Kootathil Oruthan: Not your average romance
The film rides on the romance of a middle bencher and how it shapes his life
Tamil cinema has not really sung the praises of the ‘middle-bencher’ as much as it has talked about the last or the first benchers. Kootathil Oruthan tries to paint an entertaining picture of people in this segment. And how it tries to do that is very interesting.
Cast: Ashok Selvan, Priya Anand, Bala Saravanan, Samuthirakani
Director: TJ Gnanavel
Aravind (Ashok Selvan), your average middle-bencher, is so nondescript that even his teacher asks him which class he belongs to. A middle child who lives a rather unremarkable life, he gets his first praise from Janani (Priya Anand), because of which he falls for her. He takes up the same course as her, and what follows is your regular Tamil romance of a boy stalking a girl, till she falls back in love with him. Except there is a small twist here — Janani calls him out on his behaviour and also admonishes him for being a nobody. Our hero, whose self-worth hits rock bottom, does what seems to be the next logical step — suicide. Now given how talentless he generally is, he fails to kill himself, but ends up saving a kid, the son of a construction mogul/don Sathya (Samuthrakani).
Throughout the film, there are all these small twists to the regular tropes of a romance movie that help make Kootathil Oruvan more interesting than your regular romance. One of the key components of the first half is the absolute deadpan seriousness of Ashok Selvan’s dialogues and the delightful one-liners delivered by Bala Saravanan. When Aravind says “Saadhichutu vandhu love pannungra, naan love panradhe saadhanai dhaan”, he is talking for all middle-benchers.
The levity of the film takes a serious turn towards the interval, after which the film becomes a mopey love drama. But once again, just as you are settling into the groove, the director changes the tone to a thriller. In fact, towards the last 20 minutes, it almost takes on the feel of a documentary. It is only here that you truly begin to understand all the setpieces that the director has labouriously constructed throughout the film, and I was left with the warm fuzzy feeling that one gets when listening to a Vetri Nichayam or a Vetri Kodikattu song. And the last act of the film seems very much like those famous songs come to life.
The film ends with the line, “Kootathil oruthana irundhavanga aayirathil oruvana oru naal aavanga”. I wondered if it was a statement about Ashok Selvan’s career. If he continues to pick these scripts, he’s surely destined to stand out from the crowd.