Sarvam Thaala Mayam Review
Director Rajiv Menon's dormancy has come to an end with 'Sarvam Thaala Mayam' which is only his third directorial in a career spanning more than 25 years. Of course, he has been busy cranking his camera and infusing his infectious visual style for other filmmakers, but his last 'Kandukonden Kandukonden' released in the summer of 2000 when I was just out of high school. Directors like Rajiv Menon truly seem to believe in 'quality more than quantity' and a provocation to narrate a story that augments the senses.
'Sarvam Thaala Mayam', a musical, is a story of an underdog (a 'local payyan' to be precise), Peter Johnson (a surprisingly well-fitted G.V.Prakash) who climbs all the way up in the Carnatic music ecosystem that is meant to be the forte of a particular elite class. The movie also touches upon the upper caste ego that prevails in the Carnatic music circuit which has been least explored till now.
Musicals are a rarity in Tamil cinema. Yesteryear legend K.Balachandar has explored such subjects in 'Sindhu Bhairavi', 'Duet' and 'Apoorva Raagangal'. However, all these films fell more on the lines of a drama that explores relationships, where music merely served as a backdrop. However, here, this is the first time that music in itself is the subject. It could be equated to any sports film like a 'Kanaa' or an 'Irudhi Suttru' where the exposition has a linear graph that tends to rise all the way up with a morale-boosting climax.
The attempt to democratise Carnatic music by acclaimed artists like T.M.Krishna has found a place in this movie. Also, the film tries to open the Pandora's box and decodes the myth in the raagas, thaalas and such nuances. Though the majority of the audience didn't get the exact meaning of what was going on, the director has infused commercial elements intelligently for it to reach the audiences.
A.R. Rahman's music is the soul for this movie. It tries to connect both the extremes of the society with a single thread, that is music. Mainly during the climax portion, the fusion that was played using Mridangam was one of those master classes that would stay in the classy books of Kollywood.
The movie took a nosedive, in the second half, with the leading man getting lost in the different lush green locales in a span of a beautiful song ("Sarvam Thaala Mayam"). However, his journey is justified to an extent. The heroine, Aparna Balamurali as a Malayali nurse, was natural, but her role and character were underwritten. Nedumudi Venu as Vembu Iyer has delivered the most seasoned performance as the angry egoistic coach with a tender heart. Vineeth's role as an antagonist was apt.
It's Rajiv Menon's classy comeback with a thought-provoking and least explored subject that lays out the facts in a raw fashion without concealing anything for want of diplomacy. Such bold filmmakers are a rarity, and it might as well answer the question as to why he makes films once in 2 decades. Well done!
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