Selvaraghavan, with his story for Thulluvatho Ilamai, can boast about being one of the fore runners in leading Tamil movies to its new wave films of today. It was in this movie that his brother Dhanush was introduced as a teenage hero. Later he directed Dhanush in the path breaking cult movie Kaadhal Kondein. After few years he is now teaming up with Dhanush again and I am sure their parents will be very proud of them. As a movie, this is not as great as Aadukalam. But Dhanush's performance in Mayakkam Enna, I believe, is even better than in Aadukalam. M E, is still a very different entertainer from a Tamil pop movie team, which has the subtleties that we would expect only from art films and can be rightly called a parallel movie.
A budding photographer, who owes his life to his rich friends and parents, has great aspirations for his future. He finds that there is some kind of a feeling between him and his friends girlfriend.
With just the above plot line, ME would hold good as an ordinary romantic comedy. But it is not. Romance makes only half of the movie and there is more to it, I mean the life after marriage which is affected because of the heroes dreams, makes the other half of the movie. I will not call it a romantic comedy. It is about the life of a young man and more surprisingly about his wife too. Very seldom does this happen in India. The heroine in ME is anything than what we would expect from a typical Indian heroine. Especially in the second half, that is when the movie looks at the tough side of life, the heroine is even more important than the hero. The last time something like this occured, if my memory serves right, was in another Tamil movie, Mirugam, which had brilliant performances by Padmapriya.
The hero in ME, is anything but a hero. He is just an ordinary man with some talent in Photography. He behaves quite ordinarily throughout the movie. He does not have any fights to do, nor does he even slap any one. In fact it is the heroine who slaps the hero, more than once, with no reaction from the hero. How often we see something like that in an Indian movie. Even when there is an occassion for the hero to react macho, our hero just behaves like an ordinary guy who is unable to get angry or harm any one. But the heroine for all that matter is really strong. She even have only few scenes wherein we find her smiling. Especially in the second half, there are hardly any smiles from the heroine and she is just a powerful woman who takes care of her husband. I am surprised that Tamil cinema managed to give yet another strong heroine, immediately after the role of Anjaly in Engeyum Eppothum.
The movie is shot realistically. Almost 90% of the scenes have a subtle feel about it, which is commendable. Add to it the factor that the director treats the subject with a preconception that his audience is intelligent. This is not a movie meant for multiplex audiences. A Dhanush movie can never be one. The makers needs to be praised to do it this way hoping the audience will understand what they meant, even if it is subtle and intelligently told. It has come out good and it will only do good for the future of Tamil cinema. How this act saves the movie is by avoiding lot of unwanted explanations and dialogues. In fact they have understood and treated it as a clear visual medium and many important facts are just conveyed through visuals alone. Brilliant it was.
Few other brilliant factors, were the performance of Dhanush and the new heroine, Richa, brilliant cinematography, background scores and the settings. Some moments, like the one in which Dhanush begs to a great photographer to be an assistant, when he is struck by the beauty of nature and forgets to take his shot, when he realises that his best comes out when he works with available light with people and nature and not in studios and all were really brilliant.
However, the movie is not fault free. For all the brilliance, the climax of the story was not that great. I do not mean the final schot, wich was excellent, but the final turn of events. It was only at this point that movie went for routine. The director could have sticked with his subtle treatment through out, instead of losing it in some points. And no excuses at all for using the video and photographs of African Elephants, when the locations meant were Indian. And above all, the way the senior photographer treats the hero is quite stupid. Of course a senior photographer can use the photographs of a budding photographer and take the name, but in my experience I have never seen a senior still photographer behaving rudly with anyone approaching them. This is one good thing I found about Still Photography. Any photographer is normally glad to look at the efforts of budding photographers and to discuss with them about the subject. Even if they are not glad, they never behave rude. I have met many senior photographers and even when they were terribly busy they were nice and attentive. And even if I never became a big photographer, I was also receptive to anybody who came to me to talk about photography, later when I was seriously into it. So this character of the senior photographer was a bit over done. Anyways, what do I know, may be there is somebody like that.
I was really glad to watch this movie and will be glad to watch it again, even if I did not like the way it ended. I could easily connect with the hero too as I had gone through few moments like his character in my own photographic days. I was not comfortable with flash and indoor systems and always opted for available light. I also felt hurt when my photographs were used by few, may be its many not few, without any knowledge of mine and without any acknowledgements. Anyways.
Finally about the crowd in the theatre. It was embarassing the way the Malayaalee youth behaved inside the theatre. Sure, they might have expected a typical Tamil entertainer, but it was not. That does not mean they should behave in a way, which make watching movies a tedious procedure for anybody in the theatre. What a pity? I felt like killing those people, who were abusing and shouting inside the theatre.