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History Would  Judge Thalaikoothal As A Landmark





Rating: *****(5 stars)

Thalaikoothal is the traditional ritual in Tamil Nadu whereby  the unwanted elderly in the family are  killed . The practice apparently has some social sanction in the interiors  of Tamil Nadu , although officially it is  banned . As it ought to be.

 Hats  off to Jayaprakash Radhakrishnan for weaving such a profoundly moving film out of a theme prone to  instant sensationalism. The  storytelling is  at once  gentle  and  brutal, layered and luminous. There is  a fertile fluidity  in the way the story moves. The narration glides forward creating almost by magic  two different  time zones  without letting  the  audience feel  the weight  of  the grim theme.

The film  is  relentlessly  slim sinewy and  focused  even as it oscillates between  two lives:  the  protagonist Pazhani(Samuthirakani) trying to cope with the presence of his beloved comatose father  in his  modest  village  home .While Pazhani’s wife Kalai(played with  splendid invisibility  by Vasundhara)  is  sullen and angry about Pazhani’s devotion  to his  semi-alive father, his little daughter dotes  on her  grandfather,  speaks  to him as if  he  can hear her(he can!) and even brings her best friend home to her inert grandpa.

In another  time  zone Pazhani’s  comatose father Muthu(Kalaiselvan, so moving in his immobility) flashes back to his youth and his passionate romance with a dhoban(washer woman) Pechi(Katha Nandi)  . Caste, we can see, plays  a vital role in many outstanding  South Indian cinema whereas  there is no mention of it in Bollywood except  in the cinema   of  Anubhav Sinha.

Kathir who plays  the younger version  of  Muthu is incredibly good , bringing to the part both wisdom and  heart.Katha Nandi who plays his beloved Pechi is  all pose , as perhaps  she  is meant to be.

Of course we know this love  story  can only end in tragedy. Nonetheless cinematographer Martin Dinjar frames  the furtive  lovers in  glowering stretches  of passionate  colours. Drying Saris flutter  happily  as Muthu and his  secret love Pechi meet in chaste  passion.

“My first kiss with you will be on our wedding night,” Muthu tells Pechi when she tries to get intimate  with  him.

“You could have  got any girl in your caste. Why me?” She asks.

“Because no one has eyes  as  expressive as yours,” Muthu  laughs .

It is an idyllic  romance shattered by reality. Not just the social issue of caste inequality, but also  the  wider issue of mortality.The  love that Muthu feels for Pechi cannot be consumed.  The love that   Pazhani feels  for his father cannot be described. That  director Jayaprakash Radhakrishnan  finds the  near-perfect  visual imagery  for  a love that  cannot be articulated, is  a measure of  his success as  a storyteller.

Thalaikoothal is  a work of art that will one day find a place  among the greatest works  of  Indian cinema. Lyrical  and yet  brash, apolitical  and  yet politically mutinous, this  is  film which leaves room for endless interpretation of what love  means. The actors so flawless, you forget they are  acting, the  screenplay so scintillating in  its immeasurable resonance you don’t think of it as a   story,  and the characters  so tangibly tactile , you can take them  home in your heart.

This is  a masterpiece  beyond  all masterpieces.

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