Tamil Movie Reviews:

KATRADHU THAMIZH தமிழ் MA     

Cast: Jeeva, Anjali, Karunas
Music: Yuvan Shankar Raja 
Direction: Ram
 

Katradhu Thamizh is a difficult look at the life of a very unlucky man. Biographical movies are usually about people who conquer odds to make an impact; people who would make good role models. But this is a movie about a man who was dealt the worst cards in life. The director's attempts to link the state of Tamil today to the life of this man are artificial and even a little jarring. But as long the movie is seen as the life story of a man, it is like an accident - violent, bloody and sad but it is difficult to look away.

When we first meet Prabhakar(Jeeva), he is on the rooftop of a building, ready to leap to his death. But he isn't lucky in death either and is hauled off to the police station for his suicide attempt. He escapes and goes on the run and after his life takes some unpredictable, wild turns, he feels the need to tell his story to the world. He kidnaps a videographer(Karunas) and begins recording the story of his life. So, in his own words, we learn about his childhood love Anandhi(Anjali) and the strokes of fate that led him to where he is now.

Childhood in movies is usually a pleasant phase, filled with cute songs and fun antics. Not so here. The young boy here encounters more sadness than most people encounter in a lifetime and the events leave an indelible impression that shape the rest of his life. The way the director handles the childhood gives us a hint about the tone of the rest of the film and we are not disappointed. The shadow of death constantly looms over the protagonist and tragedy follows him everywhere he goes. Having been used to movies where heroes set up a roadside eatery and turn around their lives in a single song, the starkness of the film and its protagonist's life comes as a surprise. Jeeva's transformation from a promising, idealistic student to a man on the brink of mental imbalance has been charted in a believable, realistic manner.

The way Jeeva's life spirals out of control is compelling material but I had a problem with the reasons that is attributed to. The director tries to lay it at the feet of the worthlessness of his Tamil degree but in the way the story is told, that doesn't come through. Inspite of all the problems he faces in his childhood, Jeeva studies and gets a job as a teacher using his degree. The event that sends his life hurtling out of control is a cruel stroke of fate and not his inability to leverage his degree. Even a Computer Science graduate who chose that exact moment to buy a cigarette from that teashop would have faced the same consequences. So Jeeva's monologues about the lack of respect for Tamil, the call center culture and the growth of the divide between the rich and the poor come off as rants arising out of jealousy and not frustration. The points he makes may be valid but the movie doesn't create a situation where they seem natural and justified. They seem to have inserted to give him a chance to act and to add some crowd-pleasing dialogs.

Considering Jeeva's travails, the lack of emotional attachment to his character comes as a surprise. I've felt more sympathetic to characters who have gone through a lot less but Jeeva here does not elicit a similar emotion. And its the way his character has been shaped in the latter part of the film that is responsible for this. Some of his acts, like his behavior when he visits his friend at his software company,make him earn our dislike. And its not just that his behavior is bad. It is very cinematic and unrealistic. His behavior towards the girl, while disgusting, can atleast be attributed to his disturbed state of mind. But the way he talks to his friend is silly. What comes out of the scene (and the segment where Jeeva runs into a call center employee) is the director's dislike of the growth of the software industry and his enthusiasm to thrust it into the film.

While I have always welcomed screenplays that didn't follow a strictly linear narrative structure, this is one film where I felt the way the story was narrated was counterproductive. The story moves back and forth in time many times and there are times when we have to think to understand the exact timeline of events. Though not as important as the character arc, the narrative structure does play a part in our emotional detachment from the protagonist's story.

Ironically, it is when things improve for Jeeva that we finally feel sympathetic towards him. As his life takes a turn for the better, the knowledge that his past could catch up to him makes him earn our sympathy and we wish fervently that things work out for him.

Jeeva seems to be picking offbeat films and after films like Raam and E, this is another film that gives him the opportunity to prove his acting chops. He passes with flying colors. Unrecognizable under his hair and beard for most of the movie, he is completely believable during all the phases in the protagonist's life. Anjali makes an impressive debut. Though she has a lot less screen time than Jeeva, she manages to earn our sympathy in the time she is onscreen. Director Azhagamperumal has a nice role as Jeeva's Tamil teacher. Karunas earns a few laughs with his comments about his predicament. Yuvan's songs fit the sober tone of the film.

 

Courtesy:  - Balaji Balasubramaniam

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