Thevar Magan isn’t my favourite Kamal Hassan film but it’s one of the most complete, I feel, in the sense that there’s very few moments that feel out of place and the story is told in a naturalistic and flowing manner. Most films in those days were not extensively storyboarded and planned out the way films in the West are, so that feeling of cohesion is a lot less common. The film has something of a conflicting legacy. Here we have a film made with the good intentions of criticizing a martial culture and rural violence, yet the film seemed to become a hit partially due to people not understanding this message and instead treating it purely as a celebration of their own background. One can see how this happened, because the film tries to avoid being heavy-handed about the critical message (I wouldn’t call it subtle though) and since some other moments show characters pride, the messaging might not be clear. We can’t judge a film based on how it is misunderstood, but at the same time, it does leave something of a sour aftertaste.
Thenmavin Kombath is the original film which Tamil speakers might recognize as the original source adapted later as a Rajini film, Muthu. Since the original is not a “superstar film” and doesn’t need to suit any preexisting actor, it’s a better version of the same story. The film revolves around a love triangle which forms between Sreekrishnan (Nedumudi Venu), his servant Manikyan (Mohanlal), and a drifting drama artiste, Karthumbi (Shobana). A whole host of misunderstandings and errors in communication lead to a confrontation and falling out of the close friends, eventually leading Sreekrishnan to try and drive Manikyan out of the village.
What made the movie memorable to me was mainly a combination of Mohanal and the imagery. Boy, what a setting! Scenes like the cart going through the jungle in Karnataka were wonderful to see. As for Mohanlal, he really carries the first half of this film, particular in the comedic moments. When the dust settles and the film takes a more serious note later on, the movie does suffer a little bit when we start following Sreekrishnan more, whose character does not have quite the same charisma. I also thought Sreekrishnan’s change of heart at the climax could have been built up a little bit better. At 3 hours length, the film does ask for a lot of patience for a relatively simple story, but the aforementioned attributes keep it from wearing out it’s welcome. A good recommendation.
Though this film suffers a bit from over-dramatic scenes towards the end, the beautiful hilly countryside setting and the great music coupled with a generally pleasant story and good cast make it enjoyable. The plot revolves around two parallel love stories, one between the younger pair of characters and one between an older pair. Essentially, an estranged husband and wife (Sivakumar and Sujatha) meet each other again by chance through their association with two younger characters who fall in love (Suresh and Revathy). The older two aren’t quite sure where to pick up their relationship from, especially as it causes various misunderstandings with the younger characters, who don’t know about their past.
The misunderstandings do get a bit theatrical, yes, and the female actors generally do a much better job than Suresh and Sivakumar, but it manages to keep from feeling exaggerated. A tentative thumbs up on this one.
Did I mention how good the music is?
Magalir Mattum is a comedy film by Singeetham Srinivasa Rao, who was the director of the evergreen Michael Madana Kama Raja. It tells the story of three women from different social backgrounds who have to team up against their womanizing boss, played by Nasser, which leads to a whole lot of crazy situations. There is certainly a novelty factor to a film with three heroines and no important male characters apart from, well, the villain. But what really makes the movie work is the chemistry between Rohini, Urvashi, and Revathy’s characters, who are all written to fill in each others gaps. For example, one amusing recurring theme is the way that Rohini and Revathy have a lot more street smarts than Urvashi, but Revathy and Urvashi tend to be more book-smart than Rohini, leading to a lot of misunderstandings. All three of them also have great comedic timing, especially Urvashi.
Sargam is a delicate and highly musical story told using a subdued emotional palette and a wonderful backdrop of Carnatic music. The story revolves around two characters, Hari and Kuttan Thamburan, who have grown up very closely right through childhood. One forms a close bond with the lead female character, Thangamani. Kuttan Thamburan, however, has a recurring problem of fits, and eventually it is advised that he marry Thangamani. Although the elders are aware of Hari’s love for her, they make their decision and he defers to them out of respect and leaves the village. Soon after, Kuttan Thamburan learns that he has unintentionally betrayed his friend and commits suicide. The sight of his body sends Thangamani into a state of trauma for the next several years, after which Hari returns to visit his home and comes to terms with what has happened.
Classical arts, particularly Carnatic music, are something I generally value very highly. So coming across a film which is either based or revolving heavily around classical arts can either be a real gift or an embarrassment, depending on its implementation. However, considering the esteem with which Bharatham is held, I went into it with great expectation, and was not disappointed in the slightest. The movie as a whole is of very high caliber in scripting, direction, and acting. Right from the very opening credits sequence, which superbly provides both a visual and musical prelude to the story while also introducing its characters, it is very clear that this is a film made with care and purpose. It is ostensibly a mixture of a family and musical drama, with the second half leaning more towards the former, and manages to deliver a familiar idea in an exceptional way with only a few, subjective missteps.
Kizhakku Vaasal is a rustic story which finds Karthik in a familiar carefree, enegetic sort of role as a singer and dancer in the village of the same name. There are two threads in the story, one involving the zaminder’s daughter (Kushboo) with whom he has a genial relationship which mistakenly turns to a marriage proposal (furiously rejected by the zaminder), and the second relates to Revathy’s character, a young orphan who was brought up by a rich man’s concubine and who does not want to follow in those footsteps. The second thread stood out the most to me (of course, I am biased, but it’s also because the former thread has been told to death in Tamil cinema).