Cast: Lakshman, Karthika, Manoj K Bharathi, Meenal, Manoj Kumar
Rural romances have been his forte. And it would not be an exaggeration to say that Bharathiraja probably was the one to depict best the rustic milieu in all its flavours, as he weaved a soulful romance around it.
After a fairly long hiatus, the ace director returns with yet another rural love saga, in a period set-up. But this time around, he seems to have lost his touch.
The early scenes depict the evolving romance between Annakodi and Kodiveeran, both belonging to neighbouring villages. Kodiveeran, the son of a cobbler, encounters Annakodi when he brings his goats to graze near her village.
Their bickering soon develops into love, the duo finding secret places to meet. But the scenes of their evolving love are brief, insipid and uninteresting to make any impact. Later, in the second half of the narration, the director in a flashback does depict more moments of their early love. If these scenes had come earlier, we probably would have related more sympathetically to the couple’s woes and mental turmoil when they get separated.
Karthika who was rather stiff in ‘Ko’, shows a marked improvement in performance here as Annakodi. Debutant Lakshman is just about adequate as Kodiveeran. The characters in general, and the happenings lack depth, so they fail to leave any impact. The village is under the control of the evil duo, the local landlord and his son Sadaiyan. The latter gets into conflict with Kodiveeran, and makes a play for Annakodi. The villagers, financially indebted to the father-son duo, are treated like bonded labourers, their women forcibly carried away.
Manoj plays Sadaiyan adeptly, using his body language, voice modulation and expression to good effect. He is particularly good in the scene where aware that Annakodi had met her old lover, he wickedly taunts and abuses her. Sadaiyan has his own inadequacies, and there is the repeated scene of a flashback to explain it. But it is so shoddily handled, that it generates unintended laughter, than any sympathy for the character.
The symbolic shots to depict pain and agony in the life of Kodiveeran - like the graphic shots of a tree on fire and lightning flashes - seem outdated. There is too much of spitting, biting, licking and sucking of fingers, all either tiring or laughable after a time. The second half is dominated by Sadaiyan, who tries to intimidate a rebellious Annakodi. But the gutsy girl refuses to be cowed down. It has a weak climax, predictable to the end.
Long and dreary, and testing one’s patience at times, it’s a disappointing fare from the ace director.