Actor turned director Sidhartha Siva's debut feature '101 chodyangal' is a fine multilayered film that works for its simple, but poignant theme. Also with the genuine performance of its National award winning lead actor Master Minon , the movie stands out for its quality narratives.
Master Minon plays Anil Kumar Bokaro, the fifth standard student who has a jobless father Sivanandan (Murugan) thrown out of his factory ,plagued by ill health and mother Sati(Lena) who does manual labour under Government's Employment Guarantee Scheme to make the ends meet. The little boy is living with his family in an abandoned shop with his sister Anagha (Baby Diya), who is mentally challenged. Anil gets into crisis as his school stops the midday meals due to lack of funds. The officials ask the children who can afford to bring food to do so, as they can even share it with others. Anil manages to bring some on the first day to make an impression but refuses to go to school as he is not given any by his mother, the next day.. The recently arrived Mukundan master, who is also Anil's favorite teacher, convinces him that he can come to school and attend classes. The teacher who compiles cheap General Knowledge books that are sold in trains for some additional income but offers Anil a chance to make money, that is to come up with 101 questions for which he will be given one rupee per question. How this mission to accumulate questions changes the boy and how he starts to look into things around in a different framework forms the rest of the movie.
The highlight of the direction by Sidhartha Shiva is that he hasn't resorted to any big gimmicks but depended on the strength of his plot, keeping it simple. The movie but wisely integrate many insightful things from deprivation to demise in the most non-manipulative ways, just as the questions that pops up in the mind of Bokaro . His own unpleasant and confusing experiences, lead to questions that he scribbles one after the other in his note book, without looking for whether it fits the bill. And so we are hit with why the blue sky changes to a drape of red intermittently , why mayflies shed their wings after a night of bustle , and why does the spider never gets caught in its own web. But as he moves on to newer questions on real life around, the narrative start to echo the universality of its theme, about why the innocence are always tainted by the pitiless infringements.
The performances from all in the cast are excellent with Master Minon just making everything work with his little smiles on crisis. His spellbinding performance helps the movie to carry the entire weight of its loaded questions in his tender shoulders. Indrajith as his teacher and Lena as his mother comes up in finer roles while the rest in the cast are optimum for their roles. Fascinating performances also comes from Nishanth Sagar, and Murugan which also leaves an impact .The technical sides are also appropriate for the style of the narratives.
With a million questions that it starts to ask in every viewers mind, this '101 Chodyangal' is a fine watch for every thoughtful viewer.
Rating - 7/10