I would like to start this post by declaring that I am ashamed of the Tamil film Distributors Association and Tamil film distributors as such. Most of the biggies in this industry have raked astronomical sums of money from commercial pot boilers which follow the ‘Song-fight-comedy-sentiment’ formula. But sadly, not one of them had an eye or, for that matter, a heart to accept Nandalala’s brilliance and release it through their banner. It had to be done by Ayngaran International – a relative toddler in the Kollywood distribution arena – while the Marans who seem to be releasing every other crap in Kollywood chose to overlook this gem.
Let’s move to Nandalala. Nandalala is a story about two people – an eight year old boy and a forty year old man – journeying with each other in search of their respective mothers. While the eight year old Akilesh is your average kid next door, forty year old Baskar Mani is a mentally retarded man with the thought process similar to that of an eight year old. On their way they meet a host of characters who end up helping them or harming them in some way. Finally when they do reach their destination, do they get to meet their mothers? Well, Yes and No. Confused? Well, watch the movie…
Nandalala is a movie straight from the heart. It is also directed straight at the heart. Mysskin is clear about his characters (Nasser appears for 3 seconds in the film, so better ‘watch out’ for him!) and his portrayal of the script. There are no scenes which go overboard with emotion. There are no scenes which exploit the sensitivity of the ‘mother-son’ relationship. Still, Nandalala manages to reach that particular place in your heart which has a direct link to your mind. Every frame of the movie talks to you. When the characters don’t talk the visuals do. Be it the scene where a surly lorry driver manages to discover the child in him as he prods at ‘touch me not’ plants along with two ‘8 year olds’ for company or the scene where a poor slum girl who sells herself to earn a living drenches the sorrows, filth and dirt in her life by standing in the rain, the visuals more than make up for the lack of dialogues. Coming to performances, it would be an understatement to say that Mysskin has lived the role of Baskar Mani. He has given us an unforgettable, indelible portrayal which could have been pulled off by very few in the industry. Ashwath Ram has essayed the role of Akilesh quite brilliantly and has emoted exceptionally well for an eight year old. Snigdha reveals that she is not a ‘yellow sareed’ item girl after all. With a single scene where she describes her stained life, Snigdha proves that she is an actress par excellence. Rohini comes in a cameo and literally disarms you with her looks and her performance.
There is one other person who, according to me, is the actual protagonist of the movie – Ilayaraja. There are certain sequences in the movie which could have come off as bland or even incomprehensible if it hadn’t been for the background score. The music hits your senses where it should. Ilayaraja proves that he is a master when it comes to the art of plucking strings in instruments which will have the direct effect of tugging at the strings of your heart. His orchestration speaks to the viewer on an emotional, primal and psychological level. There is very little need for dialogues when such magical music keeps you spell bound and satiated. After experiencing Ilayaraja in Nandalala I am convinced that all other music directors in India are light years behind him when it comes to background score. Not one of them can compose music that can speak to us. The maestro does it, and does it effortlessly.
Nandalala is an enriching musical experience. It’s an honest attempt at meaningful cinema by a gutsy director. It’s an emotional travelogue for all sons and mothers of this world. It’s a journey which happens almost exclusively on the road. On the road less travelled.