The neighbour’s up early today. Earlier than usual. The patch of floor right in front of her apartment is covered in big, colourful loops. The patterns snake and zigzag in a very unkolam-like fashion; probably one of Auntie’s radical designs I think – before quickly realising that she has attempted to write a New Year wish. In Tamil.
I sleepwalk to the door, and let her in. She hands me some very hot kesari dunked in ghee, sneaks a furtive glance at the kitchen.
“Bad night?” she asks.
Then, it hits her.
“New Year release aa?”
Auntie giggles. “Heh. What a nice job you have! No cooking on festivals!”
After a careful description of the location where the mess serving onion-and-garlic free meals is, she departs.
“Don’t forget to get me a jar of their sambar podi!”
There are only a few directors who are truly reformist. Gautam Menon is one. If he wants to expound on an ideology, he does it thoroughly. Never mind the flamboyance, or the tale that has been retold a few times over; he thrives in the details. His heroines are just as stylish before their wedding, and after; they don’t suddenly turn chaste when they’re married – wrapped in billowing kurtas or saris, and sporting a few other gear to reiterate their marital status.
There’s nothing wrong with kurtas or saris, mind. I love them both. Just that Gautam Menon, and a few other directors of his ilk take care of these subtle influences. There’s a single look for their leading ladies through out a movie; no abrupt switch of style and costumes – except, perhaps during the wedding. That’s what I call truly socially conscious. In Theri, for instance – and in other films of like-minded directors, there’s a load of waffle about social issues, but none of them get to the heart of the matter; these filmmakers don’t realise that they cannot get away with just expounding on a cause, declaring it evil and achieve some kind of vicarious revenge through their movies. Having a rapist’s genitals ripped off and his body mutilated might sound like fitting punishment, but how would that help, really? It’s a typical testosterone-fuelled reaction; a knee-jerk reflex that they just cannot seem to help. Wouldn’t a more responsible (and sedate) approach incorporate social (and sex) education for the offenders – limbs and penises intact? Gautam Menon roughs up too, but he doesn’t bump off a thug by levitating him from a bridge – without sufficient reason. And, he’s gender-conscious. That, for me, is the stuff great directors are made of. Not trapped within the confines of archaic, ill-defined culture – fleshed-out thoughts, moments and scenes, and attentiveness to influences as subtle as clothing.
I have also never quite understood the need to complete a family. That rosy, happy Tamilian ideal: when the mother dies, conjure a maternal figure out of nowhere; that perfect, well-rounded sample of humanity to finish the portrait. Theri would have worked just fine without an Amy Jackson. Or Mallu teachers who can be potential step-mothers.
And, what’s with making mothers out of wives, anyway?
I blame SJ Suryah.
Atlee might have good ideas and his execution is sometimes top-notch. A spark of brilliance that I didn’t quite expect in Theri, is when a classroom is used to teach a bunch of goons what education was all about. I loved the jokes, not the rhyme, mind, but the jokes. They might have been predictable, even a little corny, but I have never quite enjoyed slapstick humour just as much as I did in that particular scene. And, all that I could only think of later, was – what if the rapists and the sex-offenders had been dealt with in the same way?
Vijay is cast perfectly. I might not agree with him on several counts (sorry, Rowling) or forgive him for his past, but he does have style – even without wayfarers. In Theri, he has shorn himself off a lot of things: dialogues aimed at women for instance. And boy, he can joke. He still has a lot of that elder-brotherly air even as a father, but it does work after a while.
And then, the heroics. Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee; the hands can’t hit what the eyes can’t see: Not quite Muhammad Ali, but very …theri.
I’ve always had a problem with child actors who are made to utter dialogues thrice their age; in Theri not only does the daughter try and set her father up with her teacher, children are used (effectively) to embellish Vijay’s heroics. There also has to be an end to the typical villain act: that of threatening the safety of the family – especially that of kids – to get even with the hero.
It’s way below the belt.
And, rule number one of handling a child artiste as young as a one-year-old: never splash the baby. Ever. Even for cinematic purposes. I have a hardened heart muscle (strengthened over weeks of reviewing movies) that doesn’t quite twitch at these obvious ploys to get me teary, but I nearly skipped a beat when the baby in the tub received a face-full of water, and momentarily gasped for air.
That, really, isn’t done.
The Theri feature is a Silverscreen original article. It was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the movie. Silverscreen.in and its writers do not have any commercial relationship with movies that are reviewed on the site.