I enjoy watching Cheran movies as his stories ring true of the Lower Middle Class characters that he prefers to dwell on and there seems to be the sincerity brought in perhaps by the autobiographical nature of the content.
Undoubtedly parents make unending efforts to provide for a better future of their children and Tamil cinema provides you with an overdose of melodrama and ‘Thai’ sentiment. But surely it is unusual to see an ode to the role of the unsung father and one that provides him with a quiet dignity under trying circumstances. The movie rates a top score on that count.
Firstly to knock the demerits of the movie that was strong on content and did reasonably well on the Box Office, the length of near three-and-half hours was excessive even in 2005 and would be regarded as monstrous in present days when 2 hours is regarded to be the benchmark. And a lot could have been crisper without losing the message particularly in the second half.
And the movie seems to promote the role of the benevolent Patriarch who brooks no-nonsense from its members and is not inclined to negotiate an amicable solution by tactfully engaging with them. It is a neat trick to spot as well since the character tends to be empathetic but will not cede an inch when it comes to a questioning of his own beliefs and sense of reality. Still this is not far from the truth in these lives and indeed one may argue that life is a larger battlefield for them to bother about what they regard as symbolism and niceties of the privileged.
Well the movie truly belongs to Raj Kiran – he dominates the scene throughout and even matures ultimately into a benign ‘father-figure’. He impressed in Cheran’s earlier movie, ‘Pandavar Bhoomi’ and has been cast well in this movie as well. Having studied only till 8th standard, he is married to Saranya and blessed with 2 sons. He runs a small ‘Printing Press’ unit and wants to ensure that his sons studied more and have a better life. The domestic routine is one of perpetual struggle particularly with regard to money, but the family life is well portrayed and shows a closely knit home. The Diwali scene wherein Raj Kiran works overnight to earn a bit of cash to provide for the happiness of his sons is well etched.
Raj Kiran ensures that the future of his elder son, essayed by RJ Sendhil, is secured by obtaining him a job in the mill and getting him married. The jostling of the newly weds in the joint system is an age-old tale and the friction that it causes is not handled tactfully. It is herein, I find the patriarch stereotype galling for although he can possibly empathize Raj Kiran or Saranya can stomach a loss of face. The war of nerves eventually turns acrimonious and causes the couple to move away from the home. The elder daughter-in-law is cast in an unsympathetic role that sees no redemption till the very end. She is used like a device to advice the perils of the old system – only a docile and undemanding girl can ever hope to win the approval and acknowledgement of the elders.
Cheran, playing the role of the younger son, shifts the focus to his own youth and shows the attendant foibles with a searing honesty. He met Padmapriya in his college and they fall in love. Finally he elopes with her to Chennai and badly struggles to provide for their needs. One wonders that being educated they could not find a better solution to their problems. One notices shades of the award-winning ‘Kadhal’ in the tragedy that awaits eloping couples with more romanticism in their minds but no support system to cope with the vicissitudes of daily life. Even Padmapriya is like a ‘cardboard’ character – she shows no signs of individualism and being an educated person who can manage her life.
Eventually things improve and the joint family shifts to Madurai to enjoy the fruits of their hard toils. Cheran effects a rapprochement with his estranged elder brother. But Cheran lingers far too long to show the positive changes and this makes the movie inordinately long as well. Finally with the passing away of the bereaved Raj Kiran he gets an opportunity to close the tale but he stretches it further for a while trying to relive his past.
Cheran is always good with the narration and the screenplay sparkles. He uses the language well but without trying to grandstand it. I am just about able to cope with it to not miss understanding the message. Couple of songs are hummable but nothing that leaves a great impact. The rural visuals are great as usual – so we get to see the sepia toned Sivaganga, folk artistes, nattupura paattu …