Over the past decade, director Bala's style of filmmaking has become popular for a lot of reasons. Not only has his work received critical acclaim numerous times, but actors who have featured in them have also produced the performance of their lifetime. So, when his latest flick Paradesi came out, all of us had a good idea about what to expect from the man.
The basic rules of filmmaking do not exist in the world of Bala. He does not go out of his way to fit his film into anybody's requirements. The ideologies are clear and there is almost no commercialism and he is bullish about doing exactly what he wants and nothing else. The result is prominent in Paradesi, perhaps more than any other film of his. This is pure unadulterated cinema (well, almost) and the screenplay and the plot rank high above everything else.
The director's methods have been questioned in recent times, especially after the release of the final teaser before the film. But, you can never question his dedicated to the art. Right from the adapted screenplay to the characters in the film, his effort is seen everywhere in Paradesi. Worthy of more national awards? It will certainly make do for some stiff competition.
Inspired from a book titled Red Tea, it tells the story of enslaved plantation workers who experience atrocities in pre-independent India. That's a typical setting for somebody like Bala, who is known for his no-frills method of filming. There's nothing overly obscene to make the film unwatchable, but you better have a heart for tragedy, for there's plenty of it. The fact everything he portrays a true story makes the reality look harsh and is also an attribute of his success.
After Vikram and Suriya, it seems that Adharvaa is next in line to receive Bala's Midas touch. He is nothing short of spectacular and is one of the standing points of the film. With all the drilling in place, his character is not likely to deserve a better performance. The hardships the man has gone through are seen in every scene. If you appreciate those sorts of things, you will applaud heartily for him just playing his character.
Vedhika and Dhansika, whom you would have never seen this way before, also do justice to their roles. They produce memorable performances even though they don't necessarily take too much screen time.
With them, about 200 junior artists have put in almost equal effort, and have lifted the production value of the project. Rasa's grandmother, the dastardly Indian lord and the doctor deserve special mention, for bringing their characters to life. When you connect all the dots, the production value of Paradesi is staggering and makes for a great case study of how you can create a world on screen with limited resources.
The technical aspect of the film is just as impressive. More than anything else, Cheziyan's cinematography, the sepia like color tone maintained throughout the film contributes more to the emotion than anything else. The dialogues come next, and are pitch perfect for the timeline and the nature of the characters. And of course, with brilliant actors to deliver them, you never feel the burden of a period screenplay weighing down the film.
G.V.Prakash's music, which didn't seem to make ends meet at first glace, makes all the sense in the world when joins hands with the film. "Sengaade" pictures the tiring endurance of a long journey like never before "Avatha Paiyya" is bittersweet and kindles romances without any help. For the serious film buffs though, the background scores will be the talking point.
A majority of the film has no plot holes, and proceeds well without any intervention. The first sad mistake comes in the song "Thannai Thaane" which is absolutely outrageous and pathetic for a film like this. It is glaring and is most indifferent from everything else in the film, and could have been skipped entirely. It ruins the mood and looks nothing like something from Bala.
But for most it's part, Paradesi is a class in great filmmaking. It tells you how a bare-bones team and a lot of groundwork can make up for a great package. It has reintroduced Adharvaa as an exquisite artist and also giving a push in the back for Vedhika and Dhansika. When seen on screen, you see all the pieces add up to a form a big picture.
It is tragic, but it also makes you laugh on several occasions, and it does not need a dedicated comedian and a lead actor showing off to pull it off. It's strengths are also it's weaknesses, for there will be main who write it down because it just doesn't give them entertainment. But Paradesi is not after those people, it's not after commercial success, it does what it should be doing, outright and flat like its director.
Rating - 3.5/5 - a story well told by the entire team
Verdict - for the critics and the class acts, from a no-holds-barred Bala