‘Let us talk about cinema being a director’s medium – where story and screenplay matter more than star power and technical innovations. Having been on a steady diet of slickly produced star power driven turkeys that lack a soul but still click at the Box Office, it is pleasantly refreshing to come across a simple tale that catches your imagination.
In some ways the movie reminds me of R K Narayan’s world of Malgudi – it is unique and inviting though one doubts it exists anywhere in such modern times.’
Bharathiraja introduced me to the rural world in Tamil cinema with movies like 16 Vayathinile, Pudhiya Vaarpugal. It was an alien world in many ways for the city bopper but the action kept you riveted – the village power structure and politics, the villain and his gang of flatterers, a brave but naïve hero, a spunky heroine, sparkling dialogue, witty repartee, the typical nakkal – nayandi of the region and some amazing beliefs and drives. Superstition was a given thing along with patriarchy and entrenched social mores. it was an altogether different way of life and very real and dear to its inhabitants. It may sound rather dreadful but it had its own rhythms and people were able to find happiness irrespective of their circumstances. Indeed they never took it for granted and so really counted it as a blessing and fully savoured it.
Even here the stereotypes and clichés are on full display and one knows what to expect next. The director has not set store much in building up the suspense although he manages to tie up the loose ends rather well towards the end of the story. We leave fully satisfied having solved all the knotty issues that drove the drama in the first place.
So what is the tale all about – you have a parched village where it is believed that a Temple festival will propitiate the God and bring the relief of rain that they so desperately seek. The plans are made and all of a sudden the Lord’s steed – a wooden horse goes missing. In a crazy twist a live Horse is found and accepted to be the horse’s new avatar. The village is keen to get on with their plans when the unfortunate ‘namesake’ owner of the Horse turns up to reclaim it. A poor labourer from the hills, his livelihood and more importantly his upcoming wedding is dependent on his reclaiming the Horse. Appukutty is a find playing the unlikely hero in terms of callow bumpkin from the boondocks. The real Horse too has its moments and reminds you at times of the success enjoyed by the Goat in Aattukari Alamelu.
What follows are his travails and dogged efforts to achieve his goal. Along the way we are treated to some rustic humour and lovely Ilayaraja songs. But the movie progresses at a good pace and we enjoy to watch the drama unfold. There are not many unpredictable twists n turns in the story though. But the director ends it on a high by striking the right notes – our hero gets his horse and his heroine, a side plot – the blooming village romance overcomes the traditional caste barriers, the fraudulent religious players are exposed and served their desserts, the chastened villagers have a better understanding of the situation and seem to be now in a position to question their superstitious beliefs and by Lord’s mercy it rains as well. Such a lovely fairy tale ending to the drama – wish it could all be done so nicely in real life too!