Saturday, March 27, 2010

Angadi Theru - Review

Spoilers ahead !!!

Social commentaries are that breed of cinema which mirror the contemporary society and will invariably evoke a spectrum of emotions with the audience. You get a glimpse of various unseen facets of the very same society in which you live ... The social and economic strata, the struggle for the daily bread, the society's hard-heartedness towards its own subjects etc. This Vasantha Balan film is a powerful entry into this genre, which very successfully arouses this feeling of how-privileged-one-section-of-the-society-is, which I wish to establish as one of the measures to assess the films of this genre.

On a retrospective note, recently we had "Naan Kadavul" which screened us the horrendous lives of temple-side beggars and the Agoris. "Vaalmiki" was one decent attempt that tried to portray the lives of pick-pocket thieves. "Polladhavan" featured absolute detailing with respect to the underworld of the bike pickers. Madhur Bhandarkar's Bollywood attempts, though they always gave a glamourised account, are worthy of a mention here. I just remembered a relatively unknown tamil film, Prathap Pothen's "Meendum Oru Kathal Kathai" which was well ahead of its times in its honest picturisation of a mental asylum. "Angadi Theru" just stands tall as a social black-commentary with no commercial concessions. The film picturises the lives of the sales-guys & gals in one of the many all-in-one shopping kiosks at T.Nagar's Ranganathan street. The film neither glamourises their lives nor is exploitative in its experiment. 

The film's main plot - sales-guys & gals in a Saravana stores-like shopping complex, the places they live and dine, the relationships they share amongst each other, their supervisor, the proprietor of the store etc.The lives of these sales personnel are shrewdly oriented towards only one goal - work and work only, for fifteen hours a day. In the process, they are forced to lose their self-esteem and are ill-treated like bond-slaves. The supervisors even barge-in on their personal spaces and try to chop-off their love interests. The film employs various other sub-plots depicting the street-side platform businesses. In short, it brings up the T.Nagar's commercial street live and  buzzing.

The movie's technical brilliance is something which you will never be able to appreciate at the first viewing. The film has such an engaging screenplay, that you aren't allowed to digress away from the story. You can't notice any flaws with the cinematography, editing or the Music as you will be very busy following the details depicted on the screen and a triggered-screenplay. The scenes are impact oriented and consequential - You are simply occupied with the emotions that engulf you with every scene that is exhibited. Jeyamohan's dialogues are spiky and they deserve a special appreciation.

 The film's protagonist Mahesh wields a blank face through-out and is not so efficient in communicating both vehemence and excitement  - gets the pass-mark as a fresher. If there has to be a find-of-the-movie, it is undoubtedly the heroine Anjali. Anjali just delivers such a matured performance in only her third movie. We saw her as Anandhi in "Katradhu Tamil" and was acclaimed the "Best Debutant of the year" in Vijay Awards that year. She is just apt as a salesgirl here and her face sharply relays the emotions what-so-ever. She looked very much subtle in her performance and scores way ahead of the glam-chics we have these days. Way to go Anjali !!!

The support cast including - the "Kana Kaanum Kalangal" guy & the bunch of sales people, A.Venkatesh as the supervisor, the platform salespeople - everybody just deliver their roles to perfection. The character of the sales supervisor Karungaali, played by A.Venkatesh needs a special mention here. He just reminded me of the role played by Thandavan in "Naan Kadavul". This character is a personification of cunningness, wickedness, villainy and rascality etc. You hate him so much big-time and thus he succeeds in his role. Casting has been awesomely good and Vasanthabalan's confidence with the first-timers pays off well. This is becoming more of a good sign with our cinema these days - The casting is mostly fresh and if the story demands a touch-of-nativity, the directors never bother to pick people from the society rather than from the industry. 

Many scenes in the movie just sweep you off with an overwhelming shock value. I feel that they are not intended as cheap exploitative gimmicks to jolt your conscience and emotional setup but are genuine in portraying the sick lives of a strata in this society. You just sit there paralysed by the impact, a few scenes create in you. And, I always had this compassionate empathy towards the salespeople in garment stores ... They just go on and on showing you stuff, till you decide that you are gonna buy something. So, whenever I spend a reasonable time browsing through garments in a store, I always have this habit of picking up something, atleast to satisfy the zeal, the salesperson exhibited to me. And, here on, this empathy is gonna be on a rise.

This is Vasanthabalan's third venture after Album and Veyyil. Album was very silent and never created an impact at the box office. Veyyil, deeply autobiographical and intensely personal gave him the much needed success and went on to the Cannes Film festival (though it premiered in the non-competitive section). I always have a great deal of respect for "Personal filmmakers". Veyyil was a dark personal tragedy and we can see the remains of "Veyyil" in "Angadi Theru" too. The flashback sequence shown here is very interesting and genuine, as he deals with relationships. 

Film-making, in terms of Andrei Tarkovsky is, "Juxtaposing a person with an environment that is boundless, collating him with a countless number of people passing by close to him and far away, relating a person to the whole world, that is the meaning of cinema".

This piece is brilliant ... Go watch it !!!

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