I reckon that Vasanth’s early movies have the right mix of story, screenplay, songs and commercial masala to ensure success on the box office. They appeal to various segments in the audience, from the front benchers to the family audience.
Rhythm is a good example of the delicate balance he creates while narrating a rather offbeat story of romance between two people who have lost their spouse in tragic circumstances. While we deal with mature and sensitive people with a sense of humour, their vacillation is a genuine emotion blighting their lives as they are no rebels and play real life people living in a conservative social milieu.
So we have a movie based in Navi Mumbai – lovely footage of the world-class railway station and the railway over bridge – and that sets a good pace to the story. Karthikeyan (Arjun) works as a photo editor with an English daily while Chitra (Meena) works in a Bank. They have tragically lost their life partners to a horrific train crash and are yet to come to terms with it. Chitra’s life revolves around her adopted son,Shiva, who is growing up and missing a father in his life. Meena is perfectly cast in the role and her looks and expressions are dead right for a grieving lady coping alone with the vicissitudes of the life in a megacity. Arjun plays the lead of a soft romantic hero – quite a makeover from his Action Hero image. To add some mordant humour we have the characteristic Manivannan delivering his one line punches in his trademark style.
The cinematography is lovely and especially the song are picturized well. A R Rahman has put in 5 songs as a tribute to the Panchabhootam – water, air, fire, sky and earth – and I loved the gushing waters the best. I did not consciously spot the themes but learnt about them on reading about the movie.
Themes that worked for me –
- The cinematography is stunning with great visuals for some of the songs and the projection of Mumbai as a city-on-the- move. Apart from nuanced commentary by Nagesh, the initial scenes in Mumbai set the tone of the busy nature of the city. The scenes are sharp and short – quickly moving as a series of montages to depict the ‘city of dreams’ in its true aesthetics.
- The lovely situational comedy set between Meena and Arjun as they get to know each other
- Manivannan’s punches which at times evoke Arjun to say mockingly ‘onga kaal enga…’ (Let me touch your feet). Indeed a pity that the cameo ends abruptly. It would have been more interesting to keep him going till the end.
- The Tamil Nandu (Crab) joke is too delicious to miss – it is a sarcastic take on Tamils failing to help fellow Tamils by engaging in a perpetual game of one upmanship. And so we have two Tamil crabs who don’t get out of an open trap box since they keep pulling each other down.
- Nagesh’s cameo as a concerned father and doting husband.He tries to convince Meena for the marriage proposal when she is still muddling along and not clear about her feelings. The situation is already complicated and he messes it up further. He understands the fiasco and apologizes to Arjun.
- Meena’s scenes with her son as she alternately scolds and pampers him. Her son too is smart enough to spot her false promises though he is not able to do much except cry about his predicament
- Ramesh Arvind’s cameo role of courting Meena – it has shades of Karthik romancing Revathi in Mouna Raagam but it just falls a bit short
- Finally Lakshmi is utterly convincing in her brief but pivotal role of an ageing brahmin lady who is rather headstrong and narrow-minded in her beliefs. Her diction of the Agraharam dialect was flawless
Themes that didn’t work for me –
- I may be a bit of a cold-hearted prig, but I did not like the reasons suggested for the marriage. Rather than acknowledge the romance we tie ourselves in knots by pushing implicit allusions and stereotypes for the marriage. For Arjun the stated reasons are – companionship and someone to take care of his aged parents. For Meena the allusions are – a husband protecting her from a rampaging society and a father for her child.
- The ultimate corny line is that this is all predestined and some mystical karma that they both lost their spouses in the same accident and then met each other in a distant land to satisfy some elaborate design of their fates.
- The director also makes a play of life being a risk wherein if a bomb defuser is at risk, so is a common man travelling on a train. But Arjun quitting his job at the drop of a hat to ensure that his wife is at peace is just not convincing.
One does understand that there are compulsions that need to be doffed it one looks at making commercially viable cinema and Vasanth goes about the business with the gentlest of nudges. So overall I did enjoy the movie and the rhythm did finds its beat.