Film: 'Onbathu Roopa Nottu'; Cast: Sathyaraj, Archana, Nasser, Rohini; Director: Thankar Bachan; Ratings: ***1/2
Director Thankar Bachan has made a magnificent effort to create 'Onbathu Roopa Nottu' (Nine-Rupee Note) with a cast led by veteran Sathyaraj whose panache adds sparkle to every film.
With this film, Bachan has penned a superb screenplay. By using his own novel as a base, the director has authored some realistic dialogues to embellish the movie.
The neatly crafted film is a biography of an imaginary gold-hearted man named Madhavar Padayachi (Sathyaraj), narrated through a compendium of flashbacks as he makes his way back home in a bus from Madras (the old name of Chennai) only to die a lonely, sad death.
The small anticlimax - the loud wailing by villagers, male and female - leaves a sad feeling in the mind of the viewer.
Urvashi award-winner Archana has tried to overshadow Sathyaraj but ended up overdoing her role. She is too loud and her histrionics look very contrived. Nasser and Rohini play a Muslim couple lending a helping hand to Madhavar, and the two have done their roles with aplomb.
Lenin, as usual, is excellent with his editing. The frames of rural Panrutti are joined into one beautifully seamless visual. The flashbacks are brought in at appropriate moments to help the tale move forward and backward without resorting to use of different colours or their absence. The lone fight scene in the movie (no signs of choreography on this count) has been sensibly put together without the audience being hassled with unnecessary pyrotechnics.
Someone like actor-writer-director Visu (known for his penchant for making villains out of youths) may have given the movie additional melodramatic moments because most of the younger lot in the film are either wastrels or scheming rascals.
But it is the absence of such typically 'cinematic compromise' that lends more credibility to the proceedings.
Lyricist Vairamuthu and music composer Bharadwaj have created two memorable lilting numbers, 'Velayi...' and 'Maargazhiyil...', to etch poignant moments in 'Onbathu...'.
Good cinema always needn't be popular. It is obvious that all those who expect a wisecracking Sathyaraj will be sorely disappointed. Not only does the man eschew all attempts at slapstick comedy, he also goes out of his way to underplay the role with such finesse that it is a treat to watch.
In a very subtle way, Bachan has brought in the element of communal harmony - a certainly welcome sign in these troubled times. He gets full marks for his efforts in this one.
The Hindu funeral music in the background when the Muslim couple takes leave of a distraught Madhavar shows a deft directorial touch.
All in all, the simple, touching fare appeals to one's sensibilities. And it is a must-see for Sathyaraj's fans. Even if they miss their icon doing the usual things, they are bound to go gaga over his champagne histrionics.