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cinema cinema:tamil Essay

A New Beginning

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Kamal Haasan (KH) announced that he would retire from films from barring Vishwaroopam 2 and Indian 2, not surprising at all. The fact to be noted is that both are extensions of his previous works and sadly not something new.

‘Something new’ would be the murmur of those who walked out of a Kamal film, even for the truest of fans, the films would be things that couldn’t be described at a moment’s notice.

Notice that KH has been very cautious about his late career, not wanting to be another curd rice eating lion (his phrase for the later phase of Nadigar Thilagam) but somewhere along the line he too had realized that it was time.

Time is of the essence, something that resonates in Kamal’s cinematic swan song “Uttama Villain” in which an ageing superstar has to balance between his final act to right his wrongs and his final act (in a movie) with his mentor.  For me the last Kamal consummate performance.

Performance that has no end is of little interest, one song from the film claims. Yes we have finally reached the point in the universe that there would be no more waiting for a Kamal film. Waiting and patience, the two characteristics that binds even unlike Kamal fans of which there are many.

Many careers come to an end, but few leave a lasting impact; while in fields which are driven by statistics (hi sports), achievements  which will always be broken. Performance artists on the other hand achieve near immortality thanks to their craft and can comfortably disregard numbers.

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Numbers too are surprisingly in Kamal’s favour; in a career spanning almost sixty years he has played from camp to class and what lies between.  Take 1982 for instance which gave the Tamil movie going public both Sakalakalavallavan and Moondram Pirai. This is not a singular occurrence Sagara Sangamam came with Sattam, Nayagan came with AVM’s Paer Sollum Pillai, Virumandi and Vasoolist etc etc etc and it is hard to imagine any other actor who can withstand this stretch consistently and still look natural.

Naturally, his multifaceted nature attracted different kind of fans. His long career has ensured that there was a constant churn in admiration, old fans becoming disillusioned allowing new ones to take theirĀ  place. An example would be a generation that still believes that KH was the coolest in the 80s, while another set claim he peaked in the 90s, some say he should just direct and not act, others don’t want him behind a megaphone, some want him to even work with youth directors (LOL). Personally, it is KH’s ability to be all this and more that makes me revisit his films.

Films (of his) are all that we will have of him in the future (not discounting the interviews), and it is surely exciting to revisit them not just as a fan, but as an explorer of the medium. Especially now, when there very little to expect. You have given me a lot to work with and all the best for your future endeavors, Kamal.

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Anbe Sivam: What sort of design is this?

Something that I have observed during the course of this ongoing education called movie watching is that when characters are faced with loss or suffering or even an unattainable dream eventually tend to receive it in some form.

This as I see it, is to bring about balance to the character, the way in which this cycle happens can be as direct as a revenge drama or something as poetic and long drawn as Gollum losing it before the lord of the rings begins, only to hold it again in his last moments at the very end. 

It here refers to the one ring of course.

(My god what a precious arc!)

If there is loss, there is gain; unless we are watching some harrowing tragedy. Which is a different topic altogether

 

This loss and gain, of course I assumed was a part and parcel of story writing and very noticeable, and this can happen to supporting characters as well and when done well, resonates.

Let us now come to Anbe Sivam, one of the few things we know about ad filmmaker Anbarasu is that he is currently in love and had lost his brother earlier in a cricketing accident; this at face value seems like a backstory to explain his nervousness around bloodshed; the fact that a character has lost his brother and is now almost about to get a new brother didn’t strike me till today.

 (Slow mind eh)

Waitees, but Anbarasu doesn’t get a brother back!

His loss is not actually balanced, he almost gets a brother back. Difference, small yet key to this post.

Waitees again, we are still with Anbarasu; there is again a disturbance at balance. 

An unknown kid caught in a horrendous train accident and fortunately shares the same blood group as Anbu; the blood is obviously the connect here since Anbu’s brother’s bloody death was in many ways the biggest loss that Madhavan’s character has faced (or at least this is what the movie tells us)

In a usual film of course this would have been the balancing point, matching blood groups and saving the kid which will make Anbarasu overcome his fear and grow for the later part of the film.

Waitees, but Anbarasu does grow and become a different person through the course of the story but the outcome of these almost balancing points are exactly the opposite of the usual.
Nalla (Kamal) doesn’t stay and fill the void of a fallen brother nor is Anbu’s blood enough to save a boy’s life.

Summary: so you have a structure or a road-map , you almost reach the end but then turn the other way; this I see it as a way to introduce some amount of randomness, even if controlled into the story.

A point where the screen writer knows what should be done next if the film is to take its usual course, but doesn’t (want?) do it.

 I imagine at these balancing points, the writer putting down his hand on the table, hoping the pen would somehow write down the next few words.

It is amazing. Really.

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I guess that this didn’t strike me on previous viewings because I was not looking for it and of course there are other very fulfilling  themes in Anbe Sivam which is why it has endured for me.

Small addition to this ‘aberration’ from usual is the name of Poun, which here denotes two characters, one of course is the street theater artist  who dies in the bus accident which also disables Kamal, and also the aforementioned small kid who mumbles the same name.

Again the lead comes close, but doesn’t quite make it.

Doesn’t quite get what he is wanting.

Important to note that Anbe Sivam is not a tragedy.

While loss is not balanced by gain, loss by itself is not tragic, whenever a character in Anbe Sivam gives away or loses something it feels heroic and it feels real because there is no return of this ‘giving away’ much like in real life.

Real life doesn’t have the comfort of a writer’s balance. Real life is really random but filled with common folk out there making choices beyond their imagination.

Maybe the film is about giving after all.How else would we experience Anbu?

Maybe, we are just over-reading as usual, let us know what you think.