TARAMANI (2017)

Critic - No.124

Director: Ram
Casts: Andrea Jeremiah, Vasanth Ravi, Azhagam Perumal
Music: Yuvan Shankar Raja
Language: Tamil
Genre: Drama / Romance

Plot:
An orthodox youngster and a free-spirited single mother fall in love, only to understand that they are different in all aspects of life.

Review:
After a remarkable debut with ‘Katrathu Tamil’ in 2008, Ram has been always seen as an activist in Tamil cinema who strongly believe in subjects that echoes the shortcomings in the society. ‘Thangameengal’ has sharp view on not only parenting but also expectations that the impartial education system possess. After three years of struggle, Ram’s intense love story, ‘Taramani’ has seen the light.

The film starts off with Ram’s witty narration that how the story is going to have random nature and open ended treatment. “Monangalunu ninaicha, monangaalu, mottai thalanu ninaicha, motta thala”. The film then transits to a intense, eccentric and yet a poignant love story.

The film’s main strength is it’s blatantness. Unlike general Tamil movies that preach more than visually show the oppression towards women, in ‘Taramani’, Ram literally etches a realistic societal environment that shows it’s dismal of an open, modern single mother. Some scenes might be sensitive for the audience but after getting a ‘A’ certificate (NC16 in Singapore), ‘Taramani’ surely will work well with  the target audience - matured, open minded ladies and cinephiles.

The film carries many symbolism and juxtapositions to convey it’s message. The best example is our the two pigeons get separated during the fight between Vasanth and Althea. Ram secondarily touches on extramarital affairs, gay relationship and ego trips in current society. Some intense hard hitting dialogues rendered majorly in one takes, engages and shocks the spectators. Watch out for the pre-interval quarrel between the couple that accurately projects the film maker’s attempt in unveiling how bitter is this male dominated society is.

During the voice-over commentaries, Ram also touches on few topics such as the Indo-Srilankan fisherman issue and rich-poor gap. Initial moments might threaten you to give a preachy film but it doesn’t. In fact it’s far from a preachy film. The occasional news like narration might test some patience but progressively, we might understand the satirical nature of what is the film maker getting at. He justifies this track by a pun in the end on irresponsible audiences who tap their phones during cinema. A true activist indeed.

However on the flip side, roles like the one Azhagam Perumal essays, have a very perplexing angle to it as they look a little forced into the narration which is already packed with other metaphorical messages. He comes in with a long monologue at the end about how men’s lust is justified and openly addressed in public but when a women falls in it they are shunned mercilessly. The idea is novel but does it really fit the narration? Especially when it comes from a character that lacks emotional significance and development throughout the film. Some other characters that come in second half also look contrived to force a message out. For a forward thinking film like this, an unconventional, open ended ending could have been more fitting and believable.

Performance takes a center stage in Ram movies and ‘Taramani’ is no exception. Andrea proves that she is one of the most underrated and under-utilised actress in Kollywood. She fits perfectly as a modern Anglo-Indian single mother, be it her Tamil diction or her appearance. After a strong debut in Gautham Menon’s ‘Pachaikili Muthucaharam (2007)’, I feel that Andrea has given a wholesome performance in ‘Taramani’. Simply her career best. Debutant Vasanth is the surprise package here with such a matured delivery. His role has complex layers that get unrelieved progressively when triggered by his male ego. During the pre-climax episode of redemption, the intensity Vasanth shows is brilliant. Anjali's cameo could have been donned by anyone.

Yuvan-Ram combination continues to be soulful with all songs working well to move the narration. Cinematographer Theni Eswar, paints the frame with a few poetic angles but some drone shots do irk with poor clarity.

VERDICT: 
With the aid of the lead pair's remarkable performance, Ram weaves an emotional drama, running a blatant commentary on the sexist, flawed society.

CELLULOID METER- 3.75/5:


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