Thursday, January 26, 2006

A clarion call!

Thavamai Thavamirundhu - Review
I watched “Thavamai Thavamirundhu” quite some time back and wanted to write a review ever since. Finally got the time and inclination now. Coming from Cheran, after his critically acclaimed and commercially successful “Autograph” this film carried huge expectations and I should say it has satisfied them. After a couple of disappointing movie outings, this one was a really refreshing one to watch.

Cheran takes a similar milieu to his “Autograph”, but the treatment here is so refreshingly different that it makes me think that for such directors there would be no dearth of stories. The movie’s main theme is the travails a father undergoes to bring up his sons and how he is or ought to be treated in his old age. Rajkiran (as Muthiah) and Saranya (as Sarada) are the parents and they toil hard to bring up their sons. The elder son Senthil (as Ramanathan) changes after his marriage and doesn’t treat his parents well, though the younger son Cheran (as Ramalingam) learns just in time. The message here is much stronger than in “Autograph”. Yet Cheran manages not to become didactic and make the message seem very reasonable – quite an achievement by itself (this reminds me of “Vedham Pudhidhu”, of why a strong message need not be didactic). More on this later - the movie is also very good in other techniques, which I would try to list down,

Realism: The movie is always so realistic which makes this message even more believable. In fact, I should say that this movie has taken realism in Tamil movies (at least in mainstream ones) to a new level. (Though I am not giving a plot summary (one can be found here), there a few SPOILERS ahead. Of course this movie is hardly a suspense thriller, so this may not matter much!). As a striking example of the realism, I would like to point out one particular scene – when Ramalingam leaves the house to elope with his lover (on another pretext). In the scene, his mother is woken up by his father to wish him farewell and her voice started off by being really sleepy and feeble – in fact it was just audible! The cinematography is also excellent as it dwells on the various shades of grey in indoors.

Narration style: Cheran follows the same style as in “Autograph”, which is to go back to flash backs repeatedly from the present. Also, in the end he continues with the present for sometime, to result in a rather strong climax. Of course as would be well known by now, he has shot the flashback in color and present in black & white (as in “Hey Ram”). But what was much more interesting for me was the extent to which he focuses on various incidents. Incidents which conventional films would focus on like a normal marriage (of that of Ramanathan) are never shown and we are told of it only in later scenes (in interesting ways). This style allows Cheran to focus on the remaining scenes, allowing them to progress slowly to have the intended effect. Many complain that the film is over 3 hrs long, but I think the length is justified as it allows us to appreciate the feelings and settings. Of course, some scenes are very touching and I nearly cried in a couple of them!

Cast & Acting: There can be no two opinions in this. Almost everyone, especially the four main characters of the film have given a very good performance. Rajkiran as the father is the ‘hero’ of the movie and he blends into the movie so much that I couldn’t say he was acting! Especially his voice was so suitable (tender and caring during many scenes), that it alone was sufficient to convey all the emotions! Almost the same for the mother role played by Saranya. Cheran and Padmapriya could’ve given better performance, but it doesn’t seem to be lacking in any particular way. As much as I would have scoffed at this idea before seeing the movie, Rajkiran would definitely be in the running for the National award for the best actor.

Songs: Songs are exactly the way I like them to be in a movie – they blend with the movie and sometimes move the story ahead. “Ore Oru oorukulle” was a good song to picturise an excursion. “Oru muraithaan” was a touching song and I guess the song was split into portions with scenes in between them (something which I first observed in “Autograph”). The theme music which shows the parents having a good time at their son’s house is very apt for it and it was then I noticed that it had a very euphoric tone. Some segments like this and “Oru Muraithaan” song were like pure poetry on screen. That some little known composers like Sabesh-Murali can give such a fare reminds me the importance of context for songs.

The theme and its stress: Cheran uses the often used technique of using a counter example (Ramanathan) and example (Ramalingam) to convey his message of how parents should be treated in their sunset years. The technique is very effective, since Cheran doesn’t specially villainize Ramanathan’s and his wife’s characters. Their motives are shown to be quite natural, but misguided ones and he also shows their effects. For instance, he shows how Ramanathan’s wife is almost jealous at seeing the care given by Muthaiah & Sarada to Ramalingam’s children and in effect shows the futility and difficulty of trying to live in a nuclear family. The one flaw in characterization may be that the father – Muthaiah is shown to be a perfect person. But I guess the theme wants to stress that even such people are not automatically treated well by their children. Also, all of Muthaiah’s decisions are quite liberal (logical) and balanced and may be this also indicates to the parents that they should change with the world.

However I was having a feeling that Cheran was stressing more than love for parents in this movie and it was confirmed in the final scene when Ramalingam agrees to give the house to his brother, because, he was “his best relation”. Cheran in effect stresses on the importance of relations and the joy got from them, in this fast changing world where nuclear, single child families are the order of the day. In this world, when the necessity of relations and the importance given to it in our culture are being questioned, he shows how important they are – for instance to provide support during distress (like when Ramalingam has his first child). In effect it is a clarion call to restore the faith in our culture.

That such a strong and relevant message can be given convincingly and engrossingly within the mainstream cinema format is a big achievement. That’s why even when I see that all reviews are praising the movie, I feel the movie deserves this and even more!


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