Director: Anand Ravichandran
Not often do you come across stories that weave in simple, engaging ideas into their fabric, especially in Tamil cinema. But Anand Ravichandran achieves this rare feat with Sethum Aayiram Pon (streaming on Netflix). Who’d have thought the ancient art of applying makeup, though not considered an art by many, and its modern avatar could ‘make up’ a family feud?
Meera (Nivedhithaa Sathish), a popular makeup artist in Chennai, visits her hometown Aaapanoor unwillingly after her grandmother, an ‘oppaari’ artist Krishnaveni (Srilekha Rajendran) calls for her several times. Meera, who’s holding on to rage from an old dispute is extremely hostile to everyone in the village, her cousin Kuberan (Avinash Raghudevan) and her grandmother, but finds a friend in Amudha (Gabrella Sellus), a young local girl who’s also close to her grandmother, Krishnaveni. One day, Amudha tells Meera the truth about the dispute and unites her with Krishnaveni. Just as everything turns normal, Krishnaveni dies.
The film runs for only 1 hour and 43 minutes but unfolds pretty slowly. Every time I felt that a scene was just being stretched, and nothing was really happening, something magically popped up to keep the story moving, leaving me confused. (Is this good or bad for a film? I’m still figuring out.)
Also, in such films, I’ve always found it a little difficult to grasp the dialect, and understand the relationship between people. Everyone seems to be related, which is a wonderful thing, but it gets a little taxing when you’re trying to figure out who they are and reviewing a film. Sethum Aayiram Pon makes characters reiterate their relationships. It was the right amount, not overdone yet pretty clear.
Kuberan and Meera’s relationship in the film does not have depth, and isn’t clear. But I think that’s what makes it lovely. Their evolution from hateful cousins to affectionate friends was good and I’m glad it did not take the path of love. The fact that the two characters remain the same from beginning until the end is also delightful. Meera, the city girl with an attitude and Kuberan, the rural tough guy with a soft heart.
When a young Rani drowns, Krishnaveni tells Meera that death should be a celebration like birth, and isn’t something to cry over. And coincidentally, after every death in the village, something good comes. Something worthy of celebration. Meera reunites with Krishnaveni, then with Kuberan, and finally performs the traditional ‘oppari’ when her grandmother passes away. But why does Aaapanoor have a death almost every day?
Sethum Aayiram Pon, however, lacks entirely when it comes to emotions. At no point do you want to sympathise with the characters and their actions or actually feel for them. It’s either sudden and rushed, like when Meera realises the truth about the feud or dealt with in an unconvincing manner like when Meera seems all tame and coolheaded. How does all of this just happen? Replacing the usual background score with traditional folk songs is a good idea that’s rendered pointless when it comes to aiding emotions on screen.
Also, Amudha and the Krishnaveni share a better chemistry right through the film. They have a better bond while the actual duo about whom the film is, seem distant.
Nivedhithaa manages to perfectly get on our nerves with her performance but Gabrella is the actual showstopper from the start to end. She is absolutely tailor-made for these roles and pulls it off almost always. The many Madurai artists who last just a few minutes also deserve recognition for their stand-out performances.
Manikantan Krishnamachary’s camera work is impressive. From adopting single long shots for most of the crucial scenes to add tension and curiosity, to charging towards Meera with the handheld camera every time she is educated about something so that we also engage in the process and understand along with her, the camera is a part of the film, yet speaks alone.
All said and done though, Sethum Aayiram Pon fails exactly where it could have won tremendously, given the emotional scope of the story and wonderful performers in the film.
The Sethum Aayiram Pon review is a Silverscreen original article. It was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the film. Silverscreen.in and its writers do not have any commercial relationship with movies that are reviewed on the site.