Without sounding sexist, let me tell you that I got this gut feel about this movie being offbeat and refreshing, when the name of the actor playing the female protagonist appeared first in the opening credits. That feeling only got stronger and stronger as the film progressed, and ended with overwhelming emotions of not having more female filmmakers ruling mainstream cinema. Well, no need to blame me there.
How often in mainstream cinema, do we get to see strong, level headed female characters, who are not there on screen just for fulfilling romantic and gyrating duties! How often does a mainstream movie stay true to the plot without contradicting its own stance? How often does a mainstream movie tackle social issues without taking sides, and yet doesn’t feel the need to sound preachy? How often does a mainstream film deal with interpersonal relationships in a matured way, without resorting to cheap tricks to milk the drama out of potentially serious issues? How often do we see a female antagonist who isn’t a slut and doesn’t shout at the top of her voice? Well, Lakshmy Ramakrishnan who debuted as filmmaker with the critically acclaimed ‘Arohanam’, decidedly proves her capabilities as a promising filmmaker here by exactly doing all those with utmost conviction, and yet manages to give a pretty decent thriller which moves and entertains us in equal measure.
‘Nerungi Vaa Muthamdathe’ is basically about the protagonist’s road trip from Trichy to Karaikul and the people he meets on his journey, that happens in the background of a futuristic fuel crisis. But the film excels in the way Lakshmy weaves contemporary social issues into the plot by writing interesting characters with varying dramatic needs. And all these are done with utmost sincerity and subtlety. Caste politics and rash youthful decisions are touched upon. Personal relationships between rebel sons and daughters and their parents are given a new and refreshing color. The scathing scars of a cruel life changing incident like rape is approached with a lot of positivity and sensitivity. Well, some of the perks of having a female writer/director helming the affairs! And also, these stories of self-realization and learning are all told as interestingly conceptualized montages, and never once feel out of place or forced into the plot. The way the background of the characters are kept clock and dagger for almost till the end also works in the film’s favor.
Lakshmy also excels in the way she gives attention to detail, making her point in astute realistic ways, even in seemingly inconsequential scenes. There is no unnecessary melodrama in the form of chilling casualties or the omnipresent scene of the pregnant women struggling to get to the hospital (thankfully). Road signs, transistors, television telecasts, a tea shop, a vegetable warehouse, and a clinic are all used intelligently in emphasizing the gravity of the existing situation. The opening segment in the waters at dawn is proof enough of the Lakshmy’s vision and her cinematographer Vinod Bharathi’s potential. Lakshmy also scores in the pre-interval segment when a couple of unexpected twists make you sit up in anticipation. The background score and the song montages of Madley Blues are a treat, and they easily add a lot of atmosphere to the film especially towards the brilliant twirl in the finale.
Piaa Bajpai is perfect in a totally new avatar and gives a lot of life to her character of a girl, who is unable to accept her mother for what she is. The newcomer Shabeer playing the protagonist, also comes across extremely convincing as the rebel son of a reasonably affluent family.The Lucia girl, Sruthi Hariharan, makes her Tamil debut and the talented Viji Chandrasekar brilliantly downplays her role of a doting mom, torn between her daughter and her secret. Thambi Ramiah does become repetitive in instances, but his role is interestingly wriiten. Y.G. Mahendra as usual is a natural, but the surprise package is Balasaravan as Shabeer;s friend, who impresses with his timing and dialogue delivery.
All said and done, the film is not without its share of flaws. The main antagonist makes an appearance early on, and disappears to nowhere. The film’s pace dips at a number of places in the first half, and the engagement factor wavers. Lakshmy casts herself in an underwritten role, whose motives behind the whole security breach are never fully explained. But then, its easy to ignore the faults because this is the kind of mainstream yet sincere and honest movie that we rarely ever get and hope triggers a huge shift in the way female characters are portrayed.
Go for it without expectations. I am sure you wont regret it.