Virumandi Movie Review – Beyond The Horizons of Screenplay
The moment anything is reported or written, truth suffers. This is one of the most fundamental points in reporting news. The eye witness’s narrative is the most sought out at such times. At all possibility, the eye witness brings his perspective of the news. The moment a perspective is brought in, subjectivity creeps in. He selects which part of the news has to be told, which part of the news he remembers, which part he forgets and which part he compels himself to hide. Thus selection of the scene from eye witness becomes inevitable. Finally, the truth suffers. So what happens when truth suffers?
Excuse me for the cliché, no innocent be punished despite many criminals escape. The previous paragraph and the previous statement form the basis of Virumandi, Kamalhassan’s directorial venture. Virumandi also touches upon the fact that capital punishment needs to be abolished but it doesn’t dwell in this ideology like the Hollywood flick Dead Man Walking. Neither is Virumandi, an analysis of a death sentenced criminal’s mind. Virumandi is a just an observation of modern day, cell phone cultured rural folks of Tamil Nadu. There is however a message implied in this observation which is made without passing judgments on their life style, their sentiments and their everyday outcries. This message implied displays the genius in Kamal. Only experienced directors and writers are capable of such subtle messages.
Virumandi by itself is like a festival of sorts. It is sensational at all times like a roller coaster with a huge cast and happening moments. Never dull and never a story-thirsty movie. It deals with slice-of-life of a 20ish naive-yet-brave Virumandi from a distant village in Theni district who is caught in a web of unscrupulous and covetous people. He check-mates their desirous behavior with a humanitarian cause and erupts at the loss of his beloved wife. As situations and the fickle minded people turn against him, he gets dubbed as a criminal who is responsible for the killings of 24 people and is awarded a death penalty. What would Virumandi do at this juncture of being presented a death sentence for no mistake of his? Being brought up with principles and no fear, Virumandi emerges as a demi-god in the prison, when situations force him and comes out of his gloominess. He gets a chance to fight for his right.
Kamalhassan‘s avatar as a director has overtaken the actor Kamalhassan. The director emerges as the clear winner amongst his dual role. The screenplay also becomes the indisputable part of Virumandi’s victory. He believes in the fact that no star bigger than a movie, no actor bigger than a script. Being presented with two narratives of the same story, Kamalhassan unfolds a new story telling method which appears to be a badly planned movie at first. But as the movie races into the second hour you would gasp as to why it looked like badly planned at the beginning. The screenplay which Kamal has etched out is presented with the help of two narratives. One by the witness and one by the criminal himself. As the villainy Kothala Thevar (Pasupathy) who is the approver of the crime describes the scene of crime, you and I would believe that Virumandi is a real Sandiyar. But when the Virumandi, the criminal himself opens up, we know why Virumandi is a great humanist rather than a Sandiyan or Sandiyar. Virumandi, the dubbed criminal clearly details up the reasons and situations leading him to this unforeseen situation. A brave approach in film-making in spite of knowing that the story could be confusing at the start. However, we feel like being dropped in midst of a village clash and also the reason for the clash hasn’t been described clearly in the start. The Madurai dialect and their idioms can be against the understanding of the city cultured audience. But that is the sacrifice Kamal is ready to make for sake of realism. Don’t bother. He has also compromised a little because his major audiences are philistines and they only crave for Dhool movie types.
As Kamalhassan says, the entire cast consists of actors who have executed their job religiously. Sometimes they even overtake Kamalhassan in terms of performance. As the story requires more of other actors, Kamal has downplayed his title role to suit the story. The panchayat and the romance sequences brings back the versatile actor in Kamalhassan, however, you can’t wipe away the craving for more actor Kamal. Kamal has adopted a heroic introduction in the jallikattu for him unlike his other movies. But it gives his fans some cheerful time.
Abirami as Annalakshmi is the immaculate suit for the role of a rascally village girl. With just her expressive eyes, she sits upright in our hearts and also in Virumandi’s. Also her romance with Virumandi, though short-lived, is consummate. She slowly converts the village burnout, Virumandi, into a vitalized soul with her vivacious character. Truly, she isn’t for the commercial stuff, a cut-above in the existing lot of actresses.
The ‘Dhool’ Villain Pasupathy as Kothala Thevar is one of the most interesting villains in the present Tamil films. With his fantastical body language and accent, he creates a modern day M.R Radha. A great talent to look out for. The mythological story of Virumandi calls Peykkaaman as the true villain of Virumandi. So here he is in the form of police officer Peykkaaman(Shanmugam). Shanmugam has done his job well. A good find for this movie.
Though advertised as main characters Nasser and Napoleon appear as cameo. Rohini as Angela Kattamuthu also appears in an important cameo role as a documentary maker and also as an activist against capital punishment.
Illayaraja crosses his set boundaries in background score. As said often, he introduces silence as the only music at times which really carries the movie to a different dimension. His music has overtaken his off late hit Pithamahan. The film flirts a romantic interlude between Kamal and Abirami. Coupled with Kamal’s ability and Illayaraja’s melodious touch, it is one of the most poetic sequences in the movie. Unnai Vida song is picturised with great passion and just mesmerizes the viewer. Shreya Goshal and Kamalhassan render this great number. Other songs are very movie oriented and they shine when watched with the context. Karbakiraham Vittu Saami song is placed in the climax and is a real goose bumper.
Kesav Prakash, the cinematographer and Prabhakar, the art director have created a true village in Campa Cola grounds. Very Appreciable effort. The editor’s job is also commendable. Avid Editing, a new technique in editing which occupied most part of Kakkha Kakkha is certainly missing. It would have helped to speed up the movie when required.
The sub-plot in the prison makes for a good climax but gives a detached feeling from the main story. The ending is very heroic but the story is minisculed by then. It’s a perfect judgemental move by the director to place a cinematic ending for the front benchers. The mix of good cinema and commercial cinema would pull more people thereby taking care of financial success, something thats essential for Kamalhassan. The movie however sports gore violence and the hero himself breaks couple of ribs and mutilates pairs of hands before getting behind the bars. Going by the theory, anything which is approximates is unreal, Kamal portrays a village so true that even the smallest of violence is captured with an eye for detail. But this itself takes the movie to one of the most violent Tamil movies list of all-time. The Jallikattu, Panchayat, Thiruvizha are all picturised with a true to life manner which makes it an offbeat movie.
Death Penalty Issue is still a virgin pasture for Tamil cinema though a recent movie of Lenin called Orukku Nooru Perr dealt with a similar issue. Kamal hasn’t dug deep into this but he has superfluously dusted upon the subject. It is an issue which could have been detailed. Given his recent experiences in dealing with intellectual issues in Hey Ram and Anbe Sivam, he has just kept this issue like a pickle for the climax. The movie however captures the feelings of a victim-of-situations in detail. Some nuances like the videotaping and prisoner insurrection are amazingly sketched.
Kamalhassan has won in proving a point to the people who thought Sandiyar would spark off caste related issues. With Virumandi, new screenplay techniques are taken beyond horizon to prove that this Kollywood industry has a very important role to play in the International Film history. Virumandi makes up the gap for good meaningful cinema. Good Cinema would be appreciated by good audience. Are you one?