Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Subramaniapuram - the other side of the fence.

We all know rowdies, those street-dwellers with metallic weapons who do the bidding of some evil honcho, be it a corrupt politician or a criminal mastermind of another sort. Rowdies aren't henchmen, because they're never glamorous enough to don suits and smoke cigarettes; you don't find rowdies in 70's Hindi masala, you find them getting their asses kicked in Tamil masala, by the all-powerful hero, who has to fight his way through the ranks of rowdies to get to the Big Bad, the Final Boss.

Subramaniapuram could be interpreted as the story of these rowdies, in a world (or, in the real world) where there is no hero to conquer them, where the story is centered around them and only them. It's also an excellent dramatic film that sucks you into its world and doesn't let go, even as the credits are rolling.

The title of the movie is the name of the part of Madurai the film is set in. The story takes place in the 1980's, with what I assume are accurate fashion and set designs, having never been to 1980's Madurai. Our four main characters are friends and do the bidding of one former politician. They start out fairly innocent, and we see innocent affection as well - one of the continuing strands is the love connection between the politician's daughter and one of the guys.

Much is said with just looks between them, flirty and youthful and hopeful -- but is there much hope for them?

The plot is tricky to describe, since there is much going on while not much is actually going on. Things just kind of spiral out of control, and the guys end up in a loop of violence, escalating with each turn. Even if I could describe events as they unfold (and I honestly couldn't, not without a rewatch - one I can assure you will take place), I wouldn't want to, because the movie is best watched going in fairly ignorant.

The newcomers are all capable actors and I hope they've gotten more good roles after this one. The film is just one of those that excels on virtually every level; acting, cinematography, editing, story.

If there were any flaws, they'll appear to me probably in repeat watches to come, but for now the film stands as an utterly recommendable experience. Whether you want to look at it like I did, as a sort of parallel story of hero-centric flicks, or whether as just a film about how a group of friends end up blood-soaked..

...it's certainly worth a watch.

(A side-note: while I love a good Tamil masala potboiler, I have a soft spot for Tamil industry's more artistic/realistic ventures such as this one. I also loved Kaadhal which I also recommend and of course, am a fan of Bala, who is a director like no other in India. I came across the term New Tamil Cinema to describe these very new, very fresh film makers who have a knack for making films like Subramaniapuram and Kaadhal - realistic, solid story-telling without the usual masala flourishes. If anybody has recommendations for more films like this, throw them in my direction.. Even though Tamil DVD's are quite pricy, I've bought both Kaadhal and this one blind and haven't been disappointed by either so..)


Filmi Girl said...

A whole movie about rowdies?! Sign me up!!! I love this stuff, too!

You don't even find a lot of henchmen in Hindi cinema these days, let alone rowdies... :(

Rathi said...

Try watching one or all of the following :
-Paruthiveeran-extremely well made and stars Suriya's brother Karthi
-Vennila Kabadi Kuzhu - a very different sports film
-Pasanga - a refreshing movie with realistic portrayal of kids
-Kalloori - The 'Kadhal' director's 3rd movie. Based on a true incident
-Tamizh Padam - I don't know if you will be able to enjoy this, but it is a spoof on a typical Tamil potboiler, with every cliché turned on its face.
-Chennai 600028 - Fun movie on street cricket !!

MinaiMinai said...

Glad you watched this one; I've been weary of its realistic violence content so I've stayed away. From what I've seen, the cute bushy-bearded actor "Jai" (who plays the guy in the adorable Kangal Irandhal song) is now this sort of rising lover-boy star (and all clean-shaven!) whose career seems to be taking off. He was recently in Aval Peyar Tamilarasi which is I think a movie about the art of puppetry and looks like a sweet village film.

As far as recommendations, I haven't seen this one yet, but a lot of folks rave about Nadodigal which has a similar "bros in the 80s" kinda theme, I think. :) And Rathi's rec's above all sound lovely!

sakthi said...

I strongly recommend Aadukalam