Cast: Murali, Manoj K. Bharati, Pratiksha, Sindhu, Uma
Camera: Kannan B
Art: Mohana Mahendran
Stunts: Super Subbarayan
Choreography: Raju Sundaram, Cool Jayant and Ajayraj
This film has taken its own time to make it to the marquee -- supposedly a Diwali release in 1999, it was then pushed forward to Pongal (January 14), then Tamil New Year's. Until finally, a year and more beyond schedule, it's finally here.
In the interim, the film bagged for Bharatiraja one of the seniormost of Tamil directors, a National Award for Best Screenplay, which is frankly not a good advertisement for national awards, considering that the screenplay in question is well short of awardworthy.
Bharatiraja has a thing for the ocean and this film marks his third set against the backdrop of sea and sand after Alaigal Oivathillai and Kadalora Kavithai.
The film under review is set in the fishing village of Muttam -- with his son Manoj and Murali as the lead characters. While on Manoj, Bharatiraja launched his son with great fanfare in Taj Mahal – only for the film to bomb. This film is the second attempt -- and fares no better with the audience than the debut outing.
Incidentally, this makes the second time Murali and Manoj have double-teamed, having played peripheral characters earlier in the Sharat Kumar-starrer Samudram.
In the film, Murali plays a Hindu fisherman, Manoj a Christian one. The two are best friends. Murali’s sister Uma is in love with Manoj.
Manoj's sister Sindhu, meanwhile, has this desire to break free of the net of a fisherman's lifestyle, and study in town.
With that mindset, Sindhu is easy prey for a suave city slicker come to the village on work and looking for a dalliance to while away his spare time. The story twists, and turns, the two friends end up marrying each other's sisters, the story twists some more with one friend feeling betrayed by the other -- and it all comes out right in the end, if you ignore a couple of inconvenient bodies strewn around the ocean.
The milieu -- catamarans, stormy seas, mountains of fresh caught fish -- has been expertly captured, but given a story that
doesn't really get off the blocks, all the frills are wasted. Murali is experienced enough to breeze through his role, Manoj gives acting his best shot but is found way below par in scenes that demand skill, the girls have nothing to do but simper and sob in turn…
Bharatiraja is credited with yanking Tamil cinema out of the stuffy studios and taking it outdoors, also for introducing a certain grassroots earthiness to his tales and his characters. These characteristics ensured that in his heyday, he was spoken of in the same breath as K Balachander, as one of the doyens of Tamil cinema.
Unfortunately, times seem to have passed the director by -- what worked for him in the Seventies fails to enthuse today, and the director thus far shows no sign of being able to change his storytelling style to match the times.