Director Pa Ranjith is a well-known and welcome voice in Tamil cinema talking about the atrocities committed against Dalits and the oppressed in his cinema. In his latest film Natchathiram Nagargiradhu (2022) he has taken it to new levels and made a film that feels like a lesson on the subject. He deserves appreciation for openly presenting the important issues of intercaste marriages and the resulting honour killings, but an entire film with no discernable story makes it uninteresting. It gets our mangoidiots rating of Raw.
As a director, Pa Ranjith displays his magic in the opening scene where a couple who are in bed, start a casual conversation followed by an Ilaiyaraja song by the girl, which then rapidly descends into derogatory caste-related comments and a breakup. He repeats it again in the scene where a loving mother shrewdly plays the emotions of her son to move him away from marrying a Beef-eating scheduled caste girl and agree to a marriage in their own caste. Then there’s the scene where he deftly exposes the continued misogynistic comments made against women & their clothing, even within relationships. Unfortunately, in other places, this wizardry of the director goes missing and lengthy political monologues take its place.
Following her noteworthy performance in Sarpatta Parambarai (2022), Dushara Vijayan has also excelled in this. As the protagonist, she was the glue holding the entire film and its disparate characters together. The two male lead roles were done by Kalidas Jayaram and Kalaiyarasan, both are known for their fine acting and they don’t disappoint us.
In recent times, Kollywood has produced a few good movies that showed caste-related atrocities in their true horrible form, for example, the orchestrated symphony that was Pariyerum Perumal (2018), produced by Pa Ranjith & directed by Mari Selvaraj, which was hard-hitting and bold, yet the underlying love story in the film moved your hearts and made it relatable & unforgettable. Unfortunately, in Natchathiram Nagargiradhu, what we get is a cacophony and the absence of a deep note.
A theatre troupe in Pondicherry decides to make a play around the stories that are created around inter-caste marriages by vested interests destroying families and the society around them. Each member comes from varied backgrounds, castes, sexual orientations and colours. Presenting this rainbow group in a film that should’ve been only about inter-caste marriages confuses us, the audience.