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Narappa Review: It Is Powerful, Disturbing, But Kitschy




Narappa Review: It Is Powerful, Disturbing, But Kitschy

Narappa(Amazon Prime)

Story of a family which belong to an oppressed caste and how it tackles the problems caused by a rich landlord from an affluent caste.

Rating: *** ½

Narappa Review: In the 2010 Spanish neo-classic  Biutiful when  the magnificent actor Javier Bardem is dying, he holds  his little daughter’s face close to his  own face and says, “Look at me closely so that  you don’t forget my face when  I am no more.”

I was reminded  of that  heartbreaking  moment in Biutiful when in  Narappa the  grieving wailing father Venakesh says  about his  brutally murdered son, “I’ve already forgotten his  smell.Soon I’ll forget his face as well. I never took  a picture of  him in the belief that the camera shortens lives.”

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 Such episodes of unvarnished  anguish is not rare  in  this  big bulky  somewhat unwieldy but eventually  deeply moving study of the  brutality that  underlines the class  structure in  rural India. We recently saw Dhanush  battling  for his downtrodden  caste in Mari Selvaraj’s  Tamil film  Karnan.Narappa is not as  raw  and  rousing  as  Karnan,not by  miles.  Oftentimes  it lapses  into sheer filminess , and that whole  flashback with Venkatesh  masquerading as a young hotblooded villager romancing his  niece(Ammu Abhirami) is  borderline  ridiculous.

But then, when  Narappa is good, it is soo sooo very good  you tend  to  overlook its bleak blind patches. Even in that  flashback when Narappa’s niece is punished for wearing slippers in spite of being of  the lower caste, I  recoiled in  a horror in the way I had recoiled  when in Shekhar  Kapoor’s  Bandit Queen  Seema Biswas was paraded naked  in the  village after being  raped  for  weeks in a  godown.

 Nothing has changed for the disempowered classes since Bandit Queen  29 years ago. And why only  that?  The  downtrodden have remained  there, on the ground, for centuries. Narappa shows what happens when the oppressed  stage  an uprising. There  is  bloodshed.The blood spilt is largely that  of  the  disempowered.

In Narappa there are so many  scenes of  villagers being  axed  to their  brutal deaths  that  I felt like screaming, ‘What the  HACK!”Hacking here means  something far  more primitive  than what its does to the computer  generations. Narappa is long pain-lashed  film about survival against all  odds. It is  suffused  with   a sense of irredeemable  justice , written  on Venkatesh’s  wizened, agonized face. Except when he  is busy playing the  young rebel  , he is  fully in character  ,  projecting  a whole ethos of injustice in his  wounded eyes.At the  end  when Narappa  turns to his  family and smiles Venkatesh gives  a performance that  will stay  alive for  years.

Priya Mani  as  Narappa’s wife is  effective  in a small  role though I wish she  had allowed her eyebrows to  remain naturally bushy. But this is not a women’s picture show. It’s all about the men as they fight bloodied wars  and battles for the  land. Narappa  and his relationship with his  two sons, the elder who is slain (Karthik Rathnam) and  the  younger  (Rakhi) whose  life must be saved at  any cost,  are the crux of the plot.The  men  are  all well  cast. They look like they can kill  for land and loved ones.


Powerful  in most  parts, Narappa  is   a literary  adaptation (based on the novel Vekkai by Pooman) that  knows  how to  hold  our attention without  manipulating plot points to its own advantage. It is  violent and brutal, yes. But who said life’s easy  at the  grassroot?When its is not being Rambo, it is real and effective.

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