Release Date : Dec 20,2013
Thalaimuraigal (aka) Thalaimuraigal review
Review by : Behindwoods Review Board
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Production: M. Sasikumar
Cast: Balu Mahendra, Ramya, Sashi Vinodhini
Direction: Balu Mahendra
Screenplay: Balu Mahendra
Story: Balu Mahendra
Music director: Ilaiyaraaja
Background score: Ilaiyaraaja
Cinematography: Balu Mahendra
Dialogues: Balu Mahendra
Editing: Balu Mahendra, Ramesh Kanna
Distribution: Company Production

It is said that old age is a second childhood. In Thalaimuraigal which witnesses the legendary cinematographer/director Balu Mahendra’s on-screen appearance, this comes alive rather poetically with an endearing bond that gets established between a septuagenarian and his young grandson. In a way, Thalaimuraigal is a journey of sorts for the two individuals who are at the two extreme points of life’s trajectory.

Director Balu Mahendra returns to what he loves the best in Thalaimuraigal, taking additional charges of editing, cinematography and production with Sasikumar chipping in as the other producer under his banner. Sasi also makes a cameo in the film.

Subbu Pillai (Balu Mahendra) has just recovered from a stroke and is visited by his doctor son Siva whom he had sent away years ago because he had married an orphan Christian girl without his consent. Ostensibly angry with his son, Subbu wants to hint that he still does not approve of his son’s action. At the same time, the entry of his grandson Aadhi paves way for a mood change for the old man who re-discovers himself in the evening of his life.

Thalaimuraigal is a celebration of simple things that we have left behind in our pursuit of presumably larger things. The pace is very languid as though we are on a holiday in our native village. Life here is not bound by the hands of a clock.  Balu Mahendra’s camera takes us through a peaceful village, its trees, a serene stream and its inhabitants who are far removed from their counterparts in the city.

As Subbu Pillai, Balu Mahendra is natural with a quiver in his voice and a limp in his walk. The furrows and lines on the face add a lot of depth and character to the lines he mouths. You almost feel that you are interacting with your granddad.

As an obstinate father, he may not have approved his son’s wedding but all the same indicates the thawing with an appreciative phrase on Siva’s appearance with spectacles or about the efficacy of the drugs he had prescribed. It’s just a passing remark because the old man is still at his pedestal! When it comes to his daughter-in-law, the man softens his stance and his anguish on knowing that his grandson can’t speak Tamil is easily palpable.  

The playful side of this grandfather comes to the fore when he tries to form alphabets with his urine on the ground aping his grandson. The urgency with which he wrests a candy from Aadhi’s clasp suggests that once you get old, you actually become young. The language lessons that the duo gives to each other are one more step in their bonding with the old man making silly mistakes and the young one correcting them. Their combination scenes are soothing to say the least.

The characters in the periphery are also interestingly sketched like Siva’s childhood friend who is afraid to face the wrath of Subbu Pillai or the stepdaughter who is confused by the antics of the old man. We are normally used to seeing people who are trying for a boy child, but here, Subbu’s daughter is perseveringly attempting for the 4th time for a girl baby. And when Subbu blesses her with a ‘nee jeyichuttaema’, you can’t miss the light moment.  

Subbu’s friend Lakshman who advises him to ‘adjust’ with his son or the church father who very casually puts across a profound word about caste, we wonder when did we last see such REAL characters sans any frills in our films. Even the reclining chair of the old man is a special character by itself in Thalaimuraigal.

The transition of Subbu is quite smooth. Here was a man who did not accept his daughter-in-law because of her caste but brings in a Jesus Christ photo in his pooja room so that she does not have to travel 8 kms in the hot sun to the church every Sunday.

A filmmaker has to be true to his stories rather than to the audience and Balu Mahendra’s compliance to this is evident in Thalaimuraigal. And in this mission of his, he is largely helped by Sasikumar who has enabled the doyen to make a film that he likes, a film which has not boxed itself within any frame.

A narrative style that parallelly engages the mind and the soul, Thalaimuraigal very casually talks about stone and God and photograph and the real; the analogies may be simple but one can’t miss its succulence. 

Where Balu Mahendra the director halts, Ilayaraja takes over and fills up all those spaces with his soothing RR. You don’t need words when Raja’s music is there. The fairy tale frames of Balu Mahendra just deepen the feel.

A visit to Thalaimuraigal will be a cleansing trip for all those excursions that we have taken hitherto in the name of cinema. And when you come out of theatre, you sure want to go, give your grandfather a big tight hug!

Verdict: An artistic piece of parallel cinema.
( 3.5 / 5.0 )


Thalaimuraigal (aka) Thalaimuraigal

Thalaimuraigal (aka) Thalaimuraigal is a Tamil movie with production by M. Sasikumar, direction by Balu Mahendra, cinematography by Balu Mahendra, editing by Balu Mahendra, Ramesh Kanna. The cast of Thalaimuraigal (aka) Thalaimuraigal includes Balu Mahendra, Ramya, Sashi Vinodhini.