Film: Sarvam Thaala Mayam
Cast: GV Prakash Kumar, Nedumudi Venu, Vineeth, Aparna Balamurali and Kumaravel
Director: Rajeev Menon
Rating: * * *
Rajiv Menon’s much-awaited return to direction after 17 years is different if not entirely of the caliber we’ve been expecting from him. The ace cinematographer who collaborated with Mani Ratnam and A R Rahman, made his directorial debut with 1997 bilingual Minsara Kannavu (Tamil) and Sapnay (Hindi) a breezy, bitter-sweet triangular love story riding on effervescent music and vibrant performances and later topped that effort with an award-winning Kandukondain Kandukondain – a south Indian take on Sense and Sensibility.
But after that, he has literally been biding his time with cinematography assignments until the current film. As the title suggests, this film is basically about rhythm and how it triumphs over cultural suppression and caste-based segregation.
The musical drama is centered on a young man, Peter (a likeable GV Prakash Kumar) whose Dalit origins and Christian religion prevent him from crossing over to the Brahmanical tradition of playing the Mridangam, a pursuit that he believes is his special calling. Born to a family that produces the percussion instrument(his father an expert mridangam maker called Johnson played by Kumaravel), he is well versed with the music of the greats and comes in frequent contact with Maestro Vembu Iyer (Nedumudi Venu) who at first is unwilling to teach him because of ideological, religious and caste concerns.
Eventually, after seeing his devotion to the cause and making sure of his commitment, he gets persuaded to take on the young man as his disciple but the Guru’s devoted understudy Mani (Vineeth) is least amused and breaks-away from tradition to become a judge in a music based reality Television competition of which his sister, Anjana (Divyadarshini), is a host.
Typical of the ‘Shankarabharanam’ construct, the young man has to overcome several odds before he can achieve the unique distinction of becoming a purist with his own inimical style and rhythm divine. The script by Rajiv himself goes a little overboard trying to conjure up a talent from someone whose only contribution to the arts (so-to-speak) has been as a member of Dalapathy Vijay’s Fan Club.
Peter’s subsequent pursuit of the Mridangam does seem a little far-fetched. His involvement with a nurse Sara (Aparna Balamurali) who is supportive of his pursuit is quite understandable but her continued involvement with him despite his descent into drugs is questionable. Also, the attempt to insert a TV based music reality show competition as the medium for the face-off between two of the Guru’s disciples and the machinations thereof seem inorganically contrived.
The only bond that holds true is the music and the skill with which the actors render believability. The semi-classical music by an eclectic mix of music directors and musicians render a succulent score that helps in establishing credibility. Coupled with stellar performances from thespian Venu, young Prakash Kumar, and Kumaravel, and amiable cinematography by Ravi Yadav, this musical drama gets enough of an infusion of beats to make it lovable!