A movie review by Balaji Balasubramaniam
|Cast:||Sivaji Ganesan, Sriranjini, S.V.Sahasranamam, S.S.Rajendran, Pandaribai, V.K.Ramaswamy|
Chandrasekharan(S.V.Sahasranamam), Gnanasekharan(SSR) and Gunasekharan(Sivaji) are three brothers earning a living in Rangoon in the midst of World War II. Their sister Kalyani(Sriranjini) is getting married in Madurai but since only one person from each family is allowed to travel on the ship, Gunasekharan travels back to India. A few years have passed since Kalyani's marriage but then tragedy strikes their entire family. Kalyani is orphaned and loses both her husband and father on the same day. Gunasekharan is cheated of all his money by a woman. Chandrasekharan and Gnanasekharan decide to get back to India by land but are separated in a bomb blast with Gnanasekharan assumed to be dead.
Most heroes in Tamil cinema, including MGR, Rajnikanth and Kamalhassan, have worked their way up from small roles, taking time to establish themselves. Other heroes saddled with strong roles in their debuts have faltered and disappeared from the scene. But Sivaji is unique in this respect. He is burdened with a strong role that requires lots of emoting, spouting of long dialogs and even a little bit of uninhibited dancing. And he passes the test with flying colors. He is phenomenal in the role, conveying all emotions with ease. He is unfettered in the sequences where he poses as a madman and displays no nervousness whatsoever.
While the movie made history with Sivaji's introduction, another aspect of it that makes it enjoyable even today is the strong dialogs from the pen of M.Karunanidhi (infact his name appears on the credits first and much before the names of the actors). He takes shots at several ills prevalent in society and while he doesn't go so far as to suggest remedies, he looks at all sides of the situation. There are several clever lines and wordplays that make us smile. The scene where Pandaribai asks Sivaji to look at himself and points out that he is to blame too is one of the standout scenes with her comment about his situation in the world of beggars being superb.
Ofcourse the courtroom scene is legendary with Sivaji's 5-minute, non-stop tirade against the people who made life a living hell for his sister (Vivek had a very nice spoof of the same in Paalayathu Amman that managed to be funny without making fun of it). Both the dialogs and the actor take equal credit for making the scene as effective as it turns out to be. Sivaji's pointed questions at the lawyer who tries to interrupt him and his description of the bad guys are excellent lines delivered with skill.
As the story suggests, most of the movie is rather pessimistic with the family lurching from one tragedy to the next. There are also a few contrivances like Sivaji's hiding of his identity from his sister. There is some genuine suspense as the paths of the different members cross without them realising it or being too late to make use of it. The screenplay(also by M.Karunanidhi) has some nice twists towards the end to bring about a nice climax. Highlighting the strong link between movies and politics even then, the final sequence shows people like EVR, Anna and Karunanidhi himself at meetings.
Though none of the remaining cast members have the chance for a consistently strong performance throughout the movie, they do have their moments. SSR gives a hint of his famous diction and dialog delivery during his argument with the guard at the refugee camp. Respected senior actor S.V.Sahasranamam is impressive when he cries over his sister's plight. But Sriranjini is rather wooden with her monologue in the courtroom not delivered with the strong emotions it deserves. V.K.Ramaswamy makes a believable corrupt businessman. Barring a couple, none of the songs are memorable. Consequently some of them, like the duet between Sriranjini and her husband, test our patience.