After over a year of its release, I finally got around to watching Kathai Thiraikathai Vasanam Iyakkam. Thanks to A, for waiting to discuss the movie with me until I watched it (and for tolerating habits such as “If I am thinking of watching a movie, I will not read about it until I have watched it”).
KTVI opens with scenes that are very random. The first one is a post-apocalyptic setting. We see Vishal holding on to debris and barely staying afloat after a tsunami wreaks havoc. Vultures are flying about, and in the distance he hears a child wailing. He swims to her and tries to calm her down. We move on. Vijay Sethupathy is shown analyzing the merits of biriyani and pazhaya soru. “Biriyani can be prepared in an hour, but you need to wait a day to eat rice that’s a day old.” You can almost imagine a Sivakarthikeyan movie with this line, wisecracking sidekick and supportive family members in place. The next sequence shows us Prakash Raj playing Brahma, busy creating human babies. One of the faces of Brahma dispatches a set of five babies to earth, but without brains. Brahma then tries to find the brainless children from the earth’s population, though the world has by now borne innumerable politicians, TR and Power Star. Is this a Chimbudeven movie waiting to happen? The last sequence shows Taapsee as a guitar instructor who cannot speak. While teaching some children to play chords, planes drop bombs on them. Everything that can go wrong does go wrong, and Taapsee ends up killing herself with a chord from her guitar (Bala anyone?).
We soon find out these are just stories that a group of friends are bouncing off each other. One of them dreams of becoming a director, the other a director of photography, and so on. Thambi Ramaiah is in there too (of course), but he gets a role that doesn’t get on your nerves. He is the pedantic old man, with an unrivalled knowledge of and love for cinema. Director Parthiepan tells us this is a movie with no story. Though that may not necessarily be true. It is the story of a talented man, Tamizh, down on his luck, he just can’t get that elusive break. It is the story of a frustrated wife, Daksha, wanting to support her out of work husband, but feeling more burdened every day. It is the story of a man whose entire life has gone by in the pursuit of a chance to make a movie. It is the story of dreams, of magic, of cinema.
Wikipedia tells me R. Parthiepan is 57 years old, I almost want to doubt that. This movie feels so young, so refreshing, it’s as though the boys from Naduvula Konjam Pakkatha Kaanum decided to make a meta movie. Tamizh and his friends spend all their time discussing plot points, screenplay, script. They talk about movies that were ahead of their time, or movies that were a waste of their time. They speak lines that are reminiscent of Parthiepan’s word play. They encounter different people and learn what they like in cinema (I especially liked the sequence where a man delivering water cans describes a scene, and this can in turn be described as a giant wink at Mysskin). They meet a whacky producer who only wants to make movies that involve police inspectors with titles referencing felines.
Tamizh’s wife, Daksha is an interesting character. Or rather, what could have been an interesting character. She is made to continuously hit the same note throughout the movie, making me feel bad for her. She cooks, cleans, earns while her husband tries making his movie. And all the while, she gets labelled eccentric by her husband (and his friends). I did not see why her mood swings and bad temper need to be called so. Isn’t it normal for a woman to feel irritated in such a situation? Or maybe the movie is so unapologetically male in its point of view that this is the only way she can be portrayed? (As an aside, I really liked the actress playing this role.)
There is another character Deepa who gets an odd treatment of sorts (I’m not able to put my finger on what exactly). She falls in love with Tamizh at first sight (while falling down!?). She has a super power, an “intuition” that allows her to see the future. By her own admission, this intuition is wrong fifty percent of the time. Tamizh is inspired by both these women – “Woma(e)n Inspiring Man To Achieve concept”, as A puts it. He proceeds to write a romantic story, which he finally ends up narrating to a producer. This story is imagined with Arya and Amala Paul, and I found this to be one of the weaker portions of the movie. They essentially go through everything that we have previously seen with Tamizh and Daksha, with Arya having the super power in this instance. It doesn’t seem fresh or romantic or even sensual the second time around (yes, Tamizh and Daksha have a sex life. As a bonus – both of them have desires!). And for some reason, the star actors feel even more wooden than everyone else in the movie (I’m inclined to blame this on Arya).
Daksha, Deepa, Amala Paul all have scenes involving the thaali and/or dreaming about the thaali. Is this homage paid to the time honoured thaali sentiment in Tamil movies? Maybe it is an observation on how seemingly modern women have no qualms in taking up traditional wife roles in their houses. We even have the Amala Paul character saying she will be a puraana kaala pondaati. She says this because Arya is initially apprehensive about marrying her, as his intuition tells him they will separate; and she convinces him saying she will be patient with him irrespective of how wrong he may be. So I guess patience is a virtue only for women?
Parthiepan appears in the movie (as God? Director?), revealing what will be happening later in the movie, but these incidents do not come to pass the way we expect them to, making it enjoyable for us as viewers. Of course, this can seem terribly clever and tedious to some, but it seems right up Parthiepan’s alley, and you kind of don’t want to stop him from having fun in his own movie.
How does KTVI end? Does the producer take on Tamizh’s script? Well, they tell us there’s no fun in life if we know what’s coming next (which is the entire movie distilled into one line). You’d think the movie ends there. We then cut to a music video (living in the moment etc.), and when half the audience has already walked out or updated their status on social media, we see Tamizh sitting in a director’s chair, directing the music video we just saw. So he does make it after all, as this ending-of-the-ending tells us. I must say I was a bit glad to see that. Left to my imagination, I would have liked to think of a happy ending for Tamizh too.