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Why would Kamal make himself so ugly?
January 16, 2003 18:13 IST
The story of the Tamil film, Anbe Sivam, starring Kamal Haasan and Madhavan under C Sundar's direction goes like this: Kamal is an activist opposed to capitalism in all its forms.
He is also the beloved of the villain's daughter (Kiran). Daddy -- obviously, a capitalist and exploiter -- is out to foil the romance.
Kamal then meets with an accident -- he loses his leg and his face is disfigured. He goes to Bhubaneswar to pick up a cheque for the workers whose cause he espouses. On his flight back to Chennai, he clashes with a co-passenger (Madhavan) over their differing ideologies. He also learns that Madhavan is headed for Chennai to get married to -- who else? -- the villain's daughter. The rest of the story is about how all is set right in the end.
The story starts on a night so inclement, with weather so bad, that flights don't take off. There are moments in this 14-reel film when you realise that the story does not take off either.
The problem with the story (which, along with screenplay, is credited to Kamal) is that it tries to straddle the serious and funny, and falls between both. There is much talk and speeches about ideologies such as atheism, Gandhism, anti-consumerism that may be a reflection of Kamal's own thoughts, but are glaringly out of place within the story structure.
There are also inconsistencies in characterisation. Having built Kamal as a staunch opponent of capitalism in general and the villain in particular, and having him spout anti-Coke, anti-Pepsi and anti-MNC dialogues, the script then defies logic by having him accept an offer to paint the villain's bungalow. As a device to make the leading lady fall in love with Kamal, it may work. But it surely goes against the grain of the character the leading man is supposed to portray.
The film, in fact, suffers from the disease of excess. Makeup has been a Kamal preoccupation for some years now. Here, his work as the cripple is brilliant, and the closeups of his disfigured face, stitched up like a patchwork quilt, are mind-blowing.
But why? A character -- especially the lead character -- wants the audience to empathise, not throw up. A child at the theatre, in fact, was overheard asking his mother why Kamal had made himself so ugly.
Art director Prabhakaran's work is outstanding. The train accident sequence and the aftermath of the bus accident look incredibly real. Wilson's cinematography is, at best, okay, as is Vidyasagar's music. The audio has been doing good business, but the songs don't quite gel in the film.
Director C Sundar is invisible. A plight that is common to many directors who work on Kamal movies. The star is known to do it all himself even if someone else gets the credit, or discredit, as the case may be.
Madhavan performs to the standards he has set himself. His breezy presence enlivens otherwise dull moments. Kiran has little to do except sing and dance.
Overall, the film tries to do too many things, and ends up failing at most, if not all, of them.