Our protagonist, a female character, is an Ambedkarite. She is a strong, independent lady with strong political and clear social insight. Have you ever seen such a character in an Indian cinema? Rene, the central character, is beautiful written. We see, we know, we feel her feelings, thoughts, taste of food, clothes, love, her politics, and Ambedkarism. A female protagonist who talks about “One Hundred Years of Solitude” by Gabriel García Márquez and “Red Tea” by Paul Harris Daniel. Who can write such a character?
Arjun “You can wear whatever you want… I won’t feel bad”
Rene “I don’t care. It is your problem”
Arjun “Why are you teasing me like this always?”
Directed by the uncompromising Pa. Ranjith, “Natchathiram Nagargiradhu” is a political love story! A theatre group discussing about love and the society is the backdrop of this movie. The group has people from various castes, genders and sexualities. We see the society through their characters, relationships, and ideologies.
The power to alter someone or something is known as influence, and the impact of movies on contemporary life is very significant. MGR used cinema to give hope, and Kalaignar Karunanidhi successfully promoted the idea of Dravidian rule through his scripts (eg. “Parasakthi”). Pa. Ranjith is using cinema like a political sword. He changed the route of Tamil cinema in particular. His influence can be seen in other film industries too. “Natchathiram Nagargiradhu” is his latest and it offers a damning and current perspective on society. Pa. Ranjith entered my list of favourite filmmakers of all time with “Sarppatta Parambarai”. “Natchathiram Nagargiradhu” just take it a step above.
Indian cinema has presented many progressive heroines. In that list, Rene is a treasure. There is a beauty in the female characters of Pa. Ranjith movies even if it is small or big. The scene where she eats beef and counters questions to an average hero and bringing him to knees is wonderful. Dushara Vijayan is is absolutely beautiful and aptly portrays Rene. She responds to every act of “moral policing” by Arjun in the most trolling way. Arjun is expertly portrayed by Kalaiyarasan. Arjun is a person from an upper caste who is misogynist and casteist, hence finding it tough to be among the varied characters. Kalidas Jayaram is very good as Iniyan. Iniyan is another version of Arjun. Shabbir Kallarakal, Charles Vinoth, and others all did wonderful job.
Arjun “Aru you a communist?”
The stunning musical by Tenma gives “Natchathiram Nagargiradhu” a distinctive beauty. The soundtrack and songs are worth listening to, buying, and having. When talking about music, have to mention about Ilayaraja songs too.
Before you consider watching the film think twice. The film is very adult. Politically. The film never settles for a straightforward narrative and it consistently challenges its audience with its dense and thought provoking discussions and also the way it is narrated. Whether it provokes agreement or dissension, it will encourage serious discussion about the film, with its endless meanings. “Natchathiram Nagargiradhu” is a hypnotic film. The acclaim Pa. Ranjith deserves for this film transcends the scope of the language. He is at his boldest. It is magnificent. It is one of the most distinct movies in contemporary cinema.
“You can see a lot of educated people who are backward in thought. The extent to which they defend their caste is unbelievable. Education and urbanisation didn’t broke the caste system. So the films that we make are for everybody in India” Pa. Ranjith in a recent interview with Baradwaj Rangan (Galatta Plus)
In another way, this must be Pa. Ranjith’s most personal movie. I felt like he himself talking us through the characters. I am glad he is able to do what he does.
Cinephile. Learning the art of filmmaking. Script Writer. Director.