Remember the Bala films of yore? They seamlessly fused reality, some brutality, slice-of-life humour, and cocked a snook at authority and prevailing mores without getting preachy. Naachiyaar gives us back that Bala, the man who can have a character sporting a namam smilingly call his police officer friend Feroz as ‘Saaibu’, have another character speak about the taste of beef biryani, have someone get irked at the mention of ‘Arabu Naatu’ in a song sung at a nikkah, and finally, show a judge speak the TamBrahm tongue without belittling it. For some strange reason, Lodukku Pandi of Nandha and his ‘kannla jalatha’ line came to mind!
It’s almost as if the director freed himself up in this movie. There’s a lightness in the writing, actual joy, the hint of a threat, but no terribly vile people… things that are alien to a Bala movie. You’re usually bracing yourself for that big reveal, one that involves a lot of blood and gore and heightened emotions. This film though, is casual in its dealings, almost expecting the audience to travel with the characters. Best of all, not even a single tear threatens to escape your eyes. It matters; I usually exit Bala’s movies with red eyes and wringing my handkerchief dry.
When was the last time you had the main leads of a film board a share auto, not merely for effect, but because that’s what their characters would normally do? GV Prakash Kumar had said that this film would mark a transition in his career as an actor; he was being modest. Only when the end credits roll, do you realise that it is he you saw on screen. It’s not just the make-up (especially the malnourished red-gold hair), it’s what he does with his role as Kaathu (Kaathavarayan). He owns it in every sense of the word; you definitely don’t see the Chettinad Vidyashram student there! We have seen minors falling in love before, but Kaathu and Arasi (a glorious Ivana, her eyes and face packed with playfulness, grief, hope and joy) are unlike any onscreen pair. She’s a girl who cares deeply for him, but it comes laced with barbs; he soaks in that affection, seeing the rose behind the thorns. He’s upset that the official at the juvenile home spoke ill about his ‘mother’; the elderly attendant consoles him, saying he spoke only about his ‘lover’. A quiet Kaathu looks up and says that for boys like him, the lover is the mother.
The film is named after the character played by Jyothika, a conscientious police officer who does not think twice before flexing her muscles and the lathi. Her care comes coated with a certain gruffness, evident when she speaks to her husband (played with quiet efficiency by Dr Gurushankar of Meenakshi Mission Hospital) or daughter, who keeps waiting for a foreign holiday. She comes into her own during her interactions with her colleague Feroz (an effective Rockline Venkatesh). Again, a first. When was the last time you had a man and woman discuss work thus on film, without making it look contrived?
At first glance, Naachiyaar’s premise seems simple. A young girl gets pregnant, and the cops are on the trail of the rapist. But, you soon realise that the film is quite intricate and layered. It gallops at breakneck speed during the scenes detailing the investigation, and flows like a gentle brook when the teens fall in love.
In a way, it helps that the makers did not reveal anything about the film before release. And so, everything takes you by surprise. If Jyothika is the glue that binds the film together, it is headlined by Prakash and Ivana. If anything, the actress’s roles in recent times have been quite thoughtful; she’s the pivot, but is surrounded by characters you care for, characters who sometimes get more screenspace. But, when Prakash says what he does at the end of the film, when he’s heroic without a second thought, you faintly wonder – should the film have been called ‘Kaathu’ instead?
Go for it, to watch a master auteur back in form and some spiffy editing by Sathish Surya (the film is just about 100 minutes). As for the background score by the Maestro, let’s stop with saying that a generation might fall in love to the interludes that play in the share auto. The way those in their 40s end up playing the BGM of Mouna Raagam or Punnagai Mannan in their heads when happy!
PS: The now-infamous cussword features in the movie, but is muted. Considering the rest of the film slams all mores, that could have been retained, just to let the protesting trolls know that there’s a Boss, and his name is Bala.
The Naachiyaar review 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.