has no logic. Love happens and no one knows why, how, who or even what the fu(k! *Three* *sisters* fall in love with a *stranger* who their mother has saved from the riverside. They love him so much they play (something like) dikkilona in the house with him (along with very many other #haun games).

Then, the CM’s daughter falls in love with a *drunken* *homeless* *nari biriyani eating* *wayward* *on bail* who kidnapped her *for money* because he saves her from dying while she jumps off a cliff. My only regret here is that Prathap Pothen did not have a heroine. That would have been the proverbial last nail on the coffin!

Naduvula Konjam Pakkatha Kaanum!

I had the same feeling at the end of Naduvula Konjam Pakkatha Kannum that I had after watching Pizza (I chose not to review Pizza because I was quite undecided). It’s a combination of an admiration of the simplicity of the story, a blur line that differentiates the characters from the actors and a generous load of benefit of the doubt for the team! Now you see why I was undecided about Pizza?

Anyway..

Naduvula Konjam Pakkatha Kannum pans out like a silly mistake that could happen to any of us – the friends almost like the ones any of us would have. The irritating Bags, sweet-as-hell Saras, always-awkward Balaji are the kind of people who remind one of people they’d known or friends they’d had. Even though half the film’s dialogue is “enna aachu? Cricket vilayaada ponom……Sari aaydum”, every time Prem says it, we hope nervously for him to recover and say more.

The film is endearing in more ways than its simplicity. It remains a single tangent about what happens among the four friends. Other characters come in and leave when their job is done – there is a man in formals who joins the game but promptly drops off when it’s done, that Dhanalakshmi character doesn’t venture beyond the wedding sequences, one obscure ‘Sir’ character comes and drops some free advice – but the film is about the medulla oblagantta and that’s what it remains.

While we are at it, I cannot resist mentioning the very regular love-marriage, family sandai, problem about the make up and all that’s clichéd. But we perhaps let that all pass because these are the kind of clichés that life is filled with. Or perhaps we don’t.

In essence, Naduvula Konjam Pakkatha Kannum is new and refreshing and that is welcome. On the other hand, it is also amateur and superficial.