Director Thamizh’s debut, based on a short story Varugari by acclaimed writer Perumal Murugan, is replete with long, immersive single takes that pull us into its story world. It’s a tale of a grandfather wanting the best for his grandson. It’s a tale that calls out the Brahminical narrative of “pure” and “impure” food choices.

It does take time to buy into the film because of its seemingly raw, unpolished craft – badly stabilised shaky shots, a couple of on-the-nose expository dialogues. This is the only place where the writing feels undercooked, but once all the characters are introduced there’s barely any false note. In fact, the writing gets ultimately rewarding over the course of the narrative. Thamizh gives us a lot to read into, both in the background and foreground.

We get to see multiple inter-personal dynamics perpetrated by the caste system. There’s both kinds of opposers – a staunch one and the reluctant one. Even in the oppressor caste characters, there’s a selectively casteist landlord, whose fairness to the ones he’s lording over depends on how accomodating they are of his own perceived superiority. Then there are the wives of OC men who come with their own internalised casteist tones.

The actors are another aspect of the film that command attention. Nakkalites Prasanna as Vellaiyan, is particularly memorable for his borderline-comic, but equal parts realistic portrayal of a privileged man with a fragile ego. The dynamic with his cousin, and the simmering tension in their verbal brawls is quite palpable. Manickam as Poochiyappa doesn’t seem to be a seasoned actor, but his general nonchalance and intimate moments with his grandson are endearing for sure.

The writing is also such that we don’t see a “tangible” conflict in the film until the climax. So the tension up until that narrative-defining conflict is felt to good effect. You know there’s a major event creeping up pretty soon, and this unsettling feeling is maintained consistently. The story humanises its characters through exchanges between different viewpoints. Poochiyappa’s interactions with Vellaiyan’s wife, and those with Rangan peel deeper into the character in revealing ways. It depicts contrasting behaviour not as drama but as the character’s truth.

In terms of the direction, Thamizh’s confidence in mounting long single takes to capture natural processes (like capturing a pig) is commendable. He always holds back from bursting into a melodramatic score, and I see that as a great quality for a director – to have faith in his staging and let the audience read the emotion on their own, sans any spoonfed music. This is a great debut in my eyes, and yet another winning find for Pa. Ranjith’s Neelam Productions.

Spoilers ahead… I’m still in two minds about the climax. Poochiyappa’s death makes for a shocking and devastating ending. There’s irony captured in the fact that no matter how conflict-averse the downtrodden try to be, the pettiness of the uppercaste will cause the former to be collateral damage. But it’s hard to believe that this was the best possible outcome for this story. I wish the character’s fate had been foreshadowed in more ways to make it more – for the lack of a better word – palatable? Or maybe I’m just affected a little too much by the death that I’m finding it hard to digest the writing choice.


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