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Pallikoodam: School revisited
Rajaneesh Vilakudy | August 13, 2007 17:33 IST
Children walk to school, but run back home. Yet, sometimes, school is more than a home. That is perhaps why Thankar Bachan, who has sprinkled splotches of nostalgia on the Tamil cinema canvas, has turned his camera to school for his latest work, Pallikoodam (School).
There is a Malgudi or a Macondo hidden in everyone's life. And the school will always picture first in such autobiographical journeys. Which is why the film strikes a chord despite many pitfalls.
Thankar goes down memory lane again as our memories come flooding back. An adaptation of the cinematographer-turned-director's novel, the story revolves around a set of former students' last-ditch effort to save their dilapidated village school.
All of them, including a collector, a director, and a daily-wage labourer, attribute their success to the tutelage at school. Joining them is another former student, Kokila, a teacher at the school.
But there are hurdles in the form of Kokila's uncle, who owns the school, and is keen on shutting it down. The education department is more than willing but the alumni wants their school back to its luminous ways. The village joins the save-school campaign while the media laps the event up.
At times, the film plunges into heights of melodrama. And at other times it rises up to a dizzying level, especially the flash-back story. Mumbled gurgles, sleepy lectures, raucous laughter, browbeating teachers -- rural classrooms have never been captured as perfectly as this.
The film also throws light on the plight of rural India's schools: broken windowpanes, cattle-roaming classrooms and seeping thatched roofs.
The arrival of a nurse, Jhansi, played by Shreya Reddy, into the sleepy village is a refreshing turn in the plot. In fact, it was Jhansi who tells the kids that there is a world outside their village.
But, the director loses the plot by failing to evoke any chemistry between the lovelorn 'fighting' couples and this is where the writing goes awry. So does the editing. The movie should have been cut short by 20 minutes.
Cinematography (by the director himself), on the other hand, is in sync with the locales and narration. Art direction is a lesson for aspiring production designers. The first song -- featuring schoolchildren -- is picturised beautifully while the last song (Veendum Pallikku Pogalam) leaves a soothing feeling. Bharadwaj could only bring a touch of his magic.
Acting-wise, Thankar Bachan steals the show by his impeccable portrayal of Kumarasamy, the labourer. The collector portrayed by Naren is ordinary while Seeman as the director's role, is refreshing. Sneha as Kokila has nothing much to offer.
Thankar's earlier film Azhagi -- his best to date -- was better conceptualised, edited and picturised.
But while Pallikkoodam lacks the class of Azhagi, you can at least return home with memories of your school life.
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