July 23, 2002 
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Smart moviemaking, this
Kasturi Raja explores a teenager's world


Now here is an example of moviemaking smarts. As movies go, the Tamil Thulluvatho Ilamai would seem to have very little to recommend it.

A first-time lead pair (Dhanush and Sheryn), very few marquee names, a low budget, a straight story simply told. And, at the end of it all, a box-office bonanza. The trick? Simple. Director Kasturi Raja is clear who his audience is. He is aiming at the teens --- not rich teens, upmarket teens, swinging teens or any other subgroups. But teens, period.

He picks a subject they will empathise with: the pleasures and pangs of growing up --- be it the first pimple, the first cigarette, the first stolen moment with a member of the opposite sex. Raja tells his story straight --- in your face, no frills. And he tells his story by making his characters live through it all.

Thus, there is this poor kid whose father is a fisherman. One night, he watches his parents making out. Another kid has his parents abroad, busy making money with no time for her. A third has a problem communicating with a strict father. The father of the fourth is abusive. They all run away from home, meet, and hit the road with a seller of pornographic magazines as their escort.

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How they face reality, how they realise that they are not yet ready to cope with life in the outside world, how they need education to help them cope, is what the rest of the film is all about.

The climax, predictably, comes laden with messages, with the spelling out of the difference between the rights and the wrongs. A couple of years ago, there was a Telugu film Chitram (directed byTeja) with a somewhat similar focus on teen issues. Chitram too was low budget, high yield. And many years ago, award-winning cinematographer-director Balu Mahendra made Azhiyaatha Kolangal, again a movie that focussed on boys growing up.

While on the subject, don't forget Hollywood's American Pie. Audiences accepted these films --- including the one under review --- because the problems discussed are universal. More to the point, these are problems teens are not comfortable talking to elders about.Thulluvatho Ilamai

Sitting in a movie theatre watching someone else live out their problems and find solutions, helps. For the teen, it is like spending time with a celluloid agony aunt.

Thulluvatho Ilamai does not put priority on craft --- the telling is stark, there is no attempt at sensitivity and, occasionally, the film is titillating to the point of being almost soft porn.

But the film is a hit. And that makes sense --- youngsters comprise half the moviemaking audience. So you understand why the producer would want to woo them.

Yuvan Shankar Raja, younger son of maestro Ilayaraja, scores the music; the editing is by Suresh Urs.


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