I just felt an existing HOLLOWNESS, as I walked out of the theatre after watching this movie. The most important thing that contributed to this feeling is that the characters of the film fail to make an emotional Connection with us, the Audience.
All of previous Bala’s movies like Sethu, Nandha and Pithamagan were all movies with a Tragic Ending. But the strength of the above-said movies lie in the fact that all these movies had people who made an Intense Emotional bond with us during the course of the 2 ½ hours. Be it Cheeyan of Sethu, Nandhaa of Nandha or Sithan & Sakthi of Pithamagan, all were excellent portrayals and Characterisations that revealed the darkness and brightspots of Human relationships and emotions.
There’s not a single character in this film who make an everlasting impression or that bond with us, that should make us feel, faint or cry for them & the sufferings that endeavour them. But in defence of the above comment, Bala himself might argue that a Sadhu (Aghori) is not one among us in an ordinary society and so we might feel that way.
Anyways, Lets walk through the storyline in one or two lines. Don’t worry, this is not going to be a spoiler.
The protagonist (Rudhran, Arya) is an Aghori, a class of Sadhus (as I presume) who live in Kasi. They have an eerie and a very different lifestyle as Bala portrays in the first 20 minutes of the movie. They consider themselves Gods (Kaal Bhairav) and it is said that they can identify people who are unworthy of living in this world and they punish them. Rudhran does one such thing which forms the rest of the story.
This depiction of the sadhus is not totally new to us. We saw a similar portrayal of Jeeva in “Katradhu Tamil or Tamil MA” as he wielded a big beard & long hair and danced with the sadhus in the banks of Ganges, yeah but only for a brief period in the movie. “Naan Kadavul” spoke this life in greater details, Obviously.
Back to “Naan Kadavul”, throughout the movie you can never see a Bright, Auspicious and Happy face. I do understand that the film actually brings into the limelight the sufferings of the Beggars and the violent treatment that they receive from their so called Masters and so there is no scope for happyness. Now, this is something which we are seeing in quite a number of movies nowadays. Recently, We saw a similar violent and ill-treatment of the orphan street-kids in “Slumdog Millionaire”, as they were forced to beg on the streets. In tamil cinema, We saw the same in the Ajith starrer “Villain”. But this movie will bring to you, one of the most haunting, disturbing and Violent portrayals of this. Both Slumdog Millionaire and Villain even gave us an idea, how they artificially handicap a kid and this movie is not an exception.
Bala shows us this dark underground, where a number of handicapped and awkward-looking individuals (Beggars) are being trained into beggary. That was quite a lengthy scene of about 10 minutes (I guess) and that will haunt you for atleast another 20 minutes in the movie.Too much of Violence and in due course, you will get to know that there exist people with disabilities and malformed body organs of this magnitude. It’s all deformed and handicapped individuals and they are called Urupadis (Meaning Items) in the movie. This gives an idea how they are being treated by their bosses and how they are forcefully trained into beggary. This is really disturbing and don’t take kids with you for this movie.
There is something in the movie which is supposed to be a Comedy track. The handicapped beggars either make fun of each other or they make fun of their Bosses (Ivaru periya Ambani was one such comment).
. But, the reality is that you will be involved in noticing and observing the perturbations of their physique and face especially and there’s no scope for laughter, though these scenes were supposed to be for this purpose.
Now, the heroine Pooja (Amsavalli is her name in the movie) is a Blind beggar. She sings and earns her living with a group of people. There is scope for performance and you can easily call this is the movie in which she has performed. Her characterisation is comparatively better and she is just pitiable. But, as we stated earlier, we miss out an emotional contact with her and hence an Emotional Outburst in us (as she suffers) is not happening (As simple as that).
One more thing that I felt is, Our protagonist Rudhran is not staying with us through out the film. No, he is not going to die during the course of the movie. The movie spans through like separate episodes of a single story. They show what Rudhran is doing for sometime and then over to the beggars for sometime. And only after another 20-25 minutes, you get to see Rudhran again. This way, we are not getting along with the mood of the protagonist in a continuous manner.
And, as in Pithamagan, the hero doesn’t have much to speak. Rudhran is not totally dialogueless in the movie, but he has less to offer in terms of dialogue and most of them in hindi (He even utters out behenchodh in the movie). But there is absolutely no comparison between the performances of Vikram and Arya. Vikram is way-ahead and Arya is not bad. Rudhran’s eyes do speak in the movie, but he wields a monotonous look and behaviour through out the movie that bores us sometimes.
Ilayaraja’s score for “Om Siva Om” creates a devotional sadhu kind of effect and you get to hear the same in a number of sequences. Whenever Rudhran sits upside down on his head for his Thapas, you will get it. And the lyrics for the track is not in tamil and you only hear many “Rudhraayas” as mantras. “Pichaipaathiram” by Madhu Balakrishnan is one more appealing number. It is photographed quite realistically and is very disturbing. Pooja happen to be a singer in the movie, as foresaid and she sings a few melodious numbers here and there.
Now, this is an analysis of the character of our protagonist, RUDHRAN. Rudhran is left in Kasi by his father and he just grows as an Aghori, with non-human traits. When you call it Non-human, what is it ?. His character is an amalgam of that of Gods and beasts. “Kadavul Paadhi, Mirugam paadhi ... kalandhu seidha kalavai naan” of ALAVANDHAN will put it right, I guess. He is devoid of the normal affiliations that one has with his family. He is devoid of normal feelings and emotions like compassion, love, friendship and affection for the family. Even Sithan of Pithamagan has got some emotional bonding with the fellow fellas. No, I am not quoting it as a flaw. But, this characterisation of Rudhran has been intentionally engineered by Bala and Arya just delivers it Right. But this is a dual-edged sword, It did contribute to strengthen the character but it weakens the bond that Rudhran is supposed to develop with us during the movie. Now, the bottomline is, Rudhran is a Sadhu and hence he has to leave aside all the relationships & emotions behind and ironically he leaves us also, without making much of an emotional impact in us.
The prominent things that Rudhran does in the movie are
· Upside-down Thapas
· Uttering out “Aham Brahmasmi” meaning “I am God”
· Smoking out Cannabis with his pipe
· Immersing his head in rivers and then walk out of waters with an Immense and determined anger in his face
· Ruthlessly beat and kill people (unworthy of living, as he puts across)
And, this in due course will add a boring note to the character. So, Rudhran’s role looks quite hollow and he definitely lacks depth in character (I should say this).
Speaking of Cinematography, I think its by Arthur Wilson and he did capture Kasi in all its panorama. Kasi remains the same from the days of Satyajit Ray (Watch his widely acclaimed Apu trilogy). The camera angles and panoramas are just the same. Only the colour has varied, from Black & White to Eastman colour to Technicolor to Digitized Images as we see nowadays. There is this general cliché you might have noted in many movies. Like, if the director wanted to show us Chennai in a movie, they show us the Central Station and this applies to any other city, which the director takes us to. So, the point is, Kasi is also depicted the same way, right from the 50s. The cinematography is generally dark & grey and its a saffron thing that you see everywhere. You won’t find bright green and red kind of imagery anywhere. And, it has to be the way it is. We have got a social problem depicted on screen (Beggary) in all its trueness and you can’t afford to have them depicted with bright colours.
And, We watchers of cinema firmly believe that the heroine should play the ladylove of the hero. But, shed aside that cliché before you walk in to the theatre.Because we have something different here. There is absolutely no chemistry between the actors in lead roles, here in this movie.
The villain deserves an applause for all the cruelty and animal Instinct he carries in his eyes. His shaved-up head and rough voice just fit in like anything, for this role. You get so accustomed to his behaviour that after a few sequences, whenever he walks into the scene... you start expecting that something bad & violent is gonna happen.
Let’s spot some bright stars in the sky. Bala is definitely a master film-maker and he has very well proved his mettle more than once in yesteryears.
Bala is all you have in the movie. He just stands tall, You can just imagine a person researching on an untouched phenomenon and brought whatever he thought on-screen.
Arya and Pooja were just romancing in some lacklustre roles in their previous movies and this will definitely be feathers in each’s cap. And full credits to Bala who has got the best out of each of them.
Another high note is, the trueness with which Bala has shown us the horrendous and horrible life of the templeside beggars. Now, these are elements of an Honest artiste.
One thing to note regarding the comedy track in all Bala’s movies, is the SATIRICAL Nature of the Comedy tracks. He just picks up a social Issue and brings out the natural fun out of it. No much artificiality here. That’s why most of his comedians are Anti-social and by this term I mean they are thieves. Just recall Karunas in Nandha or Surya-Karunas in Pithamagan or the Beggars in Naan Kadavul, Invariably this is the case.
Finally, Is Naan Kadavul an art movie?... Well, my answer is Yes but my reply is not whole-hearted and is a bit reluctant. But, Can anyone other than Bala would have dealt this story in a better manner ... No should be the answer but Ameer is one name that springs up. :)
RATING : 3 on 5
Now, A few questions to Bala – we watched him in all his movies and in that capacity we ask him the following questions.
· When are you going to return back from the Cemetery ? (It’s been four years since you started with Pithamagan)
· Will you ever direct a movie with a happy ending ?
· Why are all your protagonists abnormal persons with some degree of Psychiatric disturbances ?
Comments are most Welcome.