Balaji Tharaneetharan’s element of fantasy “creeps” into the picture slowly. Debutante cinematographer Saraskanth’s brooding visuals prepare us for the steady pace of the film. His grounded imagery is why the inciting incident in the film caught me off guard. It took me a make a bit to my mind up about the conceit. Balaji also gives ample time to process the idea and question if this is even happening. It isn’t really hard to buy the surreal concept either, for the kind of time he devotes to laying the groundwork is a lot. We get one long take of a stage play, a legendary artist’s painful life of misery and his on-stage death, all in forty long minutes. What follows is a weirdly enjoyable meta-narrative on the art-versus-commerce debate.

But there’s a problem. Maybe more than one. Firstly, Balaji seems to have over-calculated the amount of time required to drive his point across to the audience. If you view the entire narrative as an exhibit for Director Ram’s argument in the debate, you might not want to patronize it for its artsy-ness. But I do want to hold it accountable for its flaws. There’s an action scene from Dhanapalan’s film that goes on for four long minutes, when it actually could have made its point in under a minute. There’s the slipping and falling comedy scene, which I tried making sense out of, and failed. Why is it there? And the final existential thought I had – Vijay Sethupathi’s entire prosthetic act is a gimmick. But, “why not”? Well, it adds nothing to the film. Also, since the plot is driven by the idea of him, and not a visual image, the physicality of it shouldn’t have mattered.

The director shines in the way he presents irony – sharp and more importantly, understated. The ensemble cast lives up to their importance in the film by supporting it with fantastic performances. Mouli, Archana, Sunil Reddy, Mahendran, Bagavathi Perumal, Rajkumar, every single person delivers, very well supporting the script’s dependence on their acting. Govind Menon is another pillar, with his score evoking everything that the film intends to. He outdoes his own work from the year with this one (96 and Asuravadham).

The subtlety seen in Tharaneetharan’s dialogues is missing in the execution, where he just doesn’t pull brakes on scenes that overstay their welcome. But in the end he has definitely engaged me to desiring more out of the film, in spite of the length. I fully believe in his cause. The problem and assumptions (audience needs this and that) are only in the system, and not with the audience. How I wish that this point had illustrated itself with a box office success for this film. But, alas, at the moment, this is just an interesting film, with a great one buried under the director’s indulgence.


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