Some films are considered to be outstanding of it’s kind i.e, a classic. Few are vintage classics, few are cult classics, few are even new-age classics. And then there are timeless classics, the quality of such films won’t be affected by the passage of time or changes in fashion. They will remain fresh to every generation. Today we are going to revisit one such timeless classic, Thevar Magan a.k.a Devar Magan, directed by Bharathan and written by Kamal Haasan, starring ‘Nadigar Thilagam’ Sivaji Ganesan, Kamal Haasan, Revathy, Nassar and Gautami. Kamal Haasan produced the film under the banner of Raaj Kamal films. Thevar Magan won five National Awards and was India’s official entry to the Oscar of 1992. The plot of the movie is loosely based on Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather. Kamal Haasan was at the peak of his career when he wrote the script of Thevar Magan, he himself approached Bharathan to direct the film. Initially the crew planned to cast Vijayakumar or S.S Rajendran as Kamal’s father but the actor took initiative to bring in Sivaji Ganesan. The film’s cinematography was done by P.C Sriram and music by Ilayaraja. Thevar Magan is counted as one of the best films ever made in Tamil Cinema. It was remade into Hindi by Priyadarshan titled as Viraasat and in Kannada by S. Mahendar titled as Thandege Thakka Maga.
The narration starts from Shakthi (Kamal Haasan) returning to his native land, after completing his education from London, along with his girlfriend Bhanumathi (Gauthami). From the moment Shakthi steps down from the train, we see the flamboyance of the village and it’s people. He is received grandly by his father Periya Thevar (Sivaji Ganesan) who is also the village chief. Shakthi plans to start a restaurant chain in the city and that upsets his father. By this time the audience are introduced to the feudal background of the village and Periya Thevar’s step brother Chinna Thevar and his son Maya Thevar (Nassar) who are not in good terms with Sakthi’s father. Bhanumathi returns to her father hoping that Shakthi will convince Periya Thevar and get back to the city. The disagreement on properties between Periya Thevar and Chinna Thevar unleashes a couple of riots and Shakthi is the one who gets deeply affected by these events. He wants to get away from all these. But Periya Thevar’s sudden death leaves Shakthi to take up his father’s responsibilities. In a particular situation, to keep his word, Shakthi marries Panchavarnam. As much as he tries to keep all affairs in peace, Mayan makes them worse. At last Shakthi accidentally beheads Mayan while he was trying to get him surrendered to the police for arranging a bomb blast at the temple festival. Shakthi accepts he is guilty and surrenders to the police. The movie ends there.
The film takes it time to show the characters, the village, the system and also the father-son bonding. Even the supporting characters are elaborated, like Vadivelu’s Esakki. Esakki is the personification of the villagers’ admiration and loyalty to Periya Thevar and his family. The song ‘Potri Paadadi Ponne…’ travels with the film in every important situation, the full length version of the song hails the Thevar patriarchy. The lyrics by Vaali exhibits the systems, traditions and prosperity of the family. The narration gives complete justification to each character. Periya Thevar’s explanation on his commitment to the people and his land is still one of the most remembered scenes. Shakthi’s transformation after his father’s death and his marriage with Panchavarnam are also extremely convincing. Thevar Magan has a very strong basement of a strong story and a flawless script. The technicians who came together for the film were the best of their times. Bharathan, who was an ace filmmaker in the Malayalam film industry brought life to Thevar Magan, a complete Tamil rural drama! P.C Sriram’s visuals added quality to the overall product. Ilayaraja’s music became the soul of the film. The romantic duet ‘Inji Iduppazhagi…’ is one of Ilayaraja’s bests.
Performances wise, Sivaji Ganesan steals the show as Shakthi’s father, one would automatically start respecting that man believing he is Periya Thevar. The legendary actor received a special mention at the National Awards. Kamal Haasan also delivered one of his finest performances as Shakthi. The first half of the film shows the modern Shakthi and the second half shows him as a mirror image of Periya Thevar. The combination scenes of these two great actors from the film are still a treat to movie lovers. Their on-screen bonding would make anyone believe that the are father and son. A very special factor in Kamal Haasan’s acting in Thevar Magan is that in the second half, at some moments, in few actions, we can see him transform as Sivaji Ganesan. The character should behave like his father in the film but here it was a magical impersonation. Nasser looked terrific as Mayan, Vadivelu was commendable Esaki. Revathy won a national award for her portrayal as Panchavarnam, she managed to catch up with the leading men in terms of acting.
Thevar Magan continues to be an inspiration to many people who aspires to be in the movie business. The film is perfect amalgamation of a powerful story and a very fine making. The film is remembered for it’s super solid interval block, performances, music and what not! Thevar Magan has got violence in it but Shakthi’s words it the climax makes it clear that all this rivalry is for no good. The film shows the importance of following one’s tradition at the same time it shows the importance of knowing what is right and what is wrong. Cinematically, Thevar Magan is a classic because it depicts the impact cinema can create in the audience. It is one such film that can generate a sense of pride in the viewers. Technically, Thevar Magan was shot in the time that had lesser technology in the field of movie making but still the scale of the film is pretty large. Even in a non HD DVD, the shots and even the colors would look grand and natural. Thevar Magan has left a legacy behind, it will always remain a benchmark film. It is a film were two of the country’s best actors came together, it is a film that can be recommended to anybody who is interested in movies, it is a film that cannot be replaced! This year Thevar Magan will complete 25 years since release and even if you have watched it multiple times, one more time of viewing won’t bore you because as we said in the beginning, the film is a Timeless Classic!
Hardcore Film Lover and Ardent Movie Goer, Aspiring Film Maker.