Friday, June 02, 2006

Kumar, Inba et al...

It was like a whiff of fresh air that Pudhupettai released last week in Chennai. It has quickly become one of the most controversial releases of this year. Love it or hate it, there is absolutely no one who has seen it and had no opinion.
Most of its critics quickly spell out their reasons – the vulgarity, violence, lack of social responsibility, the glorification of a gangster. But there have been movies that have depicted gangsters and crooks in the past, and have glorified violence and murder. From kamal’s Sathya to Maniratnam’s Ayutha Ezhuthu . In fact one can argue that kamal’s Virumaandi was as violent and gory a movie.So what is the difference?
The difference between Selva and a Mani is clear. Both are director’s director’s. But songs like “ Enga area ulla varathe……..” and dialogues like “ enna vayasukku vandhuttaya ‘ – spoken when kumar is chased by his mom clearly define the boundaries. Mani would never have had a dialogue / song like that. In mani movies women are given consideration and respect – not sex symbols to leer at. But then, for a Kumar, such dialogue comes naturally. Again Mani is a director of the educated while Selva is an arty director of the masses. For the first time in Tamil cinema we are seeing Quality commercial cinema. Selva succeeds where the Mani’s and Kamal’s fail.
Thus, for a person sitting in Sathyam balcony, paying 100 Rs. For a ticket, his very skin tingles with horror. Ah!! The sheer vulgarity and crassness. But a few kms away at Rohini, the audience erupts as Kumar tells the educated dogs to keep away. It is this crassness, one that is anathema to the middle class mind that Selva capitalizes on – the sheer shock value that propel his movies.
But, there is one more difference. Be it Sathya, Inba or Virumaandi – it is easy to empathize with any of them, for they all have their redeeming qualities. If sathya is a champion of the poor, Inba a person who actually loves his wife and Virumaandi the boorish child – Kumar has none. Throughout the movie, Kumar is depicted as an ANIMAL. Each and every movement of his is PREDATORY. The only time we see a human in Kumar is when he is with his son. In no other movie have we seen something like this.
Pudupettai is all about smells. The smell of blood, the scent of victory, the sniff of power , the smell of a woman– this is a zone where no one has dared tread before.
There are powerful scenes that can disgust you – or give you a heady sensual feeling. The scene where kumar buries his father alive – a planned act of vendetta – the punishment cruelly meted out to the man who battered and murdered his mother – you can see the balcony cringe – but for those who can empathise with Kumar – those who know what he went through – for every man who understands what his mother went through and can empathise with it – there is an almost sensual feeling – a cathartic effect – and you can grin in sardonic satisfaction as the father gets his just dues.
Herein is the difference between Selva and the rest. There is no white and black in a Selva movie – only grey. There is no call to arms as in yuva nor a catharsis as in Indian. The choice is yours. If Mani is the “feel good “ director for the educated, there is no such feel good over here. If the movie ends abruptly and in an irresponsible way – THAT IS LIFE. And no matter how many educated people vilify the movie – the bottom line is this is as real as it gets – and if you deny this, you are living in an illusionary world.
No matter who you are, what you do – do not miss this movie.

- Hari

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