Kalaiselvan and Samuthirakani in a still from ‘Thalaikoothal’ | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement
When is someone considered alive? Is it when they are fully functioning physically and mentally, and are conscious of it? Or does it have more to do with the life force within us? What if someone is in a state of unconsciousness, but their mind is alive with memories from their life? in ThalaikoothalWriter-director Jayaprakash Radhakrishnan, in his most eclectic and wide-ranging work to date, fearlessly tells a compelling story about one man’s fight to save his unconscious father, and through it, he forces us to ponder many of these questions. Lets think.
Jayaprakash is in complete control of the narrative; Thalaikoothal Has every signature element from his debut film Lens and his mumblecore movie mosquito sighting Was. His stories have psychological depth, his characters find themselves grappling with existential questions, and he dares to tackle themes we all know about but aren’t told. Lens was about the sheer inhumanity of pornography, while mosquito sighting Explored the social stigma around late marriage. Thalaikoothal talks about senicide (the killing of elders), and while it is normal to expect a story about a father-son relationship here, Jayaprakash’s film goes much further and lets us tell the story through the eyes of a comatose patient. lets see.
It’s the spontaneous and creative change that impressed us in the first place. The details of the setting (it is a village in Thirunelveli) and duration of the film are not complete. In the very first scene of the film, we see Pazhani (Samuthirakani) cleaning her father before he gets into an argument with Muthu (Kalaiselvan). wife Kalai (Vasundhara), who can’t quite take the life that this unfortunate situation is forcing her to lead.
the director: Jayaprakash Radhakrishnan
Throw: Samuthirakani, Vasundhara, Kathir, Kalaiselvan, Katha Nandi
sequence: 160 minutes
story: A man’s long battle to save his unconscious father faces financial constraints, and his family suggests euthanasia as the best possible option, dashing his hopes for his father to return to normal. tested
A lot is told in a matter of minutes through dialogues and information is drip-fed to the audience. Pazhani is tired of her family’s request to euthanize her father in order to improve Kalai and the family’s financial condition (Pazhani is unable to return to work). With mounting debts constricting his neck, Pazhani puts his faith in his father and believes that things might get easier once his father returns to normalcy.
On a parallel track, Muthu is subconsciously dreaming and remembering the life that he (Kathir plays the younger Muthu) led with his lover Pechi (Katha Nandi), a young woman from an oppressed caste. . Love was what made Muthu feel alive, and it is lovely how it is love and its many complications that drive the plot. For the entirety of its 160-minute duration, these two narratives travel, with transitions and interconnections between them creating surreal visual imagery. For example, Muthu, having repeatedly heard subconsciously about the euthanasia method of drinking gentle coconut water, dreams of drowning in a pond of coconut water.
Interestingly, this screenplay structure that brings together surreal fiction and fact is one of the many similarities the film shares with Mexican filmmaker Alejandro Iñárritu’s Oscar-nominated 2022 feature. The Bardo, The False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths, There too, it was a life on the edge that sees some real memories, and the relationship that a man shares with his child and his father also played a central role.
It is also really commendable that despite giving so many arguments from both the sides, how Thalaikoothal No one ever takes a specific stand in the debate surrounding euthanasia. Despite Pazhani and Muthu being the heroes who are actually fighting to save a life, this does not antagonize Kaalai and his family. She fights to have her agency and involvement in the family’s decision-making, and questions the blind hope that Pazhani has for her father’s recovery. If Pazhani has a right to question the morality of his wife’s proposal, he has a right to look after his future in which he does not have to struggle for everyday existence. So what is the solution after all? The way the film plays out is smart, given that there doesn’t seem to be a solid answer to this debate, especially when there are socio-economic factors at play.
Thalaikoothal There’s a lot of ambiguity, and that works a lot in its favor. It is nice to see a filmmaker who along with being a storyteller takes his time to give the audience the right amount of information to build a story. Jayaprakash also manages to bring out stellar performances from his lead actors such as Samudrakani, Kathir, Kalaiselvan, and Vasundhara. But it is Rajesh, the film’s sound designer, who deserves a bigger slice of the cake. You will not believe if someone says that this film was shot using sync sound. Kannan Narayanan’s music only adds to the cohesive tone of the film.
Perhaps, the only issue that might put off the less knowledgeable audience is the length of the film. There’s barely any respite in this long film, and scenes filled with magical realism give a chance to rub many people the wrong way. However, looking back, there isn’t a single scene that didn’t add value to the experience. There’s too much symbolism, allegory, and stunning visual imagery to warrant a second watch.
Above all, it is an absolute pleasure to watch Samuthirakani in such a role.
Thalaikoothal is set to release in theaters on 3rd February