Sivaji Ganesan and Kamal Haasan epitomized the perfect picture of a feudal father and modern son in Bharathan’s ‘Thevar Magan’ (Son of Thevar).
Kamal’s genius went beyond playing the perfect foil to Sivaji Ganesan as Thevar – he donned many hats in the movie including that of singer, writer and producer.
Sakthivelu (Kamal) returns as a London educated young man to his native village with Bhanu (Gowthami) in tow. His dreams are apparent as he plans to marry her and launch himself as a restaurateur. Picture perfect life and the initial frolic of the movie is innocent enough.
Sivaji Ganesan essays the role of a benevolent patriarch in a feudal set up – we see all the familiar sights : folk singers entertaining him as he holds Court, the village being fed daily meals and being provided clothes as part of the celebration. There exists a bitter feud between him and his younger brother that vitiates the climate.
Vadivelu (Isakki) plays a memorable cameo that brought him lot of recognition and praise from the industry’s stalwarts. It was a milestone in his career and helped him establish himself as a ‘bankable’ actor who could provide comic relief as well as enact supporting roles.
While we have seen enough of violent village feuds to know how the story will unfold, Kamal makes it special by dwelling on the interpersonal relationships between the key characters. The ‘Thevar and Magan’ duo comes across as genuine individuals who struggle with their feelings and disappointment as their world views could not be far apart. The rustic twang adds flavour to their exchanges – the most meaningful message is the one about the future generations reaping the fruits of the seeds sown by their toiling ancestors.
Circumstances unfold dramatically and by mid-way Kamal is forced to forsake his dreams and love to protect his village. He inherits the legacy of his father and becomes the new ‘Thevar’ with aplomb. He is no novice and understands the politics that drive his cousin brother (Nassar) to attack him. But he is beyond playing any dirty tricks and has a genuine intention of wanting to reform his cousin.
Kamal’s marriage to Panchavaram (Revathi) is a matter of chance and an opportunity to redeem his honour. His struggle to come to terms with it are shown effectively but the marriage develops its own flavour. At the end of it, the marriage is no longer a sham farce it seemed at inception, instead we see acceptance and love in a traditional format. Revathi singing ‘Inji Idupazhaga …’ on their wedding night is a cherishable moment in the movie.
Repeated fights lead to a bloody climax and the movie ends on a tragic note as there are no real winners in the tale. Nassar finally dies as he is killed by Kamal who is torn by the emotion of having to resort to violence to protect his village from further bloodshed. Kamal has delivered a great story that is credible and well represents the reality of feudal set ups in the countryside. He has pulled no punches and has ensured that the perceived reality of his characters unfolds in an inevitable clash of values and viewpoints.
Kamal effectively settles the debate of society v/s the individual in favour of the former – it is not an easy transition for him and certainly not a popular choice for youngsters who brook no interference in their lives. He does manage to portray the ‘change-of-heart’ in a creditable manner – the final shot sees him boarding a train to serve his jail sentence. We are sure that he will return in due course and that the village will await the same.