A theatre actor resents being upstaged by a younger colleague and with every success of the latter, his hatred only grows stronger.
If not for anything, you have to give it to Vasanthabalan for at least attempting. His
is the kind of movie that has almost gone off our theatres because heavy duty character drama is not what the social networking generation wants today. But the earnestness with which Balan and his team have worked on the film is quite evident on screen that we often tend to overlook the weaker aspects.
The film is set in the pre-Independence India and revolves around the professional (and personal) rivalry between two stage artists — Kaalaiappa Bhagavathar (Siddharth) and Gomathi Nayagam (Prithviraj). They belong to the same drama troupe and it is led by the disciplinarian Sankaradasa Swamigal (Nasser), who is more impressed with the original acting of Kaali than the conventional one of Gomathi. This creates resentment in Gomathi, who uses an opportunity to make Kaali fall in the eyes of their guru. Soon, he becomes a successful actor, however, Kaali re-enters his life and once again, takes away his limelight. Worse, Vadivu (Vedhicka is a revelation in this role), the girl he loves is smitten by Kaali. As jealousy takes over him, Gomathi is possessed only with one thought — to destroy Kaali once and for all.
The basic premise of
is similar to that of films like
and to an extent
, all of which are about a hardworking but less talented individual hating a naturally gifted person and becoming obsessed with the idea of bringing their rival down. Here, Gomathi is unable to understand why their guru prefers Kaali over him, even though he is equally sincere towards his craft. Sankaradas himself has only a vague answer — Kaali doesn't stick to the typical and creates something unusual. What Gomathi fails to realize is that Kaali is a born actor. In an earlier scene, we see them observe another actor on stage. Gomathi is taken in by the majesty of the performer but Kaali tells him that it should the character and not the performer who should appear majestic. The scenes involving the trio are clearly the highpoints of the film with each of the three actors having enough scope to stand out. Nasser is terrific in the scene where we witness Sankaradas's unbridled fury at Kaali, after he comes to know of the latter's late-night trysts with Rangamma, the local zamindar's daughter. And, Siddharth, who acts his heart out, gets his chance to shine when Kaali lashes out at his guru after losing someone very dear. As for Prithviraj, he nicely brings out the wickedness in Gomathi while still making us empathize with the character.
But, there are times when we feel that the exact nature of the relationship between Kaali and Gomathi should have been spelt out better. In their scenes together, we see them mostly being amiable with each other and we never get any face-off between them. Kaali actually seems too nice even though we are told later that he knew all along that it was Gomathi who wrecked his life. Similarly, the love triangle between Kaali, Gomathi and Vadivu isn't well-developed. Kaali's love for the country, too, isn't detailed well and we wonder how he has such a patriotic spirit given that he has spent almost his entire life with the troupe, where no one else displays such tendencies. The technical work, be it the cinematography or music or sets and costumes, feel a bit too slick for a period film.
However, Balan doesn't let the film get bogged down by the underdeveloped angles and keeps the movie progressing from one scene to another at a considerable pace. In some ways, the film is like Gomathi's acting — grand but also somewhat laboured and predictable.