'Nandalala' (Tamil, Emotional Drama, 2010)
Cast: Mysskin, Snigdha, Master Ashwath Ram
'Nandalala' traces the adventurous road journey of an unusual couple (a little boy and an older man) and the odd people they encounter along the way.
The boy, who is living with his grandmother, sets out in search of his mother whom he had seen only in a photograph. He meets his road companion Mani (Mysskin, who has scripted and directed the film as well), and the man offers to take him to his mother. Though they are strangers, the duo strike a strong rapport as the trip progresses.
With two successful films behind him as a writer-director, Mysskin joins the rapidly growing list of directors-turned-actors.
While the Kurosawa influence is obvious in some of his shots, Mysskin’s greater inspiration seems to be Takeshi Kitano, another Japanese filmmaker.
To those who have seen Takeshi’s Kikujiro, the plot of 'Nandalala' would be quite familiar.
In fact, they would find it an almost exact replica of the earlier film. While the crucial points remain the same, the director brings in some superficial variation by way of character add-ons.
While Kikujiro is a bit of a bully and a tad eccentric, Mani here is mentally challenged and given to sudden outbursts when something angers him. Mentally challenged people have their quirks, and Mani, at most times, is either looking down or away. Scenes like the early one, where in a deserted place, a man traumatizes the boy (a camera-friendly Ashwath guided well by the director) and is rescued by Mani remind you of the Japanese version. A few add-ons include the hooker on the road (Snigdha comes out well in the scene where she pours her heart out); and the three men who try to forcibly take her away. The mother’s presence in the earlier film, a short passing reference, takes on a heavy dose of sentiment here.
The road trip traverses mostly through dry landscape and a deserted highway, with not much excitement to it. Giving a variation through the framing of his shots, and capturing the action impressively is Mahesh Muthuswamy, the cinematographer.
What is outstanding in the film is Illaiyaraja’s exceptional musical score. Inspiring and moving, it lends an emotional intensity to the scenes.
It is understandable if a filmmaker has been inspired by the work of another, and has used it as a reference for his film. But replicating not just the concept, but almost the entire graph of the plot and narration without giving due credit to the original is blatant plagiarism.
It’s not just an embarrassment to the maker, but to the viewer too. But some makers probably go by the maxim that imitation is the best form of flattery!