A must watch movie. Highly commendable.
It is unfortunate that many people who have watched this movie consider it an imperfect remake of Cheran’s epic Thavamaai Thavamirundhu. In my opinion, that is the sort of preconception, borne of an urge to describe new things in the light of those familiar to us that can – and has – corrupt(ed) their ability to appreciate Gautham Vasudev Menon’s latest – but not greatest – movie. (Candid admission: I do not deny having acted this way in the past.)
When I say so, I do not blame them. After all, the opening is remarkably similar. A father on his death-bed, a son recalls the influence his father has had in life… Twenty minutes into the movie, the similarity ends. Here’s why. Thavamaai… is a movie about the father. Vaaranam Aayiram (வாரணம் ஆயிரம்) is a movie about the son.
In the former, the idea of the father is central to the movie; it is the theme. In the latter, the same idea exists, but only as a glue.
Many movies have a character who acts as a passive listener. If the movie were a parallel universe, this character represents the audience. Think of the Kay Adams character in the movie The Godfather. The audience watches the movie through her eyes. Another example, though not from movies, is that of R.K. Laxman’s omnipresent “common man” character – who represents the general public. This character does not need a clear definition. In the 1976 movie Manmadha Leelai, K. Balachander uses the role of Kamal Hassan’s secretary, Mr. Iyer as a conscience keeper – another example of an in-movie audience. In Varanam Aayiram, the older Surya is used in this role.
Towards the end, the younger Surya says, “வாழ்க்கயை மறுபடியும் வாழ்ந்து பார்த்தா மாதிரி இருக்கு, டாடி. இவ்ளோ நாளா இதெல்லாம் நினைத்து பார்ததே இல்லை.” This is the raison d’être for the movie. The events in the old man’s life (including his courtship of Simran, the only event that has been given significant screen time) are incidental to the movie, which is about the son. The father is at various times (pardon the use of the cliché) a friend, philosopher and guide to the son. So yes, this is a biopic, but about the son. Closer to Autograph than it is to Thavamaai.
After watching Vel, I wrote that Surya is poised to become Tamil cinema’s next superstar. Here is a correction. When Rajnikanth fades away, there will be wannabes like Vijay and Ajith to continue the tradition, in a sloppy fashion albeit. Surya, however, seems to have set his sights on Kamal Hassan. This is the bigger prize; it requires real talent, and there are very few contenders. And he seems closer to it than the competition.
Surya carries the movie on his gym-toned shoulders. I cannot recall a frame in which he is not present. Lesser actors are not capable of such ardor — a Kamal-esque inability to be away from the screen, that is.
If you didn’t know this was a Gautham Menon, there are a hundred places where you can guess who the director is. For one, the ease with which his characters can throw out names of the educational institutions they went to. REC Trichy, University of California Berkeley. Remember “M.Sc. Maths, IIT Madras”? Or the use of “We made love.” Or the unimaginable “kiddo” appellation. Or the “You look like a million bucks.” Sans these oddities, this movie is as much Menon’s as it is Surya’s. I guess this movie is some kind of thavam for the director – semi-autobiographical. In translating it to screen, and getting Surya to successfully carry the emotional intricacies lies Gautham’s success.
I thought Harris Jayaraj’s re-recording was a let-down. Simran was apt in the wife / mother role. Sameera Reddy didn’t seem one to die for. The actual scenes depicting the final rescue operations seemed superfluous, given the movie’s length.
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Tags: Ajith, biopic, Cheran, common man, Gautham Vasudev Menon, IIT Madras, K. Balachander, Kamal Hassan, Kay Adams, kiddo, Manmadha Leelai, R.K. Laxman, Rajnikanth, REC Trichy, Simran, superstar, Surya, Thavamaai Thavamirundhu, the godfather, University of California Berkeley, Vaaranam Aayiram, Vel, Vijay