That Selvaraghavan is known to follow the middle path & deliver films within the commercial mould yet bearing his own distinct stamp is by now a known fact to all. In his only outright commercial film- Aadavari Mataluku Ardhalu Verule (Telugu ) also there were still moments where he left his touch. The movie not only was his entry into Telugu Cinema (and successfully remade in Tamil by Mithran Jawahar as Yaaradi Nee Mohini starring Selva’s brother Dhanush) but it also looked like his way of telling the masses and the critics that he is capable of delivering an outright commercial film as well. Of late Selvaraghavan has been in the news for a lot of reasons, both personal and professional.
Mayakkam Enna (why this dizziness?) from here on ME, the latest film from Selvaraghavan is a quickie in terms of the time taken to complete the project. After losing out on Kamal Haasan’s Viswaroopam and then dropping his plans to make Irandam Ulagam with Dhanush and Andrea, Selva started working on ME with Dhanush and Richa Gangopadhyay. Richa had already started getting noticed with her Telugu films like Leader, Nagavalli, Mirapakaya and ME marks her entry into Tamil Cinema. Apart from the lead pair nothing much was known about the film except the reports that claimed Dhanush to be sporting 4 different looks in the film, something which was noticed when the trailer was released.
The audio launch happened at Radio Mirchi’s Chennai station and the songs composed by G.V.Prakash Kumar and written by Selvaraghavan and Dhanush themselves have been climbing the popularity charts ever since. Following initial plans of releasing for Diwali better sense prevailed upon the team and the film finally opened this week (released on 25th November) and I was all the more enthused for the same. In the last one week prior to the release there was hardly any promotion done by the producers-Gemini Film Circuit, because that was almost single handedly taken care of by one man- Dhanush.
I’m sure by now each & every one of us know how the ‘Why this Kolaveri Di’ phenomena took us by storm recently. The song that’s still being discussed everywhere ensured that the spotlight remained on Dhanush. Considering this in hindsight it seems like a wonderful decision by the producers of ME to piggyback on the Kolaveri wave and not go out of the way for a last minute promotional drive for ME. For the first time even fellow critics outside South India seemed to take notice of a Dhanush film during the release ( thanks to Aadukalam’s spree of National Awards and Kolaveri, Dhanush is now under the National radar ).
If one were to talk about the basic plot of ME it’s pretty simple. Karthik (Dhanush) is passionate about photography and dreams of being a great wildlife photographer. His idol is the famous wildlife photographer,Madhesh ( Ravi Prakash ) whom Karthik wants to work along with. Apart from photography Karthik’s life revolves around his friends and sister. One day his best friend Sunder introduces Yamini, his girlfriend to the gang. Karthik and Yamini do not stand each other initially, but fate draws them together slowly. The story takes its own turn in the form of Madhesh making an entry into the life of Karthik once again, taking them all of guard.
Mentioning anything further about the plot isn’t what anyone should ideally do while writing on a film like ME. What I will certainly do from here on is to let you know what I felt while I watching the film and what I’m still thinking about, nearly 2 days after having the watched the film. The film has a crackling 1st half and much of it is do with the way that the narrative moves in its own characteristic way. There is no mass hero like entry for Dhanush ( shots of him waking up after a booze session at night on the verandah of his house would hardly qualify for one anyways )and there’s no unnecessary detailing of any of the characters.
You always get the inkling that something is amiss and something soon is going to happen, but still when it happens it does take you by surprise. Karthik’s passion for photography and his feelings for Yamini both co-exist in their own strange ways, just as his bonding with his sister and friends. Even by that respect the relationship or the start of it between Karthik and Yamini is wonderfully depicted. And some of the moments really stand out by themselves against the backdrop. Like for example during Valentine’s Day celebration when Sunder slumps onto the shoulders of Karthik and Yamini and exclaims-“my girlfriend, my best friend” and the subsequent reaction from Karthik and Yamini is something that’s certainly not routinely seen.
The narrative strangely shifts gears completely in the 2nd half throwing you off balance. Things for the 1st half an hour or so seem to be happening too much by convenience and you really start wondering if this film is also going to be suffering from the ‘2nd half syndrome’. Just as we started drifting away further, Selva, the magician pulls of a trick from his hat and brings in some order again into the show. Much of the act from thereon is interesting in its own way. Though completely different from the style and approach shown in the 1st half, this part of the 2nd half has its own charm and certainly does manage to keep you hooked to the proceedings.
While one may question Yamini’s change of persona, it is indeed amazing to see the way she stands as a pillar behind Karthik who by now has moved on to become extremely unpredictable as a character. With the movie then proceeding in an altogether different course the ending is something that takes one by surprise again. I’ve been sitting and thinking for long as to what was on Selva’s mind while he conceptualized the 2nd half and I have come up with a few answers for my own questions.
Ok so why is the 2nd half suddenly focusing too much on the status of the relationship between Karthik and Yamini and on the direction it should take? Well I guess this is where Selva clearly felt he needed to break the connect or the momentum that he had established or made us get used to in the 1st half. Agreed that it was risky since the 1st half had a certain zing to itself but then for the change in the scenario that Selva wanted us to get exposed to, probably he didn’t have any other go but to allow the 1st 30 odd minutes of the 2nd half to drift off course.
One can always argue whether this was the best thing to have happened but at least this does look logical to me when I think of it the way I’ve described. Why does the film’s focus seemingly alter some 30 odd minutes into the 2nd half? Well this is where Selva reminds us that its Karthik’s passion that is the more important element & all other things are merely meant to aid the same. Looking at this perspective I’m sure the film’s turnaround works a lot more for me.
And pray why does the film end on a surprisingly tame note when most of us would have been expecting something really introspective and different? This was the question that disturbed me the most & to be honest one of the main reasons for delaying the process of writing this post. And I guess this where Selvaraghavan has scored a victory of sorts. So it seems to appear like he’s thrown a deliberate googly,almost as if to tease us since we probably didn’t predict this at all.If this is true then I’d certainly say that I’ll buy the need and the reason to bring this into effect.
There are so many interesting moments in the 2nd half as well. Like the scene when both Karthik and Sunder break down at Sunder’s home and Sunder’s father patiently offers a drink to both of them,one by one. Or take the scene which brings a turnaround to the story where both Karthik is all emotional in front of Yamini who is sweeping the blood stains on the floor and Yamini conveys her anger without even speaking a single word-brilliant.
*End of Spoilers*
At the end as much as this is a director’s film, the credit for making the film look convincing enough needs to be equally shared with Dhanush as well. The film offers ample scope for Dhanush to perform and he grabs it with both his hands. As Karthik he gets to portray different shades and emotions throughout the film and the character ends up being so unpredictable that this in itself is a victory of sorts for the film. And whatever be the look/getup or the character’s situation, Dhanush does ensure that he makes it look convincing enough.
Richa Gangopadhyay is a surprise element indeed and she does justice to both the different stages her character undergoes through the film. A big credit for this also goes to her dubbing done by Deepa Venkat. For a film centred around a photographer, the cinematography is expected to be good and here Ramji doesn’t disappoint. He’s able to bring out the various changes in hues,moods and emotions in the film very clearly and its almost as if he’s filmed it through the eyes of Karthik in most places.
G.V.Prakash Kumar’s music is very good both in terms of the BGM which is rocking and also the songs which are a major draw for the film. The lyrics by Selvaraghavan and Dhanush certainly complement the tunes. While ‘Voda Voda Voda’ ( sung by Dhanush ) is almost an anthem of sorts now , the others like ‘Naan Sonnadhum Mazhai Vandhicha’ ( sung by Naresh Iyer & Saindhavi ), ‘Kadhal En Kadhal’ ( sung by Dhanush and Selvarghavan ) are equally good if not better.
At the end the movie ends up a bit uneven with some questions answered,some unanswered. But one thing for sure is that the film disturbs you & makes you think about it long after you’ve watched it. It’s not the best from Selvaraghavan, but does leave an impression no doubt.
Here’s the video of the Voda Voda Voda song for those who haven’t seen it yet-