“Sometimes honesty is a luxury most can’t afford”
-Kamal Hasan in Manmadan Ambu
The quote is the only take away from the otherwise hideous squib of a movie. It comes at a time when the detective played by Kamal fondly attests for the character of an actress he’d been spying upon, to her suspecting ex-fiancé played by Madhavan.
Honesty is a virtue elevated to the status of a luxury, thanks to the affordability attached to its practice.
At a time when well-articulated lies serve as ersatz diplomacy when most are content picking security over self-respect, convenience over correctness; feign bonhomie to stay relevant, cover conscience with brands & designation in the process carefully weeding out necessary friction of arguments and abuses; duplicity has become the order of the day, making honesty look like a celibacy vow.
Men who preserve their dignity without bowing at the altar of acceptance have become far and few, the endeavors of whom the system swats systematically with the neglect reserved to a fly.
This apartheid has left the tribe of honest men disgruntled in an island amidst a sea of naysayers, who practice political correctness as an uncontested religion. This is the space from which Prabhu operates to make peace with life.
He vrooms to Chennai on his bike, after being banished on account of sexual harassment charges albeit phony in pursuit of a champion to the tune of this song which epitomizes his spirit-
Sidu Sidu Sinam, Seerum Manam,
Ethirppugal Varum, Muraithu Kadakkiren
Slithering with Anger, with a racing heart,
As hindrances arise, I drive by snaring at them.
Kadu Kadu Mugam, Kaayum Ratham
Kothi Kothithidum, Vaegam Edukkiraen
With a rugged face, my heated up blood
is boiling hot, as I speed up in my journey.
Paninthu Nadakkum Adimai Illai
Not a slave to be oppressed,
My dignity is my strength.
Ithayam Maraikkum Udaikal Illai
Not the one to disguise his heart’s desire,
has a straight and naked mind.
Ennai Kattum Vilangillai
Enakkenna Bayam Illai
Go on, Go on,
There is no handcuff to hold me down,
Go on, Go on,
I do not fear anyone.
Santhosh Narayanan’s score isn’t just a sore thumb sticking out for a chartbuster functionality kind of thing. But is rather organically woven through the narrative, content with being a faithful shadow that doesn’t aspire beyond the story’s movement.
Anger is the most traded currency in this movie about under dogs and misfits. Prabhu uses it to fence himself from people who he considers to be unworthy of his bandwidth. He uses it to keep slimy low lives at bay from his fence’s precincts. He uses it to conceal an indelible disappointment, like the one involving his wife dropping him like a bad habit for another man. He uses it to size up the tenacity of a protégé’s resilience at other times.
If anger was an appliance, he could easily be the most holistic user of the same.
Madhavan’s Prabhu sees right into men, peeling through every external veneering with scant reverence for either discretion or empathy. He sieves a person’s intention behind a display of their anger, for he only knows it too well to be an elaborate conceit through a life time of practice.
When he comes eye to eye with the purpose of his trip, a prodigious champion lurking in the foul-mouthed Madhi, a slum dwelling fish vendor who uses the same modus operandi as his-anger explosions to fight her motley of inner demons( insecurity, poverty, rejections); he recognizes a counterpart who goes on to become an unlikely soulmate.
So he takes her under his wings not charitably, but as a ticket to his long evaded redemption. He is no all-encompassing coach displaying cavity giving sweetness. And she is no empathizing balm to the soul either, for she embarrasses him to his end of endurance and bends him to the point of breakage. Yet he finds patience to see purpose in this train wreck, employing method to madness; managing to soften around her serrated edges; seeping from her psychological state to physical state of trust by the journey’s apogee.
Madhavan’s angry young man portrayal reminds one of Kamal Hasan’s from Punnagai Mannan which also involved a disgruntled mentor fighting his inner demons while coping with a hard nut protégé to handle. While Hasan’s dancer trainer was a failed recluse who looked up to romance as an institution to redeem, Madhavan’s Prabhu is a bohemian man who pukes at the sight of moral values.
This journey is set like a proverbial taming of the shrew. Just that it is as much about the tamer’s learnings and shortcomings as the shrew’s. It isn’t a conventional culmination to a predictable destination. It’s about simmering tempers and expletives as a fond form of communication.
The two deploy emotions as a language itself like Neanderthals, making language to convey emotions seem like a run-of-the-mill inorganic process. You almost sweat from the heat of their non-verbal exchanges through the course of the movie.
It is one of those rare movies where character establishment isn’t an incidental technique to a larger scheme, but the very objective itself. It seemed to me like the boxing scenario, politics and sexual exploitation were rhetoric devices pulled off with aplomb only to vest the story with its dynamism.With due respect to the efforts that have gone in, even if it was about football and its ecosystem it would’ve left a similar impact.
For what left me with a sore throat as the end credits started rolling was the sight of a teary eyed Prabhu with a puppy dog look pining for Madhi’s embrace.
From being a dysfunctional womanizer who walks into an association meeting with a can of beer at the outset, to a vulnerable person who breaks down in the embrace of an honest woman in the end, it is one of the most endearing stories of a flawed protagonist told on celluloid.