This is one of those films that I have been waiting a long time to watch. It was not released in Bangalore and I had to watch on a thiruttu VCD. Giving credit to the lack of clear sound, a big screen, darkness, popcorn and suspension of disbelief, please read this review for what it’s worth!
Every time a film is made in Tamil at the backdrop of a village, I have come to expect a horrifying painful ending which leaves me sleepless for a couple of nights. This expectation has, of course, been built by watching films such as Mynaa, Avan Ivan, Paruthiveeran and Thenmerku Paruvakaattru. Period film Subramaniapuram did not give us much to smile about in the end either. It is indeed disturbing to watch a beautifully made film with a horrible ending. With this at the back of my mind, I watched Vaagai Sooda Va anyway. I don’t regret it.
Vaagai Sooda Va is a story set in the 1960s Kandeduthaan Kaadu every resident of which is engaged in the manufacture of bricks. The village – known as the place from where the best bricks in the state are manufactured – is home to a bunch of families that uneducated, illiterate, innocent and hardworking. To this village comes a ‘Government job aspirant’ sent by a ‘private organisation’ to teach children. The villagers don’t receive this very well. They see no need to be taught.
Through the protagonist’s journey of trying to teach the children in the village, he learns how to face a chasing goat, how to cure himself of the effect of a ‘poisonous’ fruit, how to catch fish and how to do some math! Every one of his interactions with the children in the village is beautifully crafted. The scene where he is called “thevadiyappaya” by a child only to later realise he was told “thedi appadla” is true joy!
The tea-tending female lead is one of the most artistically written characters in contemporary Tamil cinema. She makes tea, cheats the man off his money and then serves him good food, takes care of her father’s business and boldly asks the man to marry her (in fact even working on earning her dowry). She has a sense of energy and charm with the innocence that only belongs in rural India. She is beautiful without make up. Such is such a loveable brat!
Kuruvikkaaran, of all is my favourite. Every time he says “Kuruvi saththam kekkudhu. Kuruvikku veedu illa”, my stomach churns thinking of all the trees we’ve cut down.
As for the story goes, you can guess every scene that is going to play out. You know what they will say and you know what exactly will happen. There is nothing by way of story that the director can claim new. By way of execution, the director has done some beautiful work.
All oppari scenes are cleverly done. Instead of the loud drums and weeping women, we hear a lovely song played in the background with visuals of drums and weeping women. The lyrics of the song are also highly intriguing though I don’t seem to find it on the web. The long shots and muddy huts are beautifully cinematographed. The role of that radio in the film is lovely.
The socialist in the director (or the emotion of the times) comes out in the scene where the protagonist says “Kaasu kudukkaravan ellam saami aayidaraan illa? Ivanayum nambidaadhinga. Ivanum modhalaali than” at the end of a capitalist scene where the incumbent is thrown out by competition!
In all, Vaagai Sooda Va is by no means the best film made in Tamil cinema. But it is one of the most beautiful ones made. It has its intentions intact, the execution is endearing and it leaves thoughts lingering in your mind long after the film is over. Sweet!