Monday, June 01, 2009


While we've had several films set against the backdrop of college in Tamil cinema, our directors have been unwilling to travel further back in time to explore life in school (the fact that featuring school kids as protagonists effectively rules out the chance to incorporate romance and other masala elements probably has something to do with it). So Pasanga, which deals with the lives of a group of children, truly stands out from the crowd by virtue of its subject matter. With a loveable set of kids giving us an interesting peek into their lives, it is refreshingly fresh and fun fare.

Jeeva(Sriram), along with his two friends Pakkada and Kuttimani, has just moved to 6th grade. Anbukkarasu(Kishore), joins the class after moving from a different school and soon rubs Jeeva the wrong way as he impresses their teacher - who also happens to be Jeeva's dad - and becomes friends with Manonmani, Jeeva's cousin. Meanwhile, Anbukkarasu's uncle(Vimal) and Jeeva's sister(Vega) fall for each other even as the enmity between Anbukkarasu and Jeeva extends to their dads.

The kids in Pasanga definitely make up a fun bunch and the director succeeds in capturing all facets of that age through them. From the games they play(like the popular one where we twist our hand, cross our fingers and then uncross them on our nose) to the emotions they experience(like jealousy at the new guy who is undermining them) to smaller things like their love of movies(not shown directly but inferred from their recreating scenes from movies like Vettaiyaadu Vilaiyaadu), they make us fondly remember scenes from our own childhood.

Pasanga understands that the problems and issues that kids encounter are important for them. So it focuses on them without belittling their experiences. It shows us that the emotions - jealousy, spite, anger, etc.- they experience are the same that adults go through. Its just that the ways these emotions are expressed aresuitably childish. So, when a kid plans to rub honey on his enemy's hair, its the equivalent of an adult throwingacid. And when he wants his friend's older brother to scare the other kid, its the same as an adult hiringa rowdy to rough up an adversary. By doing this i.e. making the kids' world a microcosm of the adults' world, the film makes its protagonist kids well-rounded, genuine characters rather than uninteresting caricatures.

When its kids, supporting characters become even more important since it is they who guide and control the kids' lives. Director Pandiraj understands this and makes the people around the kids - their families and their teachers - fully fleshed-out also. Kishore's parents perfectly bring out a couple unwilling to adjust and make sacrifices inspite of all the years together. So their bitterness bubbles up to the surface given the smallest chance. Sriram's parents don't get enough time to make the same kind of impression but his dad's narration of his married life shows him to be someone who is at peace with the route to deal with his problems. Similarly, the romance between Vimal and Vega is charming and developed in a very believable fashion and the conversations, whether its between the lovers or the lovers and their families are very natural.

But the realism of the movie takes a beating towards the end. The advice and sermonizing is understandable and even acceptable since it is delivered naturally and in a self-deprecating fashion. And a couple of messages are almost a given in a kid's movie. But the artificial attempt at adding some tension feels unnecessary and the climax is straight out of a masala movie as a plot point introduced obviously - but in an undeniably humorous fashion - just a few scenes ago is used in a very cinematic, unbelievable fashion.

Pasanga is a movie about kids but it can't be called a kids movie. There's nothing childish about the technical aspects of the film. The director employs slo-mo shots, fast edits, interesting camera angles(like the POV shot behind a kid's glasses. The camera even shakes as he adjusts is glasses) and eye-catching shots(like the sun shining through a boy's closed fist) to keep the film vibrant and lively. James Vasanth does his part with an energetic background score, especially during the sequences where the kids clash with each other. Kids are bundles of energy, always active and full of life and the same can be said about the movie too.

Child actors are usually camera-conscious kids who try to be cute but come off as overacting and irritating. Not so here. These kids here could put many of our adult actors to shame. Whether its Jeeva's roguishness or Anbukkarasu's sincerity or Pakkata's naievete, the kids' expressions and body language convey their characters perfectly. If we feel that we know these kids intimately by the end of the film, a large portion of the credit goes to these actors. The rest of the cast also fits their roles perfectly. Vega, looking very different from her Saroja persona, is sweet and makes a good pair with Vimal, who is also sweet in a down-to-earth way. The actors playing the kids' parents are also natural. James Vasanth tunes another melodious number in Oru Vetkam Varudhe..., which reminds us of Subramanyapuram's KangaL Irandaal... in both melody and the picturization, with its mix of romance and humor.


At 9:55 AM, Anonymous Prin said...


I liked the film too. How many stars.

And it's really good to see Sasikumar coming up with great films, this was his home production =)

As per with Vega, good roles =)

At 11:31 AM, Blogger Filbert said...

Same questions here, Balaji :) Hallowed grounds, 4 stars?

At 12:03 PM, Anonymous yaadayaada said...

I wish this gets screened in the theatres here since I hate watching movies on the internet.

At 3:23 PM, Anonymous Prakash said...

Nah, "But the realism of the movie takes a beating towards the end" makes it a 3, max 3.5.

At 10:03 AM, Blogger KayKay said...

Not sure if you remember this flick BB, but many,many years ago there was a movie called Mazhalai Pattalam that featured Vishnu Vardhan (actor, not director) playing a widower with many children who marries Lakshmi (I think, memory's a little fuzzy)who also had a brood of her own and it was a charming movie that focused on the relationship between the numerous step-siblings. I believe that was the last Tamil movie that took such a kid-centric approach to its narrative.

At 10:05 AM, Blogger KayKay said...

On second could also call Anjali a kid-centric flick..but seriously I can't watch it anymore without gritting my teeth, especially during the overwrought climax:-)

At 11:55 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Absolutely amazing movie.. The kids have performed really well. Lots of kisses for Sriram

At 12:10 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

KayKay, yeah, I remember watching Mazhalai Pattalam and loving it. We had a pattalam of our own at the time - 6 siblings + 3 cousins, under 1 roof. I think it was a remake/dubbing from a different language. Maybe Kannada (hence Vishnuvardhan?)

Quick Google search says it was Sumitra acting in it, not Lakshmi, which is also what I remembered. But the site also says Lakshmi is the director, which is maybe why you got it mixed up.

At 9:20 PM, Blogger Balaji said...

prin/filbert, prakash's right. the climax really killed it for me. but definitely best movie of the yr so far. 3.5 * :)

yaadayaada, i know! this would've been a delightful watch on the big screen :)

kaykay, remember the movie quite well but not so much the cast. was quite funny. first recollection was that it was by KB but based on what anon says, guess not.

i think 'anbulla rajnikanth' would qualify as a kid-centric flick too :)

komala, I agree :)

At 7:35 AM, Anonymous sman said...

Did you see the controversy surrounding Sakthi Chidambaram and Suhasini's review of Rajathi Raaja:

Looks like Sakthi Chidambaram has sued Suhasini for severely criticising his movie and giving it a "Fail" Ranking.

At 5:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Someone recommended Pasanga. One of rare new films watched by me. Beyond anything, it was the acting of the children that amazed me. They were just so natural.

I have never lived in such a setting or school background to see life as those kids did. But it was nonetheless, it was charming. I guess climaxes are a challenge for all. This one was quite dramatic without need. But overall, a good film after a long time.


At 3:11 AM, Blogger Kavitha said...

A good film with a difference. Yeah, the end was little dramatic....but the cheer ups were good.

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