Let me begin with the expectations of me that it didn’t live up to.
1. I thought it was going to be Arya in Kasi all the way.That was not to be.While the Arya part of this expectation did not suffer too much,the Kasi part definitely did.
2. I had taken for granted that this film was going to revolve around the evolution of a person into an Agora-That is what the title and the pre release hype too suggested. But, the entire span of happenings in the film is about 1/100 th of the days taken for shooting it.
Naan kadavul is all about a beggar faction and the anguish they suffer at the hands of a merciless businessman – if you could call him that and an agora who can do anything to slaughter the Dhushtan. The philosophy of Rudran’(Arya) s clan is that it has the right,infact responsibility to eradicate the sinners and also to help helpless souls from living a meaningless life. Rudran does exactly that when he is presented with such an opportunity in his hometown when he is brought back forcefully from his Kasi Agora camp.
There has been tremendous research made by the Bala contingent and it shows in the characters and the locations shown in the film. There has not been a film that has showcased beggars to an extent that this film has. The same could be said of the agori lifestyle at Kasi. The sequences shown in the Om Sivom song send shivers down one’s spine. It is a case of surreal realism that exists in the sacred mecca of Hinduism.
The fact that Bala has the uncanny flair to get both commercial and critical acclaim for his films is evident here too – with a few one liners where the audience react in unison. The scene where Rudran says ‘Ayushmaan bhava’ to the police is an elucidation to this point. The characters in the film too have a lot of realism about them that you don’t feel unconnected even though you are being treated by an entirely new subject.
Where he fails to score is the over exposure of the beggars to quench the thirst of slapstick lovers. The template – Use a character for comedy, brutalize the character in the end,create an emotional connection with the audience- which helped him in Pithamagan has failed to repeat the same here. You don’t get an emotional impact when the beggars are taken by the miscreants to Kerala. If that had been there, the rudra thaandavam that Rudran plays over the Malayalam speaking Villain would have enthralled one in an even bigger scale- Not that it didn’t. Anyway, when the same treatment is meted out to Amsavalli, your emotions come in and it is a treat to watch Rudran maul the main Villain.
One must feel for the villain after Pithamagan and Naan Kadavul-How many more times is he going to be mangled up in Bala’s films!!Anyway he needn’t care when he gets such meaty roles.
The climax was poetic in the manner that it brought out the philosophies of Rudran into action through the main character in the film-Amsavalli.Then,Rudran leaves back to his beloved institution and the frame freezes showing Arya in the background and his Guru in the foreground-Perfect end!
Now to the individual honours.Arya-By far the least luckiest of the current crop of actors(Not recognized even after a few good films that failed to click) seems to have got it his way this time. He has done a lot to his looks and body language and portrays Rudran at ease. It is vital to note that the film has been in the maing for 2 years but still his look in the film doesn’t change much-contrary to that of a few other actors.He does not have much dialogues to mouth.He has done a commendable job with a good dubbing modulation.The scene where the police officer jumps out of his cave when he shouts is an example.
Pooja as the beggar Amsavalli looks the part. It takes so much courage for a heroine to come out of the damsel image to do such a rusty role.She saves her best for the climax where she comes out with an extra ordinary performance and dubbing- The make up in the climax was very realistic and that has helped her cause.
All the other characters carry the Bala stamp and some of the wits that the beggars crack are enjoyable.Bala always seems to have a grudge on a particular caste that he never fails to show off in his films- The judge being the case in point here.
The stunts of Super Subbarayan are riveting – as they usually are in Bala’s films.
There are two behind the screen heroes in this film. The Director of Photography Arthur Wilson is one. He does everything to show Kasi as Kasi is. Also the locales and the angles used were breathtaking and pleasing. The darker scenes were captured in the dark and most of the comical scenes involving the beggars were shot outdoor-Sensible and neat work!
Now I come to the man behind Naan Kadavul.He lives throughout the film.He has done a 1000 films and still people doubt his longevity. Here he answers one and all. He adds soul to the proceedings right from where he comes up with the Sanskrit song in the initial credits. The songs ‘Om Sivom’ and ‘Pichai paathiram’ get the emotions out of you to praise the composer. It is so unfortunate that the songs ‘Amma un pillai’ and ‘Kannil Paarvai’ haven’t been picturised. The background music is even more mesmerizing and sends you to a state of ecstasy -I am not sure if these adjectives are enough. The music elevates the scenes- each and every one- to a higher pedestal.Well, he is a genius and let me stop here.His name is Ilaiyaraja! That’s that!
Verdict: Watch Naan Kadavul,praise the efforts–Definitely one of its kind.