Some of the aspects that stayed in my thought cloud after I saw the move - confused screenplay, erratic lead performances, unnecessary comedy track, fluent photography and a sense of forced anti-convention. The movie begins by chronicling a series of events which get the audience believe that this is 'the making of a psychopath'. Half-way through the second half the story steers off-course as if the producer wanted an important message urgently stuffed, the screenplay clears the hero of his psychopath image and goes on a drive against the evils of capitalism and the lifestyle of the upper class without clearly substantiating the need for such a change. This is the first effort as writer/director for Ram Subbu and he leaves an impression - but what kind of an impression is that?
Prabhakar is a Tamil (should I write Thamizh?) graduate who works as a teacher for the elementary grade in Chennai. Because of the decline in morality and partly due to our corrupt social system he is humiliated, frustrated, teased and tantalized. He meets disappointment in almost every corner of his life - even his attempt at suicide fails. All the time the thought of Anandi, his childhood friend and later-day lover keeps him going. At one point when he is driven to his limits, he accidentally kills a railway employee and sees that everybody around him in the railway station stares at him with a fear that he finds as veneration. He leaves the city, comes back after two years and turns into a serial killer. When he finds Anandi through chance, he calls it quits and plans to go back to his hometown. The movie's climax follows a method adapted by self-claimed serious movies in the recent past that's very predictable and juvenile. There are very obvious logical flaws about his possession of gun, his public killings and the police being portrayed as dunces in their pursuit of him, but I won't dwell on them.
I suspect Jeeva will receive a state award for his performance in this movie as Prabhakar. There are times when he's good and there are times when his action follows a pattern that Indian cinema has categorically allotted for the mentally disturbed: shivering hands, shaking head, unstable body, suddenly speaking in high pitches, streaks of thought clarity, etc. Jeeva fits the bill. The new face Anjali does a very clean job of what is expected of her. Special mention goes to the photographer Kadhir. Most of the frames have a pervasive dull yellow light that signifies the dryness of his life and sorrowful events. The only shots filled with greenery are his childhood days, which helps us understand that he desperately wants to go back to those days. With so many close-up shots, he conveys the realism of the character: Prabhakar just doesn't mouth those words, but also feels them whole-heartedly. There are so many shots that exhibit Ram's sparks and I'm happy that he has chosen a story and narrative that's breaking Tamil movie conventions. That's it for the review; the following is a kind of thematic analysis and a rebuttal of the writer's points.
I'll list some of the events in the life of Prabhakar that slowly turn him into psychopath:
- After graduation, to earn a Rs.2000/month job as a teacher he has to do the household chores of that school correspondent from buying monthly pads for the house lady to vegetables.
- A local police inspector has a crush on a woman. When the inspector spots Prabhakar next to her, as a sign of showing off his power, he drags him in front of his students into the jeep and remands him into custody for a day.
- When his suicide attempt fails, the police slap a drug trafficking case on him.
- Prabhakar's neighbour asks him to write a love letter for a certain woman called Thenmozhi because he's incapable of beautiful language; later Prabhakar is told that the nieghbour succeeded in tasting Thenmozhi and he will need another love letter for another woman.
- His moderately intelligent college roommate ends up in a lucrative job while he has to scourge for a few hundreds.
- This factor isn't highlighted, but I'll list it anyway: he loses his mother at the age of 7 in an accident and his beloved Tamil teacher (who inspires him to take up Tamil in college) in an accident when he's 17.
Except for the fifth point which involves financial differences and the sixth point which makes the protagonist lonely, all others (and many more unlisted) concern the society's moral depravity. Now, if this moral turpitude is the reason for making him hate humanity, there's a certain logic in buying the theory that as a psychopath he's against unethical people. In a beach, he kills a couple for public caressing. That's in line with the theory. But when he delivers his supposedly final punch lines, he forgets why he became what he is in the first place. He goes on a rampage against the haves and have-nots. He issues a warning that if you wear a branded glass or a branded jean, that's enough reason for you to get killed. He specifically rants against the software industry which has made the non-software salaried class' life difficult. He says there are two kinds of people: 'the ones inside an ATM and the ones outside it; the ones inside Spencer Plaza and the ones outside it'. What is he driving at? The money factor doesn't play a big role at all in transforming the simple Prabhakar into a sociopath. This is nothing but the director's foolish misdirected anger at the suddenly rising wealth of a certain class.
We live in an open economy where you make or break your life. Instead of deriving inspiration from someone like Ambani, what this movie tries to say is that the poor guy who throws stones at Ambani's car is actually a good guy and it's the society that's responsible for all inequalities. When a movie promotes such arrogantly foolish ideas, everybody ends up paying. If such ideas click, it will lead to a downward spiral. It is in light of such misguided but talented directors like Ram Subbu, filmmakers like Maniratnam appear like visionaries, like gods. In a society which has had a stream of movies that have always portrayed the working class as good and oppressed and the ruling class as villains, Maniratnams's 'Guru' is really a towering achievement. It clearly says: 'The world is waiting for you. Go ahead and make your life'. 'Kathradhu Thamizh' is the kind of movie I would NOT want most of our teenagers or anyone without original thinking to see.