There are film makers who like to make movies, just to be good film makers. Then there are those who not only want to be good film makers, but also sort of want to unburden themselves from certain miseries that have deeply troubled them. I feel Bala may belong to the latter category.
Here is a movie that fails to fall into any category that we, the Indian movie goers are used to. Yet, it uses certain cliched formulas of the movie game – songs, dramatic introduction of the protagonist, some melodrama, etc. Arya’s character (Rudra) is supposedly powerful, yet somehow fails to make the connection. As a movie maker, you want to make sure that your protagonist either gets sympathy or hatred from the audience as the plot thickens. But here in this movie, you seem to root for Rudra not because he is right, but because there is someone else out there who needs help and Rudra happens to be in the place. Of course, Arya had tried to play a very physically demanding role, but has had the luxury of not having to worry too much about his facial expressions, et al, largely due to the hirsute nature of his character. Yet, he does well.
The movie itself is about two entirely different worlds – both dark, ghastly, esoteric, highly painful and tumultuous, in their own ways.
The world of Aghori Sadhus is esoteric – Bala does well in focusing on that aspect. So much so that, if anyone who thinks of making a pilgrimage to Kasi (Varanasi) may think twice before doing it. I surely learned a thing or two about their (the Sadhus) beliefs and what they think they offer to the world. The other world – the world of handicapped beggars, couldn’t have been more pricking. I cannot think of any movie (in any language) that had such a focus on the crippling lives of a bunch of exploited beggars, ranging anywhere from 6 years to 75 years, gender and the kind of handicap no bar. This dark and painful world, full of suffering is portrayed so detailed in this movie, that you actually start wondering if it is sort of a fictional world. All the characters were probably played by real life crippled humans, that you want to scream at some point. Except the blind girl (Pooja). Pooja does an amazing job too and if she is any serious actor, this may be a turning point in her career too.
Morbid Melancholy has been Bala’s obsession right from “Sethu”. “Nanda” probably had less dosage of it, relatively speaking, while Pithamagan dealt with another dark world. This movie itself was packaged well..yet, I somehow couldn’t see the essence of the story being brought out properly. For me, an average movie goer, if I walked out the theater thinking of the world of crippled beggars only, then the very purpose of the protagonist’s character becomes irrelevant. And that to me, is not a success for Bala, the story writer. But Bala, the director does succeed so well and anyone who raised hue and cry over SdM projecting the dirtier side of India will have to hide behind their veils after seeing the dirtier side of India as projected in “Naan Kadavul”.
I am sure there are a few awards in the waiting for Bala, whose directorial vision overshadowed the original story writer’s, in this very rare breed of a movie, which we will ever get to watch on world stage.