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).
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When watching the New Years special of “Neeya Naana”, in which directors and actors gathered to discuss the merits of art films versus commercial cinema, it was simple to notice one film whose name kept being repeated in the discussion. Uthiri Pookal. It seems that simply mentioning the name of Mahendran’s film elicits a clear idea in everyone’s mind of the kind of filmmaking the other person wishes to discuss. Mani Ratnam once said that he would be satisfied if he could make a film like Uthiri Pookal, and it is extremely common to hear directors discuss how they entered the industry with inspiration from that film. Uthiri Pookal did not, as one might hope, suddenly bring forth a wave of sensitively told stories but it had its impact all the same.
Lakshmi Vanthachu is a comedic sentimental film in the vein of Marumagal (and starring the same two characters: Sivaji Ganesan and Revathy, though the full cast here is huge and includes Padmini, Jayachitra, Nizhalgal Ravi, and others), and there certainly is a great deal of fun and laughs to be had with this light-hearted film. The setting is, once again, the home of a well-to-do family, and the film starts with one of their sons being married of to an associate’s daughter. However, their new daughter-in-law’s younger sister, Lakshmi (Revathy) drops by to stay at the house due to her loneliness without her sister at home. Her quirky, tomboyish attitude wins her the hearts of everyone in the household except for her stern mother-in-law, who prefers to maintain a strict atmosphere in the house and is rather displeased with Lakshmi’s aloof nature.
Keladi Kanmani (Listen, my dear) was the debut film of director Vasanth after working under K. Balachander assisting such films as Sindhu Bhairavi and Punnagai Mannan. It’s a film based firmly on relationships and the way they intersect and obstruct one another. The final film is not as well-realized as one might hope for, perhaps owing to inexperience, and Vasanth would go on to fine-tune similar themes in future films (Rhythm being one particular variation on it). At the same time, there is a lot to like about Keladi Kanmani that is unique to the film. The story revolves around a quiet widower (Rangaraj, played by singer S.P. Balasubramaniam) and his daughter Anu, who starts off the film falling in love with a classmate, Sasi, a relationship which Rangaraj approves of. However, when she finds that she has developed a terminal illness, she asks Sasi to help her accomplish one wish: to reunite her father with a woman he had known many years ago (Sharada, played by Radhika) and had been fond of, but whom Anu had driven away because of her worry that she would “replace” her deceased mother.
Punnagai Mannan is a little hard to describe. It begins as a tragic love story (for about fifteen minutes), and then switches relatively fluently into a clean, entertaining romantic story that is far more lighthearted. If you read the storyline and are expecting a more offbeat film, you should know that this film is more of an entertainer with the requisite (but well done) formula of songs and comedy. What sets it apart, though, is that it also has (mostly) good direction, good characters, and great acting. There’s a full two hours to enjoy here, but unfortunately my final impression of the film is bogged down by the contrived ending which completely disrupts the tone of the entire film. But let’s leave the criticism for later – first, I want to focus on the good side of this movie. So let’s describe the plot:
There is a certain level of sentimental attachment I have for this film which perhaps makes this review less objective than usual. Marumagal is a family-friendly movie – the sort which rides on charm and sentimentality, which technically has Suresh as the hero, but in reality the film’s heart and core is in the interactions between Sivaji Ganesan and Revathy’s characters. In the film, Suresh is a carefree and lazy son who spends his time sleeping until noon or roaming with his glamour actress girlfriend Geetha. Sivaji falls seriously ill, and after discovering his son’s relationship, demands to see his potential daughter-in-law before his poor health fails. However, the girl is off acting and unable to return to Chennai immediately. Suresh asks a friend to help him somehow, and to his chagrin, his friend’s bright idea is to bring in a servant-girl Radha (Revathy) from the actress’ home, with whom Suresh is on rather unfriendly terms, to act as the potential daughter-in-law to satiate Sivaji until Geetha can return.