The intention of Bala

Five times or more over the last two weeks I have seen beggars on the roads of Chennai and thought about their lives. Till now, the only thing that I have done is to either turn away or occasionally give them a coin, but never have I thought about how they live, where they sleep or what they eat. Now, one thinks about them with a lot more sympathy. The first thought that comes to the mind on most occasions is whether these people on the streets are ‘owned’ or controlled by anyone, does a begging mafia exist behind them? It is the impact that Bala’s Naan Kadavul has had on the mind. It is very very rare for a film to make us relate to images that we see in real life, even a fortnight after having seen the movie. Now, I don’t know the truth or otherwise about anything that was shown in Naan Kadavul. Before watching the movie, I never used to spare a second thought about the beggars. But now, it is a natural thought process. Naan Kadavul has made many people think deeply about what they see around them everyday.

Whether Naan Kadavul is a great movie or otherwise is a

different question. But the fact that cannot be disputed is that, at some level, the movie deeply affects the mind. The movie has shown us the reality (maybe slightly exaggerated, I hope) of the lives of the people who beg for a living. Now, every time I see a beggar, I want to know more than just what I see, it is as if I am hoping that the truth behind them is not as brutal as what was shown in Naan Kadavul. Bala has succeeded in making images that are coming back to us the instant we see a beggar. That is the hallmark of a director who knows his trade. Movies have the ability to make us feel all conceivable emotions that are there, but not for long. We might feel romantic, sad or patriotic, but the feeling lasts only as long as the movie does or at best, for a while longer. But Naan Kadavul has continued to gnaw at the mind over a long period of time.

What gave Naan Kadavul the ability to stay in our minds for much longer than any other film that we can think of? Maybe, it is the courage of the director who has chosen to show us images that are haunting, not preferring to give any room to make the visuals pleasing or aesthetic. Bala’s intentions are very clear, he has certain things to tell us and he is not going to mince any words. He has relied on strong doses that will affect the mind for a long time. In fact, I feel that the images of Naan Kadavul are like a wound in the mind that is opened up each time I see a beggar on the street. Watching Naan Kadavul was not a pleasant experience, it hurt somewhere and that pain is relived every time I see something similar. I am not sure whether anyone else has felt the same way that I have, but many have told me that the movie made them cringe and look away from the screen many times. But it is that stark and hard hitting depiction in the movie that is now not allowing me to look away from a beggar on the street. If this is the effect that Bala desired to have on our minds, then hats off to the director. Immediately after watching the movie, the first assessment was that the director had failed to strike a balance between the depiction of cruelties and the main plot itself. Now, thinking back, one feels that the director did exactly what he wanted to. The focus on beggars, their lives and troubles and the relatively lesser screen time of Arya are calculated and intentional moves by Bala to have the desired effect. It would be wrong to think that a director of Bala’s abilities failed to notice that his script has lesser space for Arya to perform, he intended it to be that way.

This also says a lot about the casting of the movie. We know by now that Bala had cast real life beggars in his movie, they have brought that authenticity on frame which could not have been provided by any actor. It is this attention to detail and uncompromising picturisation of Bala that has made the movie hit and haunt us for a long time. Whether Naan Kadavul is a great movie or otherwise is a different question, but it definitely has made many people look at beggars for a second longer and wonder about the truth of what they saw on screen. Whether this can translate into something bigger is a question only time will answer.

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