SJ Suryah, Sathyaraj, Savithri, Thambi Ramaiah
Ego and envy have always been part of the entertainment world, and stories—not just in India but also the world over – of destructive cruelty here are common. We saw this with brilliant lucidity in the Hrishikesh Mukherjee-helmed, Amitabh-Jaya-starrer Abhimaan in 1973. I do not remember any Tamil film on this theme.
And S.J. Suryah’s Isai (Music) in Tamil weaves a story around this. Written, directed and performed by Suryah himself, the movie meanders needlessly into a romance that is clearly meant to titillate. Yes, the film flies high when Sathyaraj as a master music composer, Vetriselvan, appears on the screen. His is a great piece of acting that is poorly contrasted by a wooden Suryah playing an upcoming music director, Shiva.
Seething with hatred and anger at being eclipsed by Shiva – whose leap into modern notes endears him to movie directors – Vetriselvan hatches an elaborate plot to ruin the younger man. Putting it into operation with clockwork precision, Vetriselvan chooses his team and begins executing his vile steps when Shiva shuts himself in a verdant forest with bees and birds for company to compose new music. What Shiva does not bargain for is a snake bite and a ravishing saviour, Jenny (essayed with promise by debutant Savithri). And a love story takes over – prolonging the narrative with the camera often caressing Jenny to the point of puerile distraction.
The climax – in the true style of Manoj Night Shyamalan’s 1999 The Sixth Sense – can be viewed both as a surprise and a shock. A shock that can also be termed downright cheating or escapism.
Isai misses out on being a decent piece of work largely because Suryah could not resist the temptation to get into the frame, and was careless enough to litter it with illogicality -- although the end might partly explain this. Even a captivating Sathyaraj cannot pull the picture out of the pit.