Note- As we keep debating about what wrong with Gautham Vasudev Menon‘s Ek Deewana Tha and keep writing about Amy Brown’s selection for the role of Jessie as one of the reasons, here’s a look back at Amy’s 1st movie- Madharasapattinam ( 2010 ).
When director A.L.Vijay who had apprenticed under Priyadarshan and made 2 reasonably good films like Poi Solla Porom & Kireedom announced his decision to make his 3rd film, most people following Tamil Cinema including me were quite intrigued. The reason for the people to get surprised was that the movie in question- ‘Madharasapattinam’ was to be a period film based in the 1940’s in erstwhile Madharasapattinam i.e the Chennai of today. For someone who had found reasonable success by making remakes till now, it looked like quite a bold departure.But then what made it interesting was that the film was to be produced by AGS Entertainment , who in the recent period have shown that they are looking at being a serious player in the overall domain of entertainment by getting into production,distribution and now exhibition as well. As work on the film progressed the buzz continued to get bigger and better. The first look and later the audio release ensured that the movie was certainly getting its fair share of visibility.
It’s the mid 1940’s and Paruthi (Arya ) is a young man who loves wrestling and who is a dhobi by profession. His life revolves around the washermen’s colony (present Washermanpet?) in the northern part of Madharasapattinam. The peace among the people there gets disturbed when the British decide to construct a golf course in the washermen’s colony and ask them to vacate. Paruthi and his friends are among those who try to resist the attempts of the British who try various means to make them vacate their land. In comes Amy (Amy Jackson) the daughter of the Governor of the Madras Presidency.
Due to the turn of events Amy & Paruthi meet a few times and slowly there emerges a bond between them. Initially Amy moves across the town aided by the translator cum guide- Nambi (played wonderfully by the late Cochin Haneefa). The romance between Amy and Parithi slowly develops in spite of the language barriers faced by them. Around the same time there is a lot of political activity going on in India and finally it is announced that India will get its Independence on 15th August, 1947.
Unmindful of what’s going around them Amy & Paruthi continue their romance and things take a tough turn when Amy’s father get’s to know of their relationship. Against this backdrop we see that it is indeed time for India’s Independence and so Amy’s father decides that he must do whatever he can to separate the two lovers and take his daughter back with him to England.So while the whole Nation is rejoicing to the theme of Independence and celebrating with all joy & fervour, for Amy and Parithi – the eve of the Indian Independence brings out the biggest test of their love as they are made to run for themselves and their own freedom too.
What happens to Paruthi and Amy? Does their love succeed? Does 15th August turn out to be the day of Independence for Paruthi and Amy too? The movie goes on then to take us through that fateful night and what happens after that. At the very outset it is very clear that the movie is a visual delight and the recreation of the old city of the 1940’s has been very clearly established. The shots/scenes with the old Mount Road (now Anna Salai), old Buckingham Canal, the old Spencers (merging with the new Spencer Plaza ) all evoke a major feeling of nostalgia among us. Apart from Director A.L.Vijay’s vision, certainly due credit should also be given to Nirav Shah’s cinematography and the wonderful art direction done by Selva – as they are true aids in capturing the period look of the film.
But having said that one also cannot but help escaping the fact that there are so many traces of influence of quite a few other films that are seen over here. Most prominently there is a backdrop of Titanic and Kisna that’s quite visible and even a few elements of Lagaan as well. I wouldn’t elaborate further on the same as it could take away the essence of the visuals for those who are yet to watch the film. In terms of the cast Arya does reasonably well as Paruthi and fits the role description fairly well. Amy Jackson is certainly a pretty find and she’s probably the prettiest foreign actress seen in Indian Cinema of late.
Among the other major characters one must certainly acknowledge the presence of Nasser as the revolutionary and wrestling guru, who does justice to his role. And of course Cochin Haneefa as Nambi the translator will always remind us what a brilliant actor we have lost in the recent times. There are quite a few funny moments in the 1st half especially when Arya and his friends are trying to learn English and ‘kidnap’ the school teacher. These light moments do add a zing to the proceedings. Music by G.V. Prakash is quite effective. Songs like ‘ Vaama Duraiamma’ song effortlessly by Udit Narayan in his own inimitable style, the wonderful ‘Pookal Pookum’ ( sung by Harini, Roopkumar Rathod,Andrea Jeremiah, G.V.Prakash Kumar ) or ‘Meghame‘ ( sung by M.S.Vishwanathan,Vikram, Nassar, Na.Muthukumar & Ajayan Bala )
The rest of the British cast isn’t really too impressive as they fall into the typical trap of shrieking and overacting as seen by most such characters in Indian period films. As the movie gets over and as one walks out of the theatre/multiplex, what the viewer is most likely to carry with him from the film will be the period look of the city and the images of Paruthi and Amy. It’s a pity that the director could not go on to use the opportunity to go beyond the regular and probably come up with something more arresting and captivating. That alone could have ensured that the movie goes on to be a classic.
But in today’s age anything that’s even half decent is likely to find acceptance and this is especially true in case of films. This can be demonstrated by the fact that the movie has found reasonably good patronage from the Tamil Film audience. In a nut shell Madharasapattinam is a movie that probably does not deliver completely to its potential but still has enough to go for it.
Note- This post is dedicated to the undying spirit of the wonderful city we call as Madras/Chennai. This was originally written on Sunday, 22nd August, 2010, the 371st birthday of the city but now re-edited and published again.