Monday, May 18, 2009


While Vishnu Vardhan's first three movies(Kurumbu, Arindhum Ariyaamalum and Pattiyal) showed an admirable trend with respect to increase in quality, his next film Billa gave us the first sign that he had begun sacrificing substance at the altar of style, as the film's gorgeous look accompanied a story that was dumbed down and silly. He continues in the same mode for Sarvam, whose rich production values try to prop up a rather frail story. Since the plot is really lightweight and the little that there is is emotional, the film as a whole, feels rather hollow.

Karthik(Arya), an architect, is smitten by Sandhya(Trisha) after their very first meeting. Sandhya rebuffs him initiallybut his sincerity and persistence soon win her over. Meanwhile, Ishwar(J.D.Chakravarthy) is mourning the loss of hiswife and son, who were killed when hit by a car driven by Naushad(Indrajeeth). Refusing to see it as an accident, he begins to harass Naushad and his son Iman(Master Rohan).

Sarvam is essentially about fate. As the lives of its five protagonists criss-cross - sometimes with no effect(as when Arya almost hits Rohan with his car or Trisha runs into Rohan in the hospital) and other times with huge consequences - it shows us how the lives of random people can become intertwined with or without their knowledge. It reminds us of movies like Crash, 21 Grams and our own Aaydha Ezhuthu as we watch the characters, with the knowledge that their lives are going to intersect while they themselves go about their lives blissfully unaware of the fact that each of their actions is having a ripple effect that affects others in unexpected ways.

But as the plot unravels and the links between the characters are established, it is all rather underwhelming and the plot seems too simple considering its lofty ambitions. Vishnu Vardhan tries to make the movie seem like more than what it is with some non-linearity in the chronology, which he achieves by serving up the story one piece at a time and telling the stories of the characters in parallel as their lives proceed. But even these do not make the story arresting enough. In this way, it is the exact opposite of Dasaavathaaram. While both movies illustrate the role destiny plays in the lives of a certain set of people, Kamal's ambitious film crammed in too many characters and a complex plot while Sarvam has too few characters inhabiting a barebones story.

Though the romance between Arya and Trisha is essentially filler(what is important is what happens because of that love), it is what saves the movie from being completely forgettable. Though it kicks off with an all-too-familiar love-at-first-sight scenario, it is charming and funny. Arya exhibits a goofy charm as he woos Trisha and her character arc as she goes from dismissing him to missing him is charted in a believable fashion. How we view Arya's behavior in the latter half of the movie is completely dependent on us buying into the depth of his love and to the extent that we can easily believe in the transformation his character undergoes, it is successful.

Once the links between the characters have been established(through screenplay machinations that remind us of atleast three other Tamil films), the movie turns into one long confrontation between Arya and Chakravarthy. The bonding between Arya and Rohan has a few laughs but for the most part, the proceedings are filled with confrontations and chases. This repetition tests our patience at a few points and when we finally see the dilapidated church - which, as we know from the opening scene, is the scene of the climactic fight - there is a palpable sense of relief that the end is near.

After the rough, grungy look of Naan Kadavul, Arya gets back to the urban look and it sits on him pretty well. He is casual and likeable when wooing Trisha and makes a convincing transformation to the determined man who goes up against Chakravarthy. But dancing is a sore point and he looks completely stiff during the song sequences, particularly Adadaa Vaa.... Trisha once again falls back on her limited set of expressions but it suits her character to a T and so she seems quite radiant. The look of "this is the man of my dreams" that she gives when Arya is describing their dream house is just perfect. Chakravarthy is forced to walk around with the same expression throughout and his supposed intensity never has the required impact. Indrajeeth doesn't have much to do while Master Rohan seems a bit raw initially but gets better as the movie progresses. Thanks to the gorgeous photography(Nirav Shah) and set design, the film looks visually very rich. The cinematography makes everything look good - from the sparse interiors of the hospital to the gorgeous greens of Munnar. The sets and lighting during the final sequences are particularly good. Sila Iravugal..., the best number in Yuvan's soundtrack, is picturized very nicely in terms of both concept and visualization. The same goes for Kaatrukkulle..., one of the more imaginatively picturized duets in recent times. Suttaa Suriyanai... is energetic and colorful though the lyrics don't really suit the situation it occurs in.


At 5:48 AM, Anonymous Prin said...

Yes, most people in the blogosphere say similiar things. But I guess, it's definitely worth a watch :)

When you say 'Sila Iruvagal' ? do you mean 'Needhanae' or 'Sirurugal'?

If it is the former, I'm quite upset that you haven't mentioned how beautiful the second one looks on screen :)

At 7:02 AM, Blogger D.E.V said...

i was so disappointed that the romance did not extend to the second half of the film. Trisha was superb and finally doin roles that suits her. She looks gorgeous throught.

At 8:49 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Worst in Sathyam cinemas ppl clapped when the interval card came...ppl were so releived...

At 9:51 PM, Blogger Kay said...

Ethini stars????

At 9:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Balaji sir, y dont u do a review of a more deserving film like arundhati?

At 11:12 PM, Blogger Naren's said...

sarvam was sarvam torture mayam....vishnuvardhan easily beats gautam menon for being the overly over rated director....

At 10:55 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Watched Sarvam and its all style and no substance.
Hard to believe it's the same director who gave us Arindhum Ariyaamalum and Pattiyal

Somehow I was reminded of Kathir.After giving Idhayam and Uzhavan,he was lured into the world of big budget extravaganza by KT Kunjomon in Kadhal Desam.
He got caught in that and made Kadhalar Dhinam \ Khadal Virus - all big budget movies with no substance.

Hope Vishnu too doesnt go that way after Billa 2007 - all style and no substance

At 11:51 PM, Blogger Balaji said...

prin, i'd say its worth a watch for viewers who appreciate the technical aspects of a movie too.
i was talking about 'needhaane...'. i guess different things jump out for different people. for me that song is what stood in my mind after the movie :)

skanda, not a big fan of trisha but i agree in this case :)

anon, wont go so far as saying worst film. and since i liked the 1st half, i wasn't disappointed at the interval time :)

kay, rendu :)

anon, saw it a while back but missed reviewing it :)

naren, wouldnt go so far as to call it torture either :)

anon, quite possible. billa's success might've given him the impression that style sells and so he is focusing too much on that. lets hope he gets back the balance between style and substance in his next film :)

At 6:42 PM, Blogger D.E.V said...

songs picturization was loveley and there was some definete class to it. Not the way Shankar overly does it in his films. all the songs stood out coz of the picturization and made Yuvan's songs much more livelier than what heard on the cd..

At 12:04 AM, Blogger Nagesh.MVS said...

Not a best movie.

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