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..)