Saturday, February 07, 2009

Naan KadavuL

Naan KadavuL has most of the things we've come to expect in a film by Bala after films like Sethu, Nandha and Pithaamagan - the unique characterization, the spotlight on a section of society seldom seen in films, the dark, depressing tone and the uncompromisingly bleak storyline. But the one aspect that drove those films forward - the strong relationship that existed between the main characters - is missing and that makes the film have less of an impact compared to Bala's earlier efforts.

Rudran(Arya) was left in Kasi as a boy by his dad, after warnings from astrologers that the boy would bring bad luck to their household. The boy has grown up to be an Aghori, a sect of sadhus who believe that they are God and possess the power to halt a dead person's rebirth. He returns to Malaikovil with his dad but continues to live the life of a sadhu, much to the chagrin of his parents. Malaikovil is where the ruthless Thandavan has made a business out of sending disabled beggars to beg outside the temple. The latest unwilling addition to his gang is Hamsavalli(Pooja), a blind singer.

Bala turns his unforgiving camera on begging this time as we get to see how it is carried on as an organized business by people who control the beggars and their income. While its sad enough seeing the disabled beggars ply their trade, we are given a behind-the-scenes look at what happens when they are not out on the streets. And its horrific. Bala unflinchingly trains his camera on the group of physically disabled beggars and its not easy seeing the conditions they live under or the treatment meted out to them by the man who controls them. Proceedings do sometimes veer dangerously close to feeling exploitative but the fact that Bala is simply shining light on things that do happen in the dark recesses of society is always at the back of our minds.

Surprisingly, Bala manages to inject some humor into this depressing scenario too. Life has given these members of society a really raw deal but they make what they can out of it. Their snarky comments and rascally behavior induce laughter and it is impossible not to smile as they gang up and do what they can to have fun when away from the eyes of their owner.

When seen over the whole movie, Arya's character arc does validate the title. Like in all those stories about God, he gets an impressive start in Kasi where we learn about him and his powers, goes to a place where he is most needed, destroys evil and helps those (in different ways and some more than the others) in need. The problem is that he seems to be simply a bystander for the most part once he goes to Malaikovil. He goes on with his life - which consists entirely of smoking ganja and chanting a few slogans - and his path never intersects with that of the beggars. So he is more a supporting player than the central character. In fact, there are times(like his visit to the police station and the court) where he is reduced to playing the role of a comedian, as the interactions of others with him are played mainly for laughs.

Arya's emotional detachment works against the film in the concluding portions since he doesn't develop a connection with anyone. Logically, it does make sense as Aghoris are supposed to be free of emotional roots, as Arya's guru tells him before his trip, and they can see someone for who he really is. But from the point of view of the movie, it disallows the emotional build-up that is so important for the climax to work. So the climax feels rushed and the surge of emotions we usually get when the bad guys get their comeuppance doesn't really happen though the bad guys here are some of the baddest we have seen.

Arya looks the part of the sadhu and has perfected the body language and fiery expressions that go with it. But he doesn't have to do much more than that. A completely deglamorized Pooja inhabits the role of the blind singer very convincingly. She earns our sympathy and is terrific when pleading with Arya in the climax. The actor playing the beggars' owner earns our revulsion with every single act. Ilaiyaraja's background score is suitably solemn in the scenes involving the beggars and powerful when Arya is onscreen. Om Siva Om... is expectedly rousing as it begins and ends the movie while Pichai Paathiram... sounds even more somber considering the scenario. Neither Amma Un Pillai... nor the short clip of Maatha Un Kovilil... find a place in the film.


At 12:03 AM, Blogger HaRi pRaSaD said...

Nice review dude. Captured all the important aspects of the movie. Kudos.

At 2:05 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Balaji, even I thought the same.... there was no emotional bond between the lead characters. If there had been scope for some amount of kinship between the leads, the ending would have been much more raw and affecting. A good look at the beggars' life, no doubt, but is a bit of a disappointment when we consider that its a Bala movie.

At 4:34 AM, Blogger Bart said...

I agree. The movie inshort has a very vivid, elaborative and on-your-face never-before backdrops but doesn't have a strong connecting story.
Arya's character is ill-defined to say the least (2+ yrs effort wasted). (I am GOD?! Then why listen to Guru and why come back to birth place? Who is Guru if he's to break all bonds? and so on..). Pooja has put up a strong show.
Good intentions, hard-work but so-so output..

At 5:41 AM, Blogger ashwin shanker said...

nice review man....decent flick actually good one i thought....but as youve said the emotional quotient is could argue that being a sadhu he is fee all of bonds...But nevertheless i think the film deserves three stars??.....definitely one of the better tamil films...looks like 2009 is of to a good start for tamil cinema...

At 6:03 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

emotional bond - as in a duet, even if the authentic ilangathu veesudhe type? Edhukku? Padam emotional bond pathi illiye? Adhu vera, idhu vera, illaina naan kadavulukku badhila Pithamagan-IInu per vechuruppare?

At 11:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

On a different note.
Everyweek when I watch Athiradi singer(SUN TV) I wonder why no one has commented about it yet...
was waiting for your review. if you get a chance do see once it is aired on Sat 7:30 I believe.

At 1:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Loved it! <3

Pooja and Arya are definitely tipped for greatness, surely =)

hmm, in the version i watched, pooja sings 'Maatha un Kovilil'

At 10:04 PM, Blogger Naren's said...

Balaji as usual you have given a balanced review. But once in a while we do get movies which need to be looked beyond reviewing. With due respect to your writing, NK to me stands above any kind of interpretation. It was a never felt before or a never will feel kind of experience to me.As mentioned by you the glitches as to continuity and other aspects glare easily at you while watching the movie. But there are various other aspects in the movie that can't be reviewed, at least by words.Again with due respect to all your neat write up, NK to me was some inexplicable experience. And it took me quite some time to come out of the sweetness or feelings of the title song of which i could not understand one single word.

At 11:58 PM, Blogger Balaji said...

hari, thanx :)

ganesh, yep :)

bart, more time was needed in kasi to establish arya's character. but the language barrier might've made bala cut it short and that affected the elaboration of arya's character :)

ashwin, oh no doubts there. definitely a good film :)

anon, as i said in the review, i myself understood that reason for the lack of emotional bonding. i was just pointing out how that affected my involvement in the climax :)

swaps, we've disconnected SUN TV since we watched so little of it. hence lack of posts about anything on it :)

prin, she sang a number of old songs but i don't remember her singing 'maatha...'. i expected it to come when she was in the church. when did she sing it? :)

naren's, can understand the way u felt. and i think u mean 'om siva om...' by the title song right? i loved it too :)

At 12:09 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Balaji, havent seen the film yet but... Isnt the life of beggars or the life of aghoris, either one of those by itself worthy of attention for the whole of the film? Bala's decision to kind of jump from one world to another, did you think it was a mistake? I am reading reviews that say after all the hype Arya's own life as an Aghori was'nt delved into enough and in the end it was more about the life of the beggars. Having seen the film, do you think there is any reason as to why it should have been an aghori who saves those beggars? was it to just justify the title?

At 12:25 AM, Blogger Naren's said...

no balaji not the siva ohm song...the hindi song about kasi when the title card rolls...Maa ganga sung by udit narayan i guess..

At 12:41 AM, Blogger Bart said...

Balaji, more than the time delved at Kasi, his actions when he is back at malaikoyil were very constrained, vague and not fully defined (either by aghori's ways of living or any other).
Spolier alert:
If he is a person who listens to no one and doesn't respond to anyone, how does he respond to police? why should he turn up in court? Why does he listen to pooja in the end? [perhaps his character is not fully developed as it doesn't have a rounded definition].
One more niggle that I forgot was when Pooja gets beaten up and tortured at the end, she goes to a church and kinds of converts to christianity (?). This portion was neither driven strongly to say one opinion or another. Censor effect perhaps.

At 8:44 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bart, watch the movie again, listen to what the prohit`s explantion about the aghori in the initial sequence. Aghori can differentiate the evil spirit. He doesnt listen to Pooja.

At 9:01 PM, Blogger Balaji said...

vijay, sure either one of those could make a film but bala has chosen to link the two. so i don't think it is a mistake but due to many factors, they don't feel balanced. I think Arya's final act kinda justifies that it was an aghori who saves the beggars and not just another regular hero :)

naren's, oh ok. got it now :)

bart, i think the fact that he thinks of himself as God nullifies those questions(and many others). just that he does some things for his own reasons. like in 'thiruvilaiyaadal'(bringing this up only because it was fresh in my mind after nagesh's RIP post), we don't really ask why God shows up before Tharumi, writes a poem, goes to the court, etc. He just does :)

anon, I think bart is talking about Arya's final act where he listens to Pooja and gives her what she wants :)

At 3:24 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Balaji,Even i meant that too.when Pooja will pull Arya`s leg, he will not look at pooja but the thugs.

At 10:31 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

omg! Is he like really smoking pot in this one? Man! Dun tell me its like one of those stoner flicks u can only appreciate when u r high.


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