Written by Ronin
I went to watch Naan Kadavul with high expectations. The expectations were unavoidable, since it has taken three years to make the movie. It burned through the cash of three producers including Zee TV. And since Director Bala has earned a name for himself with his earlier offbeat movies.
The movie started with a Doordarshan made documentary movie feel on Kasi, at the banks of the river Ganges. The movie covered the devotee ocean in Kasi, pyres for the dead and the Aghori Sadhus (Sadhus who claim they are god). None of the shots were spectacular, than the Aghori pictures seen years ago in Frontline or India Today, covering the secret sect of Sadhus. There were no images of the sadhus eating dead corpses or floating corpses.
The director’s influence watching too many 80s and 90s movies is obvious. The unhealthy father, crying mother and sad looking sister completed the picture. When he wanted to build a character or convey something quickly, a song was introduced with images running in the background. The fact the songs were in Sanskrit, makes them non-understandable. Not sure, how long we are going to cover our helplessness in conveying characters through screen play! And in one of the early songs, I took my bathroom break.
I came back. The hero Arya looks like a Model although he is a Agori Sadhu. This was in tune with Vikram with streaked hair in Pithamagan. He speaks in a “Dark Knight’s” voice most of the movie. The background music was very garish in the early part of the movie . I felt the drums, specifically the Hi-hat(the one that looks like a silver plate on the drum set) was abused, whenever a suspense or shock track was played(reminding 80s again). If the director wants to make an international mark, he is better off choosing a different music director in his next movie..
This is when the movie leaves the world of Kasi, the sadhu’s parents and his characterization. Director moves into the uncaptured world of deformed beggars, their kidnappers and handlers in a small temple-town. It goes deeper into their dingy shelter in an unfinished temple. And this is where the humor in the movie starts. As the deformed are kidnapped and forced to beg and collect money for their handlers, they go about their life with a rare humor. The humor is very rustic, natural and mind-blowing. The characters parody and tease politics, god, cops, cinema and their own life. The director is a genius and his keen observation and reproduction of life in village is impeccable..The shock, revulsion, despair and sympathy you undergo as you watch the characters are unavoidable. The success of the movie lies in making you appreciate the humor and their life beyond this emotions.
The movie gets a life of its own at this point and makes us forget our surrounding after this point. The movie is stolen by each and every one of the beggar actors here. The heroine of the movie completely steals the show from hero, Arya. She most probably might win national award for her role. The movie deals with how the Agori hero and the blind beggar girl deal with sudden developments in their life. The crisp and few dialogues are appreciated. Few characters like the beggar trader from Kerala and beggar handler are built with extraordinary detail (for ex, they are shown as religious).
I have to mention that the movie ends with a sad note with the girl meeting death rather than deal with her life. It is unfortunate that a sadhu with hints of supernatural powers (he can recognize evil men), recommending death as a solution to problems (he could have taken her to Kasi, when he returns). But for some reason, the end fits the story well. May be unintentionally to indicate that he is not god himself..
It is not a totally non-commercial film. In many ways, it is a super-hero film with a Batman kind of hero, who is nonchalant, rude, violent, loner and reclusive. He just calls himself god, instead of Batman.
I hear complains about lack of screenplay or story line in the movie. Do we need childhood lovers or mafia or happy marriage(not a reference to Slumdog Millionaire) in every movie? There have been movies on one day incidents, that have won Oscars.
It is Bala’s misfortune that he wont be able to ply his art as well in Hindi/English as in tamil movies, as his strength is keen reproduction of rural tamil life. But it is tamil-film fans blessing, that he is tied to tamil movies. The director takes tamil movies to the next level, again.
ps: If Shekhar Kapur is reading this, he should definitely checkout this movie.
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