Navarasa Review: Payasam - Vasanth, Delhi Ganesh deliver the best film of this anthology
It’s the sort of contained film, focussed on everyday gestures and conversations, that we don’t get a lot of
Like with the other films, a quote opens proceedings in what’s easily my best film of this anthology. It goes, “Fear is danger to your body, but disgust is danger to your soul.” This lovely Vasanth film, as the quote suggests, is an examination of the soul of its elderly unnamed protagonist, who’s referred to, quite against his liking, as ‘Subbu-oda chithappa’ (played by a terrific Delhi Ganesh). It’s a film that does so many things so well. Its setting—that of a Brahmin wedding—is established in painstaking detail: the energy, the colour, the rituals… The extravagance of setting—in people, food, and clothing—is crucial to this story, as this serves to instigate the Chithappa.
Rasa: Bhibatsa (Disgust)
Director: Vasanth Sai
Cast: Delhi Ganesh, Aditi Balan, Kathadi Ramamurthy, Karthik
Streaming on: Netflix
The film quietly documents the roles assigned to women in the setting and can be seen as a commentary of it too. Aditi Balan’s character, a widow, is treated with a fair bit of disgust by many. But this is a film that belongs to Delhi Ganesh, who at 77, delivers a physical performance full of vulnerability, both of the soul and of the body. Watch him as he reluctantly enters the wedding, slipping and stumbling. Watch his contempt for Subbu come through in spoken and unspoken ways, in glances and head tilts.
Vasanth Sai manages to infuse this film with a bit of organic dark humour as well. Among my favourite bits is when someone asks Chithappa, “Sowkiyama?”, and the latter retorts, “Sowkiyam illa, enna panna porel?” Even in moments that don’t necessarily add up to the big picture (like the examination of hierarchy between the cooks), this film shows a lot of sensitivity and interest in human relationships. It’s a film, I dare say, the late K Balachander (who Vasanth was once a pupil of), would be quite proud of. It’s the sort of contained film, focussed on everyday gestures and conversations, that we don’t get a lot of. And yet, it effortlessly manages to dissect a man’s psyche, and present you the ugliness within. That is no small task.