Director: Jeethu Joseph
Cast: Kamal Haasan, Gauthami, Nivedha Thomas, Esther
Rating: 4 stars
Riffing a sophisticated mix of the human condition and a simplistic storyline, the Kamal Haasan starrer Papanasam is a movie that engages your senses while managing to dispel any misgivings on a timely basis. In a tour-de-force that stretches beyond the 2 hour and 40 minutes mark, director Jeethu Joseph has recreated the original magic of Drishyam but with a more localized flavor to boot. The stage largely belongs to Kamal Haasan, whose eyes tell as much a story as his vocal chords.
In Papanasam, we have a family of four who live in a rural district of southern Tamilnadu. The breadwinner of this family is Suyambulingam (Kamal Haasan) - a self-taught and self-made person who runs valuable businesses including running a local cable in the village. Although lacking in formal education, Suyambu nevertheless has a well rounded instinct and he often lives by his wits. The secret to his growth and evolution are movies, and he views at least a couple of flicks every night without fail, picking up new attitudes and behaviors in the process. Additionally, Suyambu is also a good man, and his goodness is made evident throughout the film. He has a loving wife Rani (Gauthami) and two loving daughters, both of whom are still in school. His life at the village gives him security, a sense of belonging, peace and quiet, and hope for the future. Living is rather desirable here and the grass cannot be greener anywhere else. What could possibly go wrong? Well, something does.
Suyambu’s elder daughter Selvi (Niveda Thomas) lands in a seriously sweltering soup when she accidentally kills a boy Varun (Roshan). Selvi hits Varun in the head after he shows a video of her, naked and taking a bath, on his cell phone. This flips the serenity with which the family had lived up until then on its head. Now they are on a race to keep their heads one step ahead of the police officers, most of whom firmly believe that the fault lies on Suyambu. After a certain point, both parties know the truth, but the dexterity with which Suyambu and his family avoids arrest while simultaneously living with the mental and moral consequences of such outright lying forms the rest of the film.
The ingenuity of Papanasam is to be found in its writing. Although the plot and storyline are rather simple, the characters have been given a deftness of touch that makes them not exceed their limits. A large part of the movie is about trudging the moral landscape which in turn makes us emote. There’s a human being dead here, and Kamal Haasan is in the centre of this storm. What more, the dead person is the son of IG Geetha Prabhakar (Asha Sharath) , thereby lending this particular case an extra level of importance. Lies beget more lies from Suyambu, which can only be morally and emotionally degrading. And the police officers themselves use harassment and force - even on children, which makes us question their power trip, despite being in the right. Nor was the dead boy free of guilt either, leaving us constantly fluctuating in our judgments.
Large part of the credit for such a feat must go to Kamal Haasan. He grabs a huge portion of the screen space and does an excellent job. His eyes tell many tales, his body language exudes vitality, and he seems to have worked particularly hard in learning the Tirunelveli slang of Tamil with which the film is set. He acts with affect and outright emotion is often withheld - and for good reasons. Nothing is lost on him, nor are his enemies unaware of this: even this fact is registered in his brain. Kamal is given ample support by his real life mate Gauthami, who also plays his wife onscreen. It is a befitting comeback for the ace actress who has proved her mettle in a pivotal role. Niveda Thomas as the elder daughter gives a splendid act and helps create the mood and atmosphere of the flick. Child artiste Esther Anil who plays Kamal’s younger daughter Meena is stunning. Kalabavan Mani as the slimy cop and Asha Sharath as the headstrong police officer have given power packed performances. Other cast including Ilavarasu, MS Bhaskar, Arul Dass, Sreeram chip in their best in supporting roles.
With scenic locations in the region to provide ample eye candy, cinematographer Sujith Vaassudev has produced great visuals. Music and background by Ghibran is fitting, and a refreshing aspect of the film is that it doesn’t demand much choreography. Clocking close to 3 hours, Papanasam is sure to be a fulfilling experience and is bound to satisfy family moviegoers. A must watch movie!...