Ever since Sethu
came out of nowhere to shock us, the release of a film by its director Bala has been looked forward to by Tamil cinema enthusiasts. And he hasn't disappointed us so far. Following up his debut with Nandha
, he has rightly earned a name for powerful, character-driven films that stood out with their uncompromisingly bleak tone and dark and depressing storylines. 5long years after Pithaamagan
, he is back with Naan KadavuL
, which is releasing this Friday.
Like other movies of Bala, Naan KadavuL
has also been in the news - and not always for the right reasons - from the day it was announced. Ajith was initially supposed to be the hero(there was even a poster featuring Ajith floating around for the movie) but that fell through. With a lot of the shooting taking place in Varanasi, the film encountered several production delays and went over budget. But its problems are finally settled and it is all set to hit the screens. The
film is supposedly set among the Aghori sect of sadhus in Varanasi but not much more is known about it - especially since Arya has pooh-poohed the widespread rumors about the film capturing the cannibalistic habits of these sadhus.
Bala's movies so far have been marked by unique, memorable protagonists and powerful supporting characters. It is virtually impossible to forget Sethu, Nandha or Sithan or the intensity that was part of those characters. But what really carried Bala's movies forward were the relationships that these characters shared with those around them. Illustrating the truth in the adage that opposites attract, Bala paired up these characters with others who were completely disimilar to them. This was most apparent in Pithaamagan
, where the flamboyant, sweet-talking Sakthivel was the opposite of the silent, almost-animalistic Sithan. But this relationship between mismatched characters has always been there in Bala's movies, whether in the romance between the intense Sethu and the timid Abhitha or in the mentor-protege relationship between the short-tempered Nandha and the composed Periyavar. This makes us wonder who Arya is going to be paired up with in Naan KadavuL
Bala has never shied away from tragedy. All his movies so far have featured serious storylines and have ended in tragedy. While we can't say that he has never compromised his vision(the dances in Sethu
and the unnecessary segment with Simran in Pithaamagan
were definitely compromises), his unapologetic handling of dark themes makes him stand out among our directors. Based on his track record, we can expect a similar dark tone in Naan KadavuL
Bala has always managed to extract terrific performances from his lead actors. With Vikram, he gave him a new lease of life with Sethu
and then extracted a National Award-winning performance from him in Pithamagan
while in the latter, he also transformed Surya, who had hither stuck to quiet, serious roles, into a fun, fast-talking swindler. This is good news for Arya, who was quite lucky to land the lead role here. While the actor has shown a willingness to go past his good looks and take on different roles, he has yet to really prove his acting chops and has seemed a little stiff in his roles so far. Pooja has fared better than Arya and has shown promise even in cliched roles so far. The two can't get a better teacher than Bala and we can expect good performances from them.
After scoring music for some stinkers(2 movies he scored music for, ULiyin Osai
, in 2008 figured in my Bottom 10 list) Ilaiyaraja finally has a high-profile movie. Naan KadavuL
's music is not flashy but it evokes a serious, somber mood that fits the typical atmosphere in Bala's movies. Almost all the songs have a religious touch. Pichai Paathiram...
is soulfully sung by Madhu Balakrishnan and is very meaningful, particularly in the second stanza. Amma Un Pillai...
is instantly catchy since it uses the tune of the memorable Maatha Un Kovilil...
. A few lines from that original also appear in the album. Shreya is superb as usual in Kannil Paarvai...
while Ilaiyaraja sings Oru Kaatril...
, which employs the same tune. Om Siva Om...
is rousing and is the one I'm most looking forward to in the film. While the soundtrack has raised my expectations, I'm also enthused about its background score and am expecting quite a few goosebumps, courtesy Ilaiyaraja.
Bala has defied the popular trend so far with movies made on his terms that still turned out to be critical and commercial successes. Let's hope Naan KadavuL
joins this short list.