TIRUNELVELI

A movie review by Balaji Balasubramaniam


Cast: Prabhu, Karan, Roja, Vindhya, Udaya, Sitara, Manorama, Vivek, S.S.Chandran, Ponnambalam
Music: Ilaiyaraja
Direction: Bharathi Kannan

After Ooty comes another movie that has the name of a city as its title. But while the title is definitely more apt here with the movie taking place entirely in Tirunelveli, that is all the movie has going for it. I recently lauded Sethu for not falling victim to any of the common tamil cinema cliches. Now here's a movie which incorporates almost all of them! There are the usual sentiments between mother and son, loving brothers and lovers across caste barriers all against the backdrop of violence and casteism. The story, the characters, the treatment - all of them are ancient without even a hint of creativity.

It is typical for actors and directors to create a name for themselves with respect to providing quality fare. But the same cannot be said about the producer of a movie. R.B.Choudhary is an exception to that. By consistently producing movies that have been successful, the name Super Good Films has come to be an indication of a good movie. Movies like Pudhu Vasantham, Unnidathil Ennai Koduthen and Nee Varuvaai Ena were all from Super Good Films. But Tirunelveli does not live up to the good name that has been earned by the producer.

Thulasi(Prabbhu) is a highly respected man in the village. He will not utter a lie even for a game some children are playing. His brother Varadappan(Karan) though is a hardcore casteist. When the refusal of Thulasi to utter a lie results in Varadappan's son's marriage getting cancelled, the brothers split up with Thulasi giving up all his wealth and moving out with his mother(Manorama). Varadappan's daughter Rani(Vindhya) is in love with their driver(Udaya), who belongs to a lower caste. All hell breaks loose when Varadappan learns of this.

The movie includes all the cliches that have bogged down tamil cinema, especially in movies set in villages. There is the hero with the heart of gold (Prabhu, in an aged getup, plays the kind of role usually reserved for Vijayakanth). There are long-winded dialogs against casteism, a listless romance between Vindhya and Udaya(which has the usual setup of the haughty, rich girl falling in love after he saves her from some goondas) and men(and women!) violently hacking down people with 'aruvaals'. While the basic message is praiseworthy even if old, the way it has been conveyed lacks finesse.

The lone bright spot of the movie is Vivek's comedy track. Though moving separately without any connection to the main story, the comedy manages the tough task of being both extremely funny and thought-provoking. While in Unnaruge Naanirundhaal, Vivek took some jabs at the cinema industry itself, here he touches upon everything from casteism to idol worship to rash lorry drivers. The scene where he ends up buying a cow had me doubled up in laughter. With movies like Aasaiyil Or Kadidham and this, Vivek is undoubtedly the comedian of the day in Kodambakkam.

Prabhu and Karan turn to be a contrast in acting styles. Prabhu is calm and soft-spoken, raising his voice only in the scene where the people decide which of the sons is going to keep their mother. Karan, on the other hand, is all fire and rarely lowers his voice. But his performance does go well with the character. Udaya, son of R.B.Choudhary, is average. Vindhya shows absolutely no improvement since her wooden performance in Sangamam. S.S.Chandran is Soonaasaamy and his costume and dialogs make it amply clear that the role is a take-off on Subramania Swamy. Roja is a breath of fresh air in the flashback while Ramya Krishnan, having a new lease of life after Padaiyappa, appears in a single song sequence. Ola Kudisaiyile... and Tirunelveli Seemaiyile... sound good in Ilaiyaraja's soundtrack.