I avoided reading any detailed reviews of this movie prior to watching it in theaters tonight. Of course, I couldn’t totally avoid any news about the movie after it was released. Tweets, Short reactions from the people involved in the movie, etc. were all things I had been exposed to, as I was not really living under the rock the past few days.
Right from the time when it was announced, I had been eagerly waiting for this movie. And no, it was not only because of AR Rahman but it was also because of him. But the main reason was really the subject that director Vasanthabalan had undertaken. When I read that this could be a movie loosely based on the lives of MKT, KBS and SGK (Doyens of Thamizh Stage), I was fascinated.
I still remember my grand mother making me sit through an old MKT movie on TV, when I was a child and how she made me count the number of songs in the movie (which worked out to some 36 or so. Yes. 36 songs in one movie). I can’t recall if the movie was Haridas or Ambikapathy. But that era of stage artistes carrying over a certain culture from their theaters to envelope the movies of the then era with a certain character, gave glimpses to their stage world a bit to a 10 year old boy like me then. I had witnessed live stage plays in the 70s and 80s, but then they were more modern compared to the MKT era productions and artistes. So there was always something esoteric and mysteriously amusing about this era of Thamizh stage doyens. At least for me.
Kaaviya Thalaivan is an attempt that you can’t but accept to be completely earnest and sincere. One could argue over the categorization of the movie as to if it should be termed classic or not and one could argue over the apparent creative liberties that the director may have taken in panting a certain era on celluloid, but what one can’t argue over is the importance of such movies in the context of how Thamizh movies are evolving today.
The director does complete justice and is absolutely sincere to the foundation of the story, which is ‘Lives of Thamizh stage artistes during a particular period of time’. Everything else in the movie is only to support a narrative that a movie format needs. Many of those embellishing incidents fall in place just fine and then there may have been some that stand out like square pegs on round holes, but nevertheless aesthetically beautiful pegs on their own. In general, all of them helped maintain the tempo of the movie.
Siddharth and Prithviraj compete with each other in delivering one knockout punch over another in the acting department. What a treat it is to watch both of them. For Siddharth, the actor, I really hope this movie fetches him some accolades which he rightfully deserves. The scene when he gets caught by his guru (Swami played by Nasser) is a small proof for what this man is capable of doing, but how unfortunate it is that he hasn’t gotten enough opportunities till now. Prithviraj, on the other hand is already a well proven veteran in the art of underplaying his roles to perfection. And in this movie, he does a commendable added job of reciting some longwinded Thamizh dialogues with poise and ease.
I remember Vasanthabalan talking about the tone he and Nirav Shah (DOP) decided to have for the movie and I think it was a brilliant idea to settle on a uniform technicolor/reddish tone throughout the movie. The song picturizations were more or less on stage, so it needed a lot of creativity on the DOP’s part to make each song look different. And I loved how “Sandikkudhira” was picturized (and choreographed).
Jeyamohan has been credited for dialogues and although the language used could be debated if it really belonged to that era (the big question is which time period is the movie set in. The director probably leaves it to our imagination to some extent, even though we all know the story takes place prior to 1947), the punches in some of the lines were mind-blowing.
AR Rahman must have thoroughly enjoyed working on this movie. Assuming his appetite for good Indian movies has only increased compared to how it was in the 90s, then this movie does more than just feed his appetite. What a swelteringly captivating OST that Rahman has spun around this movie. It’s hard to imagine this movie without his OST. Downplayed for the most part and yet created the necessary mood for each scene. Touched our hearts where it had to and Moved our emotions when it needed to. I really hope the OST of this movie is released separately for wider audience appreciation.
If Vasanthabalan’s original dream behind making a movie like this is essentially to set a story based on the lives of stage artistes, then he completely succeeded in achieving that dream. But where he may have fallen a bit short is around how he tried to fit his dream into a movie format, thereby compromising on a few story stretches which in hindsight could have been avoided (including the mildly melancholic climax).
Kaaviya Thalaivan translates to “An Epic Leader” – The movie falls short of being an epic, but definitely can claim to be a leader in throwing light on the forgotten trials and tribulations of a certain special group of extremely talented people, aka the Thamizh stage artistes.