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The Saga of The Cotton Hero
May 23, 2007 05:11 PM 10785 Views
(Updated May 23, 2007 05:11 PM)

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Its strange and ironical that Paruthiveeran is fairing well in the box office, when so-called saleable films dipped till soggy wet in to a thick syrup of sticky cliches, plastic melodrama and extra extravaganza are also doing well.


*Pretext


*The story is set somewhere in the dry, rustic landscapes of Paruthiyur(cotton town). An unlikely tale of an unlikely hero called Paruthiveeran. Here is a protagonist who wears his lungi strictly above his underpants. And he does things that no hero would have ever tried to do on screen. In fact, he is not the hero but a protagonist. He attacks for the sheer love of violence. He has no moral pretenses what so ever. He is definitely not a nice guy.


Living in a meaningless life, Parthiveeran often claims that his only ambition in life is to commit a bigger crime and see Central Jail(located at Vellore) at least once in his lifetime. You can't blame him either. He is an orpan brought up by Sevvalai who is crony in all his crimes. The first half moves in a slow pace, with scenes establishing the history and doings of Paruthiveeran and Sevvalai.


Even this ill bred road side hooligan has a lover in a rebellious young girl called Muthazhagu. A girl for whose unrequited love, slowly changes him. Towards to the second half he begins to sober. Family fights begin. The lovers elope. The entire village hunts for them. But its not Muthazhagu's father or not the caste ridden soceity that finally breaks their affair. What separtes them is a casually comitted old sin which retorts back at an unexpected time.


*The Unqiue climax


The movie was made for the climax. The climax is the story. Who would have expected that the hero's subservient cronies would mistake the heroine for a prostiute and rape her? Only because, she is found in a room which has been used in the past for their recreational purposes. A seemingly insignificant scene in the beginning of the movie, shows an isolated hut house with a room where Paruthiveeran and his cronies occasionally share Prostitues.


In the disturbing climax, there are about five, rough looking, underdressed low life trucker shown walking in and out of the room where the already grievously injured heroine is unceremoniously dumped. The doors open and close. Desparate pleas and dying moans are heard. But no hero comes to save her. Paruthiveeran is somewhere away. The satisfied truckers leave.


When the hero is back, after he sees Muthazhagu's plight, he isn't suddenly filled with vengefulness. He doesn't run with magical powers. He doesn't stop the truckers. He doesn't kill them. He is only confused. He isn't able to comprehend. She doesn't deliver long dying speech. She only curses him for his sins. Slowly, she reaches a painful and undignified end. To retain her dignity after death and to stop scandalous story being circulated through the villafe, the signs of the rape have to be removed. So, in a verge of madness, he butchers her body.


The movie ends as Paruthiveeran is being beaten to death by Muthazhagu's angry relatives. Not those sympathy seeking slow-motion beatings. But of the kind that would make you flinch. The way he is beaten is violent and raw, including ripping of his underclothes! No mainstream hero would have been killed that way. May be thats why he is named Paruthiveeran which translates Cotton Hero in English. In the end, no rhetoric declarations of Good and Evil are made. Only a note from the director is displayed.


*Credits


*Shot in the natural shades and sunlights of a dry village, the film though realistic is very, very violent. The violence is not meant to shock you the way some RGV films intend to do. Its simply there, shockingly at times . even in the lighter side. There are several crude scenes. On one scene, the pig woman is slaughtered - first a gunny bag is forced on her face then her her legs, hands and head are cut. In another, Priya Mani is shown vomitting on the screen. Karthi cuts off a body part(ear lobe) of a local policeman. And then in the climax, Karthi's underpant is ripped.


The dialogues have the dialect of a particular caste of rural people living in a certain region of Tamil Nadu. Occasionally, it doesn't sound like Tamil. There is no rhythm in the dialogue delivery. In fact, people in the movie do not deliver dialogues. They just speak. And they speak in the crude way. The way Muthazhagu is beaten by her father, to the way her family runs around after she poisons herself, nearly every scene carries a raw authenticity.


The real shocker comes from the acting department. An unbelievable debut performace from Karthi(younger brother of Surya) and an equally awe worthy peformance from Priya Mani. And lastly, The melodious rural music of IIlayaraja perfects it all.


*Musings


*Its rare to watch a commercial Indian movie in which the hero lives in a scum filled world which we cannot set right, as the scum is a part of himself. Its unusual when an Indian commercial movie crosses the secure boundary of predictable goodness that fills cinegoers mind with warmth and peace. We have all grown up watching cinematic goodness which typically unravels during the climax. We the self acclaimed critics of abstract art find the predictable goodness very boring.


But what about the simple moviewatcher whose whole expectation from watching the movie, is to get his mood changed for a few hours? What if he gets to see a darker version of reality with gory murders, tragic rapes, misguided youth, dirty squabbles  and low life? Somehow, its comforting in the old way.


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