If realism means having to watch a woman puke into the camera, then (we've said this before, and we'll say this again) here's the thing - keep it away from those of us who don't care. Malligadu, the second Tamil film to have been released in general theatres this weekend, is formula-driven National Award bait that does nothing for audiences who expect to be entertained.
It is set in a village, it has suffering, it has a violently tragic ending, and it has "hard-hitting moments" like the aforementioned incident of camera-targeted sickness. Heck, what more could an art critic want?
Sure, it won awards, and was a commercial success in the land where it originally belongs, but in the context of a Telugu audience, it's hard to see it work. Except with those who're studying the subtleties of filmmaking, of course.
However, one thing about Paruthi Veeran (the Tamil version) that commands your respect is how authentically rustic it feels. The film has been made with a formidable devotion to its rural setting, with even the cast consisting of several real-life inhabitants of the region around Madurai. The dubbing spoils it for us, but it is easy to see it connect with the audience it was intended for.
Malligadu (Karthi), the titular character, is a wayward petty criminal of his village. His childhood sweetheart, the tough and feisty Malli (an exceptional Priyamani), is in love with him, but he keeps rejecting her advances. Naturally, things are complicated for Malli, as she has to deal with disapproval from all quarters.
This is not the journey of Malli's love as much as it is a general canvas of village vignettes centred around Malligadu's misconducts. The friendly banter and cursing among the townspeople elicit some smiles and chuckles, and the characters are pretty true-to-life as well.
But an excessive Tamil vibe and the pandering to one section of the audience alienates Malligadu from general audiences. In addition, the cruel ending is an emotional letdown.
The film also has one other weakness that films of this genre are prone to - the red herrings, the scenes that don't lead anywhere. Malligadu has a few lengthy impromptu folk dance sequences, including one with eunuchs, that might be a treat for art appreciation classes, but that don't do much for the story.
Both Karthi and Priyamani are a treat to watch. While Karthi makes his character enjoyable and fun to be around, Priyamani is quite stunning in her willingness to get her hands dirty.
Yuvan Shankar Raja sticks to local beats and music, and powers his score with a heavy dose of the nadaswaram. Again, not very easy on the ears, even though it is in tune with the movie.
Our verdict is this - watch Malligadu only if you have your expectations tuned.