There is a scene where Kali(Siddarth) is chosen by his Guru to play Soora Bathman, the mythical demon Karthikeyan is born to destroy. His different portrayal of the demon king compared to the theatrical, loud and more common version of the demon by Gomathi(Prithviraj), won him the honor of playing lead in the play. Right after this, the movie cuts to an artist adding splashes of red to his painting of a demon to be used as a prop in the play. Gomathi’s jealousy is introduced to us very early in the movie in such subtle and then very not so subtle ways.
Gomathi is painfully direct in questioning those who favor Kali instead of him, so much that your heart goes out to him. When he questions Vadivu about her lack of love for him when all along he has only had her best interests in heart , you feel for him. “He has a point you know”, you want to tell Vadivu. Or when he asks his guru whether he would always be the Ekalaivan to him and fall short of Arjunan, you smile at his sly reference to his superiority in acting skills and his guru’s favoritism . Gomathi makes you feel sorry for him all the while making you hate him a little for acting on his jealousy . He makes you want to tell him, let it go, you are good and he is good too.
Kaaviyathalaivan has fantastic performances. Prithviraj dazzles as the jealous actor forever hoping to one up Siddarth who effortlessly wins everyone’s heart as the more natural actor. How this story of jealousy unfolds in the backgroup of a traveling theater when India is in the cusp of the freedom movement makes up the story. The art direction in the movie is stellar. It brings forth a dream world that is theater with the props and the actual staging of the plays.Very little needs to be said about the music , as much has been said and much more written. ARR is fantastic , his music was one of the reasons I wanted to watch this in the big screen and he did not disappoint . Vedhika was good too as the KB Sundarambal inspired Vadivu. You just wish she was given more scope and a more meatier role than just being the pretty , nightingale voiced girl in love with a boy .
There is something unexplainable and wrong in this movie. In spite of the great performances and a pretty strong storyline, you don’t walk away with the feeling that you just watched a great movie. Instead you immediately start thinking about what this movie did wrong and why it fell short. The answer to me was that this movie tried too hard. It was too ambitious. The jealous actor story definitely worked better in the world of theater than movies but the independence backdrop somehow seemed squeezed in to the movie . They neither evoke any sense of nationalism nor make you root more strongly for Kaali.
But then there are some wonderful scenes like the one where Kaali and Gomathi talk about the Rajapaat who reigns high and their ambitions in the world of theater.There was an MGR-Sivaji analogy there , atleast for me. The fundamental idealogical difference in their schools of thought. The Sivaji reference did not stop there. Going back to the Soora Bathman scene, when Kaali acts out his version of Sooran, with a demonic laugh that could run a chill up your spine, all I thought was this was how Sivaji would have done Sooran. (Please lets forget Veerabahu)
Kaaviyathalaivan – Watch it and if you left the theater feeling something was wrong , let me know what you think that is.