A still from Pariyerum Perumal.
Director: Mari Selvaraj
Cast: Kathir, Anandhi, Yogi Babu, Marimuthu
At a time when Tamil cinema is witnessing just formulaic films, here comes a movie Pariyerum Perumal that dares to traverse not just a different path, but portrays its characters with a right dash of heart, reason and poignancy. Taking a leaf out of his own life when he was studying at law college in Tirunelveli, director Mari Selvaraj, a protégé of award winning filmmaker Ram has weaved a hard hitting story on caste discrimination that still prevails in our society. His firm grip over the medium is apparent, as the debutant never goes over board despite handling a sensitive subject, which could trigger off communal clash if muddled up.
The movie set in 2005 in Puliyangulam in Tirunelvali and it opens with Pariyerum Perumal (Kathir) and his friends bathing their dogs in a small pond and having fun. Soon, they see yet another group walking towards the pond. And through their conversation, we come to know that they are from a lower caste whereas the other group belongs to an upper caste. Pariyan and co leaves the place, but the former realizes that his dog Karuppie is not with him. Much to his shock, he sees Karuppie tied to the railway track but before he could run and save, tragedy strikes. Those are distressing moments and the potent Karuppie song that follows gives us a hint of what’s in store.
The story quickly moves and now Pariyan wants to pursue law and he enrolls in the law college in Tirunelveli. And when the principal questions him about his future goals, he says he wants to become a doctor. ‘Doctor?’ asks the puzzled principal. ‘Yes, like Dr. Ambedkar,’ he replies.
He faces embarrassment because of his poor English. His classmate Jothi Mahalakshmi (Anandhi) aka Jo belonging to an upper caste lends a helping hand and eventually develops a soft corner for him. Things do not go well with Jo’s cousin (Lingeesh) who studies in the same class. When the innocent Jo invites Pariyan to her sister's wedding he is humiliated to the core and beaten up badly. But Jo is not aware of it! Though Pariyan starts avoiding Jo, the latter is not willing to let go her friendship without knowing the reasons for his behavior. This is when Jo’s family, who are threatened by their relationship, decides to bump off the lower caste Pariyan with a hired killer. The rest is all about how Pariyan overcomes all these oppressions while taking things in his own stride.
Mari Selvaraj also commendably portrays how honor killings are passed off as accidents and suicides. He intercuts Pariyan's story with episodes of an aged man who is a hired killer and is proud of murdering lower caste people falling in love with upper caste, calling it proudly ‘Kula saamikku Seiyyara Sevai (It’s a service to my family deity).
Kathir is the best choice for the lead protagonist and he carries the entire film on his shoulders and has given a nuanced performance. His speed and agility warrants mention. And the kind of hard work he has put in is inconceivable and it shows! Anandhi is equally impressive as a naïve girl and pulls off the emotional scene in the pre climax portion with ease and élan. Yogi Babu as Pariayan’s friend once again proves his versatility in comedy and scores for the most part. Marimuthu has given a neat feat. The old man who does honor killing is menacing.
The best part is Mari has never inclined to get preachy at any point of the film and instead leaves the audience to be the judge. Mari is superbly aided by his technicians namely Sridhar who has worked wonders with his alluring cinematography (mostly in gimbal) and Santhosh Narayanan’s intense music, be it folk or soul or high tempo numbers. Mari’s ending of the film with a positive note is commendable. Pariyerum Perumal is a film that goes beyond your expectations and should not be missed at any cost!