Movie - Madharasappattinam (Tamil)
Director - Vijay
Producer - Kalpathi S Aghoram, Udhayanidhi Stalin
Cast - Arya, Amy Jackson, Nasser, Alex O'Neill, VMC Hanifa, MS Bhaskar, Kishore, Jeeva, Jack James
Music - GV Prakash Kumar
Cinematography - Nirav Shah
Editing - Anthony
Art Director - Selvakumar
Stunts - Manohar Verma
Story, Screenplay, Dialogues - Vijay
Release Date - 9th July 2010
Priyadarshan would be proud. His protege Vijay has not only made a very good period film in Tamil (like his grand Kalapani/Siraichaalai), he has also been 'inspired' by 2 huge blockbusters in the period genre. Vijay who has done only remakes so far in Tamil (Kireedam, Poi Solla Porom), ventured into a very tough project as his third, and he has succeeded in making it his career-best work. Its been ages since a period film came in Tamil (other than Imsai Arasan 23am Pulikesi) and out of the few period films in Tamil, even fewer films featured the Indian independence struggle. But here, Vijay does not tell the tale of the independence struggle. Instead, he narrates an endearing love story with the Indian freedom struggle as a backdrop.
85 year old Amy Smith is suffering from a blood clot in her brain and has to be operated almost immediately to avoid serious consequences. But before her operation, she makes a decision to go to India to find the whereabouts of a man named Parithi. Cut to the past, where Amy Wilkinson (Amy Jackson), the daughter of the Governor of Madras, has just arrived in India. Amy meets a young man Parithi (Arya) during her stay in Madras, and slowly falls in love with him, much to the displeasure of her parents and fiancé Commissioner Robert Ellis (Alex O'Neill). Robert, along with the Governon also have plans of snatching the land of Parithi and his fellow villagers who all make a living by washing the clothes of those foreigners. The past and present come alive through the eyes of Amy (Doraiamma to Parithi) in her journey to find Parithi.
The structure of the screenplay is religiously borrowed from James Cameron's blockbuster Titanic. From the first scene till the last scene, the influence of Titanic is very evident and in your face. And the other film which has influenced him majorly is Ashutosh Gowariker's Lagaan. Arya's introduction, learning the language, the rain song, VMC Hanifa's character and finally the gusti match between Parithi and Robert with their land as the prize money; along with costumes, art direction, etc. are all out of Lagaan. Taking scenes from movies which almost everyone has seen and making them work again is a tough job, and Vijay handles it quite well actually. But in spite of these obvious inspirations, Vijay still manages to deliver a pretty good film.
What works for the movie is the romance and its old world charm. The movie takes the audience through the Madras of yore and suddenly gives images of the new Madras, which is now Chennai, in striking contrast. And in between all the land issues, indpendence struggle and tension, a lovely romance blooms between the lead pair Arya and Amy Jackson, which is truly endearing and one of the best aspects of the film. The romantic portions are narrated with a tinge of humour making them much more enjoyable. The second half gets a little long, but catches pace with the chase scene at the Central station and surroundings.
Arya is very good as the 'brave man' Parithi. He has very little dialogues, but still manages to charm you with his act. Comedy as always, is his forte, and he shines in the comic scenes. His beefed up look has helped him a lot in the action sequences. But the movie belongs to Amy Jackson. As the beautiful Doraiyamma, she wins your heart immediately. Her Tamil is wonderful and she looks exotic when she comes dressed in a pudavai. She slightly resembles a young Aishwarya Rai in her looks, and is a very good actress as well. The old lady who played her part in the present timeline, was very poor and did not match up to Amy's skills. Alex O'Neill is menacing and has done his part well. This might perhaps be VMC Hanifa's last movie. The great character actor passed away this March. He looks very unhealthy in the movie and his voice seems like it has been dubbed partly by him and partly by some mimicry artistes. But still, he gets some hilarious lines and scenes and he plays it to perfection. Nasser is superb in a short role. The rest of the cast, especially the villagers are very good and they are responsible for all the wonderful light moments in the first half of the movie.
Recreating the Madras of 1940s is no easy task and Vijay's team has done some extraordinary work towards it, transporting us back to that era. Nirav Shah's cinematography and Selvakumar's art direction go hand in hand and are certainly award-worthy material. Even though some of the houses look straight out of Priyadarshan's Kanchivaram, the art director has shown in skill in creating the atmosphere for the movie. A completely clean Koovam river which people used as a source of water is itself an amazing sight. There are trams, old buses, government buildings, the Washermanpet, nameboards, the old Spencer's building, Central Station, etc. Everything has been recreated wonderfully through sets and CGI. Anthony's editing between the past and the present (shot in different colour tones by Nirav Shah) works very well, but he could have trimmed the second half a little bit. Stunts by Manohar are very good as well.
GV Prakash has gone his uncle AR Rahman's way in Madharasappattinam, scoring some classy, old world music for the movie. This is perhaps his best work after Veyil and Aayirathil Oruvan. 'Meghame Meghame' by the legend MS Vishwanathan, superstar Vikram and Nasser is shot a la 'Ghanan Ghanan' from Lagaan. But is still a great song. 'Pookkal Pookkum' is a beautiful romantic duet between Arya and Amy and the Lagaan inspiration creeps in here also with Amy dancing in a red dress singing English lines like in 'O Rey Chhori'. 'Vaamma Doraiyamma' is an endearing song in which Arya shows Amy around Madharasappattinam, showing us all the landmarks of Chennai during that period. With some hilarious English translations by VMC Hanifa thrown in for good measure. The sad song in the second half could have been avoided but its a good song nevertheless. It was a surprise to see Amy Jackson lip-syncing to Tamil lyrics much better than the usual Tamil movie heroines. Background Score is also excellent, with a lot of inspiration from Rahman's style of composing.
On the whole, Madharasappattinam is a pretty good movie which transports you back to the Chennai during the last days of British rule in India, and tells a nice love story set in that period. If you're ready to forgive the obvious inspirations from Titanic and Lagaan, there are chances that you might end up liking this movie. The title card of the movie is innovatively done on the Madras presidency map and the end credits show the Madras of yore and the Chennai of today's times. The audience do not leave the hall till they see the last frames showing the old Spencer's building and the new Spencer's Plaza. Vijay has proved that he is a talented director and someone to look forward to in the future, with Madharasappattinam.
Rating - 3.5/5