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Natchathiram Nagargiradhu

Natchathiram Nagargiradhu Movie Review

by rameshe

Critic’s Rating : / 5

Natchathiram Nagargiradhu Movie Review : A vivid contemplation on love in the time of honour killings

Natchathiram Nagargiradhu Movie Review: The female lead of Natchathiram Nagargiradhu, Rene (Dushara Vijayan, who brilliantly captures the shrouded layers of this enigmatic character), is someone who lives life on her own terms. She even wants people to call her using the name that she has given to herself instead of her actual name Tamizh. She is aware that she is a broken mirror, who cracked with every little insults that had been thrown at her right from her childhood because of her caste, but is also confident enough to proclaim that “I desperately want to show I am a stronger and braver person”. This, she does, with her non-nonsense attitude. She’ll speak what comes to her mind, do what she wishes to, and eat what she wants to. “Who are you to question it?”

Like Rene, Pa Ranjith’s Natchathiram Nagargiradhu, too, is an unabashedly outspoken film — on not just the politics that exists behind love, but also on the insignificance of our lives (“Naamellaam oru chinna thugal dhaan-nu accept pannikitaale sema jolly-a irukkalaam”), the acceptance of our flaws (“Political correctness doesn’t come in a day; it’s a life-long process”), the need for inclusivity, and even on Ilaiyarajaa as a musical genius and a figure of empowerment.

Ranjith makes his points by telling us the story of a theatre group in Pondicherry, which decides to stage a new play that will be about love and the politicisation of it. There are love stories being played out within this group, too. There is Rene, who has broken up with Iniyian (Kalidas Jayaram, effective in a role that feels underwritten compared to the other two lead roles), whose remark implying her caste is one of the many cracks she has chosen to use to make herself stronger. There is Arjun (a fantastic Kalaiyarasan), a conservative, small-town guy with movie-star dreams and views shaped by movies, who gets attracted to Rene, even though he is engaged to Roshini, a girl his family has decided to marry him to. There is Sekar, a middle-aged guy, trying to win over the heart of Merlin, a French girl, who is at least half his age. There is Sylvia, a transwoman, who has managed to find a man who loves her in Joel. There is a lesbian couple who are open about their relationship, a gay couple who are still figuring things out, a married man who is on a long-distance relationship… Then, there is Zubin, the director of the troupe, whose marriage is an inter-faith one.

Despite being a film about love, at no point does Ranjith romanticise it. The Rene-Iniyan track, which is structured in a conventional manner (lovers who have broken up, but unable to forget each other), is presented in a matter-of-fact manner. Even the scene in which they first meet is not presented as a meet-cute, but as something that informs us about their characters — Iniyan is fascinated by Rene’s views on life while she sees the toxicity in him. A bike trip through picturesque locations in Kerala, at a stage when they are tentatively exploring the indescribable attraction that they are starting to have for each other, turns into a moment to mull over the history of oppression; it’s the exact opposite of what you get in a Gautham Vasudev Menon film.

Ranjith carries over the filmmaking flair that made Sarpatta Parambarai feel so visceral. The cinematography by Kishor Kumar mimics the looseness of the screenplay, gliding along with the characters or getting intimate with them, making us a fly on the wall, as they go about putting together the play while dealing with their personal issues. Selva RK’s editing, too, matches this approach, letting the scenes linger just a beat longer, which adds fluidity to the visuals. The seamless way in which the trio brings together the events happening at multiple places in the pre-intermission stretch is a superb display of control over their craft.

There are times when the filmmaker changes the form. A cinematic set-up of a scene in which the characters discuss the theme of their play turns into a documentary-ish discussion on love, caste, honour killings. A detour involving Arjun becomes a satirical short film on caste in its own right. We even get documentary-like interviews with survivors and video footage of actual honour killings in the latter part of the film. No community is spared and even the politics around dress and food are touched upon. There are also scenes that mirror the aesthetics of a play. This blending of forms actually gives the film a vibe that is very new-age (like Tenma’s unconventional songs and score) and makes it an experience that shouldn’t be missed.

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