An Impressive, Dramatic Debut For Director P Virumaandi

pDirector: P Virumandi

Solid: Aishwarya Rajesh, Vijay Sethupathi, Rangaraj Pandey

I’ll start with a scene with a authorities official in Ramanathapuram. A younger lady has found that her Dubai-employed husband has died. (He was one of many quite a few nameless Indians who labored within the quite a few nameless jobs there.) She desires the physique flown again, to see him one final time and in addition to put him to relaxation within the land he liked a lot. However first, she must show she’s the authorized spouse — and he or she has no proof. The wedding happened in a temple, and there’s not even a photograph to show it occurred. So she goes to the federal government official, as a result of she desires some type of marriage certificates. The federal government official asks for the related paperwork. When she says she has none, my thoughts — conditioned by years of Tamil-cinema coaching — conjured up what would come subsequent. The person’s going to ask for a bribe. Or worse, he’s going to ask for her. However he merely shrugs and turns her away. What he says is sensible. What if one other lady turned up one other day and claimed that she was the spouse?

On the coronary heart of Ka Pae Ranasingam is an virtually dharmic query: What’s our obligation in direction of different folks, particularly these in dire want? Seen a technique, this authorities official did his job precisely the best way the federal government has instructed him to do it. However did he do his job as a human being? May he not have gone the additional distance and see how else he might have helped this lady? Possibly he might have known as somebody and defined this example and mentioned: My fingers are tied, however have you learnt what this lady can do? As a result of if every certainly one of us does our “job” considering solely about what it requires of us, following guidelines and rules, fearing — rightly — that we’ll be punished by these above us (who’re solely doing their job, in spite of everything) if we overstep our limits, then how can we assist individuals who fall in a no-man’s land that’s underneath no one’s purview? Put in a different way, if all of us say “It’s not my downside”, then how do we discover options?

The movie is a Roja-ish Satyavan/Savitri story, and it’s a formidable debut for writer-director P Virumaandi. It’s about Ariyanachi (Aishwarya Rajesh), who’s trapped in a really troublesome — and really emotional — state of affairs. She retains going to folks as a result of she wants assist. She retains listening to “It’s not my downside”, and he or she refuses to surrender. She goes to a better authority, and when he says “It’s not my downside”, she goes to a good increased authority. Ka Pae Ranasingam runs practically three hours, and it earns that indulgence. As a substitute of losing time on songs and laughs to “lighten” its themes, and as an alternative of providing simple-minded options and heroic (or heroine-ic) lectures to repair these points, it submerges us in a quicksand of systemic rot. We really feel — virtually bodily — not simply each step of Ariyanachi’s journey, but additionally the numerous months it takes her to discover a answer. And even so, the final stretch is a heart-breaker. 

Most writer-directors try to streamline their story, so there’s one clear situation, one clear hero (or heroine), one clear villain. There’s little question who the hero/heroine is in Virumaandi’s imaginative and prescient (a marvellously in-form Vijay Sethupathi is Ranasingam). However who’s the villain, and what’s the problem? Is it the evil MNC that income from low-cost labour, or the native energy firm that drains water from these already arid lands? Is it the villagers’ insistence on cultivating karuvelam crops that suck up water, or a trans-national bureaucratic course of that enables Sridevi’s physique to be introduced again in 72 hours, from Dubai, whereas the corpses of Indian staff stay in freezing items, ready for numerous pink tapes to be cleared? Is it the physique of elected officers that’s unapproachable by the very folks that elect them, or the household that distances itself from the daughter-in-law to be able to get the lifeless son’s insurance coverage cash?

If these varied points and villains don’t appear “linked”, it’s as a result of they aren’t. Ka Pae Ranasingam isn’t a easy cause-and-effect film. It’s a causes-and-effects film. Commoners aren’t all good. Politicians aren’t all dangerous. An excellent many issues occur round us, and the outcomes can’t be simply contained and even defined. Appropriately, a number of frames are filled with folks. (The cinematographer is NK Ekambaram.) My favorite such framing is a scene across the native water supply, the place girls collect with plastic buckets. A lot is informed, right here: that it’s very late at evening, that the water within the faucets comes within the thinnest of trickles, that these girls nonetheless handle to make gentle of the state of affairs with their teasing banter, and that each one this impacts Ariyanachi. Nearly each stretch is an analogous mixture of the political and the non-public.

The movie isn’t excellent. It might have used extra polish — not essentially within the making, however within the writing, the best way the scenes are rounded off or the best way some characters are launched. However after a very very long time, I had the satisfaction of watching a film that was about one thing and but not in a rush to supply closure. Ka Pae Ranasingam understands that these issues are too advanced for a hero (or a heroine) to resolve and ship us dwelling with a smile, with a coronary heart completely satisfied that no less than within the motion pictures some issues will be fastened. Virumaandi desires to ship us dwelling with Ariyanachi’s despair, which, in flip, interprets into the despair of 1000’s of migrant staff and their households, which, in flip, reminds us of how microscopic we residents are within the eyes of our rulers, whether or not political (the federal government) or financial (the capitalists who make coolies of us).

Ka Pae Ranasingam might be seen as Vijay Sethupathi’s atonement for Sangathamizhan, which was precisely the type of movie this one isn’t, with a straightforward villain (a copper company) and a simple situation (air pollution) and with “mass” aspirations. Right here, Ranasingam is a do-gooder, however he slowly realises that do-goodism is difficult to instil in individuals who have (and concern for his or her) jobs. And the way refreshing it’s to see a number one man selecting his household over the neighborhood, the non-public over the political! After all, he does get a few motion scenes. The primary one is superbly shot and superbly choreographed. As a substitute of going extensive and exhibiting us henchmen somersaulting in slo-mo, the digital camera sticks to the hero as he retains punching dangerous guys out of the body. And even when it’s one thing of a stretch, each these motion scenes do discover some resonance with the story’s themes. The primary one is about across the household of a migrant labourer. The second is about across the situation of water, and it’s additionally set within the midst of males ready in line to be… migrant labourers.

Even the heavy-handed scenes largely work as a result of there’s such a lived-in sense of place and time. Shanmugam Muthusamy’s dialogues play a significant half: “Kudukaatha saamy-ya vida kudukkara pei evvalavo mael,” or “Nallavano kettavano, sethaa sondha oorula saaganum.” As do the actors. Rangaraj Pandey is excellent because the district Collector. He makes us really feel what it should be wish to continually be on the receiving finish of a thousand complaints. He’s as human a political determine as I’ve seen within the motion pictures, particularly our motion pictures. Watch him deflect a fearful query concerning the fishermen’s situation. There’s no “how dare you ask me this”! There’s no “don’t concern your self with issues that aren’t about you”! There’s simply the calm resignation of a person who is aware of that no reply he provides goes to make anybody completely satisfied.

Aishwarya Rajesh, after Kanaa, will get a job that offers her the gamut. There’s huge allure in Ariyanachi’s sparring with Ranasingam, with none “cutesiness”. Virumaandi is aware of that it’s essential we care about this couple, and he writes stunning scenes for them, with sharp segues: just like the “sound lower” from clapping fingers to wails, or the visible lower from Ariyanachi mendacity on the ground throughout her marriage ceremony evening to her being present in the identical place within the current day. Even the marriage scene is a wedding of the non-public and the political: it takes place as a near-curfew (Part 144) is applied within the village. Water flows round this relationship. When he’s not do-gooding, Ranasingam is a water diviner. Drought is a perennial downside; it’s why Ariyanachi meets Ranasingam. And an excellent second is staged with a half-rain, which you’ll should see to know.

Water can be the anchor for the heavier moments. A significant scene happens at a newly constructed dam, and when Ariyanachi — in Chennai — sees water going waste, she rushes to repair the leak, leaving her toddler on the roadside. This isn’t an affordable “baby at risk” second to govern us. It’s a reminder of what water means to this lady — and we expect again to her introduction scene, the place she was seen strolling with pots to fetch water. There are components the place we see an Aishwarya Rajesh we haven’t seen since Kaaka Muttai. I’m speaking concerning the scene the place she panics on the sound of an ambulance and slowly sinks to the bottom. Her eyes are crammed with such unhappiness, such anguish. Aishwarya could really feel short-changed by an business that retains operating after fair-skinned girls (she gamely takes a “color kammi” line, right here), however she’s one of many only a few heroines doing work that might be remembered.

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