I am so happy to have a new Rajiv Menon movie in my life. His work is just so beautiful, it makes me feel good about the world, you know?
It’s not a perfect film. He wrote himself into a bit of a wall towards the end. there is a natural point at which our main character’s story ends, a moment when he transcends all worldly concerns and finds ecstasy. I would have been happy with the film ending there. But Rajiv decided to keep going a bit, try to end it with all the narrative lines neatly tied together and wrapped up in a big bow. It’s weaker that way, I felt less resolved after the final quarter of the film than I did at that moment of perfect beauty when it could have ended.
And there is also a massive social issue that he, basically, writes around. He presents it to us, in detail, in the first half. And then in the second half, it ceases to matter. But I am not sure if that is a mistake? Because sometimes those things do cease to matter, if you give yourself over to art, to passion, to the things that are real in life and the world, you can transcend these petty problems without “solving” them.
Mostly thought it is about the music. Rahman did it, of course, and the story is about music, music everywhere. The star is a composer as well, Rahman’s nephew, son of his sister who is a singer. I thought it was nepotism of some strange kind when this casting was first announced, but it really isn’t. This is a role that demands a musician play the part, someone who can make you believe what he is feeling because he is really feeling it. Yes, I know, that is supposed to be an actor’s job, to make us believe anything. But this film goes so deep, and Rahman’s music is so raw, I truly don’t think an actor could access what a musician can in this role. It’s the same reason I am nervous about Ranveer playing the lead in Gully Boy instead of using one of the real rappers. GV Prakash Kumar in this, you can feel the music in his veins while he is just watching someone else perform. And it’s not his first movie, he’s acted before, he knows how to deliver lines as well as any random actor. Maybe someone else could have delivered his lines better, but who cares about line delivery? It’s all in the music in this film.
Nedumudi and Aparna Balamurali provide the acting. Nedumudi brings with him the gravitas of all his years of acting, without the star feeling you might have found from someone from a different industry, or from someone who played “hero” parts instead of character roles. Aparna still has her freshness, she isn’t “pretty” in this film, she is strong and interesting and different, just like our hero. Elango Kumaravel, playing the hero’s father, is the one who impressed me the most. Looks like he is mostly a stage guy (co-founded a theater group) but also an occasional Tamil film actor, and a writer. And in has helped put on musical programs in the past, so maybe another person with music in his blood.
This is one of those movies that isn’t about the story, or the acting, or any of those usual things I might review. It is bigger than that. It is about art and artists and beauty and fairness in the world and true greatness. That’s the story Rahman is telling in his music and Menon in his images, and it is lovely.
And very non-commercial. I expect this film to make very little money. It only has one show a day at my local theater, and only for this week, so they don’t have much faith in it either. Maybe it will build word of mouth, maybe I will be proven wrong, but it feels more like something that will speak deeply to a few people, and be ignored by most. And, based on the message of this movie, that will be enough for Rajiv Menon, and AR Rahman, and GV Prakash, that they got to do what they loved in the way they loved and touched a few hearts.