Never before, in any currency, has there been a tender that answers to an odd square integer nine.
Indian Cinema Factory has come out with a movie called Onbathu Roopai Nottu (Nine Rupee Note) and Sathyaraj plays a village simpleton. The whole movie is about his life -- its travails -- full of tears, tears and more tears. Yet, the performance of the bald veteran is so natural that it squeezes out an odd tear from the eyelids of the audience.
Nine Rupee begins with the attempt of a wizened old man Madhavar Padayachi (Sathyaraj) managing to board a bus after a lot of entreaties aimed at a nondescript bus conductor and the munificence of his younger relative.
The Padayachi saga is narrated through a series of finely crafted flashbacks dovetailing his struggle against the odds posed by a number of village bumpkins (two of them being his sons), a few poignant incidents involving a Muslim family (good essays by Nasser and Rohini) and his wife (Archana, a bit too loud and theatrical) which end after the protagonist reaches his village in Tamil Nadu's South Arcot district and drops dead to trigger tormented laments.
But for the loin cloth fixation of director Thankar Bachan (clearly overdone in this movie) Onbathu is simple and clean cinema.
Usual cinematic elements like soliloquies, choreographed fisticuffs and gyrations in the name of romantic duets (except for a minor aside in this one where the supporting actress Inbanila is all at sea) are mercifully absent. Lenin's editing deserves a special word of praise.
The Bharadwaj-Vairamuthu combination has worked wonders in two melodious numbers Velayi
If movie critics' words are taken seriously by the mandarins in the Union Information and Broadcasting Ministry and those in their panel to choose the best actor, anyone having watched Onbathu would undoubtedly vote for Sathyaraj as the best actor at the national level.
Thankar Bachan has shown that he can present a good movie with his limited talent.
In all, Onbathu certainly should be seen by all those who have a liking for sad tales.