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Review by : Behindwoods review board
Starring: Arya, Amy Jackson, Nasser, VMC.Haneefa, M. S. Bhaskar.
Direction: A L Vijay
Music: G V Prakash Kumar
Production: Kalapathi S. Aghoram
Get ready to be transported back into Madras. The makers have promised a trip from Chennai to Madharasapattinam and that is exactly what has been delivered through this movie. But, is it just a trip back in time or is there more to look forward to? Before we begin analyzing Madharasapattinam for what it is, let us lay down
lines that quite clearly define what it is not. Any movie set in the pre-independence era carries the expectations of portraying the freedom struggle. Madharasapattinam makes little or no attempts to get into that. Yes, the events of the freedom struggle and subsequent achievement of independence from British rule are important events that have a bearing on the story. But, those events have not been shown in detail, nor have any of the legendary names associated with the freedom been depicted. So, Madharasapattinam is not a documentation of the freedom struggle and events associated with it. Then what is it?

It is a love story set against the backdrop of India that is on the verge of independence. A young British lady (Amy Jackson) is visiting India. She is from a family that is well connected to the highest echelons of power in the Madras presidency. As it is, tensions are brewing between the British and Indians all over the country. That rubs off on a small washer man community in Madras who stand in the way of the powerful British personnel when they attempt to evict them from their place. It hurts the ego of a highly placed British officer who challenges a young dhobi (Arya) for a one-on-one which would decide the fate of the place. The British lady happens to be a silent spectator to all that transpires between the British and the dhobi community; she notices the young man who has the courage to stand up to a mighty force. Soon, she finds herself attracted to this man who also seems to be reciprocating those feelings. But, the proximity between the two does not escape the eyes of the power hierarchy who look down upon the relation as a disgrace to the family and the empire. With freedom fast approaching and the British getting ready to leave the country, time is running out for the couple who have to make a decision between love and country. What happens to the love story that faces the wrath of mighty empire whose ego has been badly bruised by the freedom struggle? Watch Madharasapattinam to find out.

The storyline and the events might sound a bit familiar to you. Yes, there are points in the movie where one is able to draw parallels to other great movies. The opening portions remind us of Titanic, while the challenge thrown by the British at the dhobi community gives us a Lagaan feel. But, in spite of all this, Madharasapattinam has a unique identity and the reason for that is in the title of the film itself - Madras. That is the single biggest highlight of the movie.

Full marks to the team of Madharasapattinam for recreating Madras, which existed only in photos, history books and minds of people who lived during that era. Though most of us do not have a very clear idea about how Madras would have looked like before 1947, the picturisation is good enough to convince us that this is an authentic representation. First on the order of merit for making this possible is the art department headed by Selva Kumar. We are taken to a Mount Road (not Anna Salai) that is not overflowing with traffic, the old Washermanpet, the haloed building of the Madras Central and the Buckingham Canal which once was the backbone of a very efficient drainage system of the city. We are even shown a Cooum that is not filthy; which is hard to imagine, considering the state of the river these days. All sets are exquisitely constructed and look very original. Hordes of junior artistes have been employed in proper period attire to add to the authentic feel. What is provided by the art department in terms of magnificent sets has been enhanced into a wonderful on screen experience through Nirav Shah’s lens. The cinematographer is in top form capturing Madras in all its glory. The tone adopted to give a period theme is apt.

Other technical aspects of Madharasapattianam also a delight, especially G.V. Prakash’s background music. The small touches that he has provided, especially when the love between the lead couple begins to bloom, are wonderful. The songs too are a treat, especially ‘Vaama Dorayamma’ and ‘Aaruyire’. Though there is a feeling that adding a few western pieces here and there would have made it even more perfect for the movie. Costumes of the entire cast are almost perfect, especially Amy Jackson’s.

Performances are a real delight in Madharasapattinam. The one who walks away with the top honors is Amy Jackson for a beautiful portrayal of a lady torn between her love and the mighty empire. She looks absolutely beautiful, emotes well through her expressive eyes and is able to earn the sympathy of the audiences during tough times. Arya is perfect for the character of the dhobi who is also a wrestler. He is intense, manly, yet soft and romantic when it is required. A convincing performance. The rest of the cast too is spot on in delivering the goods. The British cast looks convincing as the colonial power. VMC Haneefa delights as the dubashi (translator) lending many moments of fun as he plays around with languages that he does not know. Nasser brings power and intensity to the character that he portrays. The lady who portrays the aged Amy Jackson, through whose memory the story is told, also impresses a great deal

While there are positives aplenty for Madharasapattinam, there are one or two aspects that could have been better. The dialogues do not seem to be the kind that would have been spoken before 1947, the lines look very contemporary, especially the Tamil dialogues. One can overlook this in a commercial film. Using the proper 1940s Madras Tamil could have worked either way for the movie. There are quite a few English dialogues (understandably), but they do not look like an inconvenience or act as a barrier between the film and the audiences; the subtitles have been done well.

Overall, Madharasapattinam is a film that takes you back in time and shows you a Madras that exists only in photos and memory. Hats off to the entire team for making this possible and kudos to Vijay for heading this team and pulling off the huge task. Also thanks to AGS Films for taking up such a subject which would have definitely cost a lot. Madharasapattinam is a pretty often seen love story where poor boy meets rich girl, much to the angst of the family. But, it is the backdrop and the treatment that make it a different experience. Watch Madharasapattinam for some great art work, cinematography, performances and to appreciate an effort that is a rare occurrence in Tamil cinema. But, do not look for a documentation of the freedom struggle and other historical milestones. Just enjoy the trip from Chennai to Madharasapattinam

Verdict: Enjoyable trip to Madras Presidency!

Tags : Madharasapattinam Review, Madharasapattinam, Arya, G V Prakash Kumar, Amy Jackson, Nassar, Vijay
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