Director: A. Surkunam
Actors: Oviya, Ilavarasu, Saranya and ‘Ganja’ Karuppu
Often the most unsung film turns out to be the least disappointing. Coming in the wake of a critical and box-office disaster like Raavanan, debutant director Surkunam’s Kalavani in Tamil is a hugely pleasing work set in the Tamil Nadu countryside. Tamil cinema, which is just about the only one that still dares to get out of urban situations and away from slick city-bred characters, presents in Kalavani a canvas of delightful rural romance.
However, the story of two neighbouring villages in feud is a subject beaten to pulp on the Tamil screen, and Surkunam’s plot offers nothing dramatically different here. Yes, the screenplay is smooth, the performances are natural and most characters are well etched out. Dialogues are not exactly laboured, and the humour is not as silly as it is in most other Tamil movies.
Narrating a blissfully innocent romance between Arikki (Vimal of Pasanga fame) and newcomer Oviya essaying high-school student Maheshwari, the film embellishes it with various facets of the enmity between the two communities that extend even to children’s cricket matches. This rift of course does not stop Cupid from striking Arikki, a habitual flirt who eventually falls for Maheshwari from the enemy zone. Arikki’s wastrel tendencies that his mother (Saranya, still the great actress we saw years ago in Nayagan) overlooks and even encourages with the money her Dubai-based husband sends. Arikki’s pranks that include bribing his way through junior college, cheating people of their money and even stealing a bag of cement have been portrayed with a sense of refreshing sincerity. There are no false notes here, and Maheshwari’s initial misgivings about Arikki transform into romantic love when she sees his other side laced as it with warmth and care.
Look at the way he lifts her and her bicycle on to a moving bus when he sees her brother and his friends out to get her. This is one of the movie’s most touching scenes captured entirely through gestures and looks. Maheshwari’s anger at being bundled into the bus evaporates when she sees her brother and his gang zip past in motorcycles. And Oviya’s marvellous expressions convey her gratitude, and she uses her eyes to say it all.
Vimal as the rustic Romeo packs his part with disarming naturalness. His sense of mischief and waywardness later blend into his deep affection for the schoolgirl from the next village. Meeting on a long winding road that divides the two warring communities and runs through lush paddy fields, Vimal and Oviya portray a virtue hardly seen in Indian cinema, which often banks on the heroic and the beautiful to narrate stories. Rarely are there people who seem so real.