Cinema has travelled far over the years, progressing from mere storytelling to imaginative visuals and debatable provocations. But some Tamil films seem to have remained stuck in an archaic grove with one work after another promoting the narrative through gross exaggerations and unnecessary verbalisation. Admittedly, they are probably the only ones in India that still set stories in the countryside, but this is, at best, a poor consolation – as we can see in actor Karthi’s latest rural adventure in Muthaiah-helmed Viruman.
Karthi’s elder brother, Tamil star Suriya is the producer of the movie. In brief, Muthaiah’s film is all about a good-hearted son (Viruman/Karthi) trying to get his arrogantly brutish father, Muthupandi (Prakash Raj), to mend his ways. He is the village chief, who has driven his wife to burn herself to death and shrugs his shoulders when his sister lay dying after ingesting poison.
Where writer Muthaiah goes really overboard, apart from flogging a dead plot, is execution. The dialogues, especially those between the father and son, are remorseless, bordering on the cruel. Viruman never misses an opportunity to shame and humiliate his father in the most public of places, even attempting to push a knife into him.
What is equally regrettable is the tendency to push the narrative through dialogue – even thoughts are verbalised – which makes the movie look like the umpteen television serials we watch.
Prakash Raj seems steadfast in his resolve to let himself be slotted in villainous roles (Kancheepuram and O Kadhai Kanmani were delightful exceptions where his enormous potential came to the fore), and he is no different here as a man whose conceit and rage push him to the precipice. Karthi was interesting in his 2007 debut, Paruthiveeran, but has somehow never managed to wean himself away from the same kind of portrayals, infused with rage and rancour, in his later outings.