Trouble in paradise
They call him the Eiyarkunar Sigaram -- 'Peak of Directors', in loose translation.
Long-time viewers of Tamil films would make a case that K Balachander deserves this somewhat florid title.
In his time, KB made some landmark films and also introduced to the Tamil screen a host of talents including Kamal Hassan, Rajnikanth and Sridevi.
In course of a career that has spanned one hundred offerings, earned a name for the boldness of his themes, the sharpness with which he etches his characters, and a drive for perfectionism coupled with a fiery temper, he has earned the reputation of a martinet.
As far as storyline goes, Paarthale Paravasam deals with Madhavan, a doctor who acts in a film and becomes a superstar, overnight.
In order to get respite from his female fans, he goes to his affectionate mama (played by Seema) and agrees to marry any girl of her choice.
Simran is the chosen one, and the two get married and settle down quite happily.
Till the fly in the ointment happens along, in the form of Radhika Choudhury.
She stops by the Madhavan residence, young son in tow, en route to the airport to take a flight to London -- and lo, the truth tumbles out, that the child is actually the product of a brief liason between Choudhury and Madhavan, during their college days.
Choudhury takes great pains to point out that she is the one who didn't
want to get married, and that she is happy as a single mom -- but Simran,
feeling betrayed, walks out on the marriage and demands a divorce.
The story and more importantly, the characterisation, stumbles badly at
Simran is shown as the modern young woman, not beyond flinging the
sacred thali back at the man who tied it around her neck.
When Madhavan reminds her that the sari she is wearing, on her way out the door, is one he had given her, she rips it off and flings that in her hubby's face as well.
Which would have been fine enough in a way. Yet shortly thereafter, Simran finds herself in financial trouble and accepts her by-then-ex husband's offer of funds.
Meanwhile, the story moves on. To stage dancer Lawrence Raghavender, who likes Simran. And to the nurse, Sneha, who likes Madhavan.
Madhavan is still very much in love with his former wife.
Simran, after her initial eruption, finds all the old love returning, but for some reason never reveals it.
Both work overtime to make sure the other is happy.
Simran pushes Madhavan into marrying the nurse, Madhavan reciprocates by taking it on himself to get the dancer's parents to accept a divorcee as their daughter-in-law.
From here on, the movie descends into uncontrolled chaos, against the
backdrop of a double-wedding.
It all ends with Madhavan and Simran being reunited, and assorted people learning assorted lessons.
Alas, by then, you get to a point where you care two hoots.
Divorce and/or seperation are themes that KB has handled brilliantly in his prime (Avargal being just one example of many). Here, however, KB fails to convince.
You get the feeling while watching that KB, now into his 70s, is keen to prove that he can make contemporary cinema, about characters who are modern in their mindset and attitudes.
If that is indeed the idea behind his most recent movies (notably Kalki, Parthale Paravasam), his best friends would probably wish that he reverted to a more mature brand of film-making.
When reviewing his ouevre, one needs to remember that KB started off as a stage director. In his early black and white movies, that influence showed. Films such as Major Chandrakanth had a very stagey feel.
But for a while now, KB has been focussing on the small screen. In fact, Parthale Paravasam is a comeback of sorts to the big screen.
The small screen influence shows here, with the screenplay having an episodic feel to it as opposed to the smooth narrative you expect in a feature film.
The small screen feel is underlined inadvertently by the fact that KB packs the cast with artistes who are regulars in his various recent serials.
What a pity, considering the film has a lot of things going for it.
A R Rahman and KB for instance team up again after Duet but good music, in this case, fails to give the movie legs at the box office.
Another standout is Lawrence Raghavendra, a dancer-choreographer from the
Prabhu Deva school, who after debuting on-screen with a dance number in the
Ajit-starrer Amarkalam, did a small role in director Sran's Parthein Rasithein. He gets a lengthier, meatier role here.
It is apparent that he has inherited the loose-limbed dancing style of Prabhu Deva. And some influences of his mentor show in his acting as well, as he turns in a competent performance.
Madhavan and Simran have roles that hardly challenge them.
For most of the part, Madhavan looks bored. The accomplished Simran on other hand contorts her face. That's KB for you.
The director for some reason likes to have his female stars make faces in close-up.
Kamal Hassan, who owes his celluloid introduction to KB, steals the show in brief cameo where his gift for comedy is used to very good effect.
Star comedian Vivek (another KB discovery) bags a few laugh lines, but never really brings the house down.
As an aside, while this film was on the floors, lyricist Vaalee was being roped in
to play a role which he did, in a small cameo.
At the end of it all, you get the feeling that the director failed to keep control of his storyline.
Which is very sad, considering the director was known to be a control freak, and his trademark was a gift for intense, gripping storytelling.
Cast: Madhavan, Simran, Lawrence, Sneha, Seema, Nizhalgal Ravi, Vaalee
Story, Screenplay, Direction: K Balachander
Music: AR Rahman
Lyrics: Vairamuthu, Vaalee, Muthukumar.
Choreography: Lawrence Raghavender, Kala, Brinda
Associate Director: Selva