Not long ago Bollywood witnessed the biopic of the yesteryear South Indian diva, "Silk" Smitha (The Dirty Picture), who was brought to life with an effervescent Vidhya Balan who added a certain dignity to the persona (at least posthumously). "Nadigaiyar Thilagam" is yet another biopic that is made on the yesteryear legendary actress, Savithri.
Incidentally, both the actresses hailed from the Telugu heartland and made merry at the Kollywood box office in their own capacity. Though their career span varied in terms of the period, and of course their on-screen persona were poles apart, their lives seem to share a common ground in terms of highs and lows. Let's leave this piece of trivia right here and dive into the thick of things.
The movie audaciously depicts the life of Savitri, the actress who carved out a niche for herself in the male-dominated South Indian film industry, not only with her brilliant performance on-screen but with her infectious personality and a solid persona that braved against the odds time and again. Her rise from an innocent teenager to a movie star with so many battles that she waged at every stage of her career both personally and professionally was brought on screen with dignity.
The beauty of the movie was that nowhere it tried to strike a politically correct equation. Especially in the latter half where the actress turns into an alcoholic was so convincingly brought on screen with little theatrics. For the people who have walked that era and film buffs who are aware of the history of the South Indian films, this movie would serve as a historical manuscript.
The casting was apt and everyone tried to stick to their respective character's sensibilities than the looks. Of course, Keerthy Suresh has truly lived the life of the yesteryear actress. Keerthy imbues an innate energy into the role with a cocktail of emotions. The way she laughed, cried, walked, delivered dialogues, confronted betrayal and fought for dignity, she oozes class with beauty. Only a national award for her physical and emotional makeover would do justice!
Dulquar as "Gemini Ganesan" played the perfect second fiddle. He has underplayed the role with certain nuances. His blatant attitude to double time Savithri was brought on the screen so effectively that we do not see immorality, but pure emotions at play. But, at a later point when Savitri realizes that Gemini is an outright womanizer, we root for her. Well done, Dulquar!
The Samantha-Vijay Devarakonda parallel track from the early 80s was another fine play by the director to make things a little light for the audience. Especially when the movie spans close to 180 minutes. For a middle-class Iyengar girl who is also a journalist (Samantha) to draw inspiration from a legendary actress to take the destiny into her own hands was sort of a meta-redemption. In other words, it is a flavour of masala suited for a biopic.
Music by Mickey was fine. The track "Thanthaay" which has a lovely rhythm to it was picturized beautifully with montages of the budding relationship between Savitri and Gemini Ganesan. The cinematographer, art director, makeup artists and the production design team at large score sumptuously for bringing to life characters and incidents from a bygone era. However, the Tamil dubbed version understandably stumbled during the portions where the character who is shown struggling to speak in Tamil, actually speaks fluent Tamil. This was part of the larger package which makes sense. Also, some unwanted songs at the end could have been curtailed in the interest of time.
The biopic stands tall and serves to celebrate the life and times of the great actress. Do watch it for the brilliant work from director Nag Ashwin and his team and a potential national award-winning performance from Keerthy Suresh!!