'Karmayogi', V K Prakash's adaptation of the Shakespearean play 'Hamlet', is strikingly faithful to the First Quarto text in the play - To be, or not to be, aye there's the point, To Die, to sleep, is that all? - in that it's the hesitance and irresoluteness that is evident through out, that rules the entire film. 'Karmayogi' simply isn't sure as to what it wants to turn out into; a simple, decipherable adaptation of Hamlet or a multilayered period piece that conceals depths of meaning in it. That it becomes neither is its tragedy.
It starts off with Rudran (Indrajith) realizing that his father has been murdered, and that his uncle Bhairavan (Thalaivasal Vijay) is the assassin. His mother Mankamma (Padmini Kolhapuri) marries her husband's murderer in haste, and Rudran waits and waits to avenge his father's death.
The Prince of Denmark in Shakespeare's play is the son of a local chieftain in V K Prakash's film; Rudran is thus the son of Valiya Rudran Gurukkal of the Chathothu ancestral house, who used to be a Kelipathram. Symbolizing Lord Siva's tryst with silence and penance, the Kelipathram would beg alms without uttering a word.
Claudius finds flesh and blood again in Bhairavan and springs to life yet again, and without doubt is one of the few characters who hasn't been lost in adaptation. The vileness is all in tact, and so is the shrewdness.
Mankamma is more of a pale adaptation of Gertrude, the Queen of Denmark, and Freud's Oedipal suggestions would certainly not hold ground when it comes to Rudran and Mankamma. Here, she appears more of a passive woman, who even seems to share her son's bewilderment at times.
Moonnumani does show symptoms of having lost it as does Ophelia, and we aren't really sure as to how she meets her end. In the film, we watch her corpse being carried away and can only wonder if she had indeed climbed a willow tree and had fallen to her death.
Polonius is Kidathan in 'Karmayogi' and as the chief councilor of Bhairavan, he is as conniving as ever. Laertes, his son has been transformed into Kanthan, though his fate in the film would be distinctly different from that of his adversary. Horatio becomes Shankunni, the man from nowhere, whose roots and origin we would never know.
'Karmayogi' would perhaps be pleased at vindicating Hamlet for the final deed that he is bound to commit, and hence makes Kidathan fall prey to Bhairavan, instead of the Prince himself. And while Kanthan is indeed poisoned in the climatic showdown, Rudran escapes unscathed to wreak vengeance on Claudius.
The costumes in 'Karmayogi' seem deliberately designed in stark contrast to the cultural references. This could be seen as an endeavor to set up a cross cultural bridge while adapting a foreign play that has a universal appeal, to a linguistic and cultural milieu that is decidedly eastern.
Indrajith in the title role does a decent job of playing the youngster, constantly at a loss to come to a decision. But I feel 'Karmayogi' is a film that has allowed the limelight to fall on Bhairavan, more than Rudran himself, and Thalaivasal Vijay's performance, no doubt, has considerably added to this impact. Padmini Kolhapure and Nithya Menon come up with impressive feats as well.
Perhaps what makes 'Karmayogi' half as effective as it should have been is the dreadfully slow pace at which events evolve. For a play that is celebrated for its critical junctures, this adaptation falls incredibly short of building on its timeless appeal.