Thamizh Talkies: They don't get your films, Gautham Vasudev Menon
The writer is a former journalist who has worked in the film industry for several years and is passionate about movies, music and everything related to entertainment
The best time to watch a Gautham Menon film is not FDFS; instead, it is the evening show... of the second day. By then, all the polarising 'review waves' would have lashed for and against his film (I’ve been watching this from Kaakha Kaakha). By the second day, the 'powers that can make or break a film' would have registered their 'sought-after opinions' on Twitter and Facebook. As they say, only when the noise dies down can you hear the music. Menon’s film always opens to much such (review) noise. It’s his music (literally and as a figure of speech for his films here) which always stands the test of time.
Enai Noki Paayum Thota is an action film, a genre in which Gautham excels with as much ease as he handles romance. What are you saying? How can it be just action when the first half is all about this first love, you ask. It's a love story, which is superlatively juxtaposed with action (like in Kaakha Kaakha). If you are in the 18-25 year age bracket, you will love this segment even more. I urge 'market analysts' to do an instant survey of this film in that TG segment and you will know what I mean. To me, the romance in ENPT is just the setting. The film is essentially a story of a boy who defies all odds, even death. An ordinary, everyday guy (you can see how difficult it is to spot Dhanush from the rest of the guys when he stands with his college mates behind the monitor watching Megha Akash, which is also why his 'transformation' ticks all boxes when he emerges a hero).
A filmmaker is as much of a creator like an artist, a poet or novelist. But unfortunately, the business of cinema does not accord the freedom of expression or the right of way, which other creative minds get. A filmmaker is almost always asked 'to adhere, to conform to the norms, to stick to a format, to keep up with what’s in vogue, to what makes business sense or what sells'. It is said that Michelangelo painted the Sistine chapel rather unwillingly because he feared domination from the Pope who commissioned him to do the paintings inside the church. But the Pope was a huge admirer of the artist’s work. While he did bind the master painter and sculptor to a deadline and disciplined progress, he didn’t stop Michaelangelo from painting his depiction, his interpretation of the Bible, of how God created this world. Michelangelo defined the Renaissance era in art.
A film director in the context of the Tamil film industry is asked to take responsibility for multiple tasks over and above just the creative aspects like story, screenplay, dialogue, direction, budgets, schedule, marketing, publicity & promotions (keep adding if you may). Somewhere, it can all get overwhelming. While watching ENPT, one thing struck me as a stand-alone aspect. Creativity for some people is like a fountain of never-ending ideas. Gautham is one such talent, whose stories are edgy but this is why we watch them. In ENPT, Dhanush stands out as an ace performer who makes you invest in his character. Now, an actor can give his best expression to a shot but it is the director who decides where and how to film that expression and for how long he wants to keep it on the screen. Watch Dhanush take on this challenge of a scene which is a close-up of more than five minutes, where he registers myriad emotions/moments, when he learns of what happens to his brother, played by the surprise element for me in this film, Sasikumar--who gets a hero’s entry and a bunch of scenes which will go on to do a lot for his career.
Oh, and this constant nagging I see online from reviewers/trackers who say having voice-overs means it’s lazy writing and that it’s all a bit much in ENPT. I humbly ask them to set aside three hours and twenty-nine minutes and watch Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman. Go no further.
Writing voice-overs is extra work. ENPT’s best lines are the Dhanush voice-overs. It felt like Raghu (Dhanush) was talking to me, taking me through his arc, his troubles and his emotions. Raghu (like Menon himself) is an example of people who fit the adage, “still waters run deep”. Add the music of Darbuka Siva (whose exemplary BGM for ENPT must also be made available as an OST) with the cinematography, stunts and overall technical finesse of the film, and we get a complete movie marquee event experience from one of the finest directors in Tamil, who defines good cinema for a whole generation.
What more can I say, except copy what one of my favourite film critics already wrote?
Welcome back, Gautham Menon.