A Bala-film is always awaited with great anticipation. For the director is noted for selecting beat themes, for his meticulous scripting, detailed characterisation and sensitive handling of the plot.
But this time what we get to experience is a shoddily crafted screenplay, inconsistent narration and situations that fail to connect.
Thaarai Thappattai with its superficial characters and synthetic take on their lives fails to rise to the standard the director has set for himself. The film begins well enough. Sannasi (Sasikumar) runs a troupe of folk artistes who performs at festivals. With no takers for the traditional arts, he adapts himself to the demands of the times, much to the chagrin of his father (Kumar).
For Sasikumar it’s a role different from the ones he had essayed earlier. And it’s to the actor’s credit that he has maintained consistency and done whatever he could within the limited confines of his character. GM Kumar, a consummate actor who rarely fails to deliver, plays the father with instinctive understanding. Confined to sitting in his house most of the time with booze for company and raving against his errant son, Kumar brings out the frustration and angst of the character.
The difference in thinking between the father steeped in tradition and the son who is more practical is brought out well in the early scenes. Sannasi’s acts when his troupe is reduced to penury; and the father’s boorish attitude when a group of foreigners enamoured of his singing showers praise on him, has a having-been-there feel. But its these two actors who hold the film together to an extent ,when the screenplay after a while starts disintegrating, never to recover.
Saucy and vibrant, Varalakshmi performs with uninhibited zest her role of Sooravali, unabashed in her expression of love for Sannasi in whose troupe she is a dancer. But after a while her effort goes wasted, when her character takes erratic turns and gets bogged down by the sheer volume of misery piled on it. And what remains in one’s memory of Sooravali, is her raunchy dances and her flaying hands and legs. Speaks little of character development here!
The director trying to tackle varied issues, loses focus many a time, distracting himself and the audience. Also some of the situations does remind one of similar ones in his own earlier films. If Naan kadavul had child trafficking, here its an organised flesh-trade racket that the villain of the piece Karupaiah indulges in. RK Suresh for a debutant handles his role with fair competence. But soon the menacing villain is made to seem like just a small link in the chain of some unsavoury happenings that seemed to be created just to emotionally manipulate the audience.
Wealthy men aspiring for children in the autumn of their lives, surrogate motherhood are brought in. But these moments are handled with an amateurish take, not expected from a director of Bala’s calibre. And then the plot steers to the vendetta of a man avenging the wrong done to a woman who had loved him and whom he had inadvertently pushed into a life of pain and misery. To convey an idea and to execute it on screen are two different matters. And fortunately, Thaarai Thappattai’s story of the plight of folk artistes in current times, gets lost somewhere in its translation.
Film: Thaarai Thappattai
Cast: Sasikumar, Varalakshmi, RK Suresh, GM Kumar