Inclusivity and caste politics have always been integral to Pa Ranjith’s films. After trying similar themes in various mainstream films, Ranjith goes for an experiment that talks about love and the politics within that in his new movie Natchathiram Nagargiradhu. Even though the conversational drama set in the backdrop of theater feels a bit uneven due to its branching-out nature, the treatment given here keeps it engaging for the viewer.
The film is about a group of theater artists who have joined to do a play about love. Rene and Iniyan, who just went through a breakup, are among the group members. There is Arjun, who came to join the theater with aspirations to be a movie actor. The theater group comprises a wide variety of people from different states to different sexuality. What we see in Natchathiram Nagargiradhu is their process and all interpersonal things that happen during the course of that rehearsal.
Movies based on love that include political conversations in their screenplays have this oddly satisfying feeling. One of my personal favorites is the Before trilogy from Richard Linklater. There is a part of Natchathiram Nagargiradhu that has a similar treatment which I felt was highly absorbing. Rene, played by Dushara Vijayan, very openly and aggressively discusses love, discrimination, and several other things with great clarity. The movie is 173 minutes long, and Pa Ranjith wants to address so many things here. Even though the subplots looked interesting in their own space, the blending isn’t that smooth in totality.
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Dushara Vijayan, as Rene, is pretty much playing that role that is steering the movie. Rene’s clarity is what gives a sense of energy to the whole narrative, and Dushara’s performance was excellent. Typical Kalaiyarasan loudness was there in the portrayal of Arjun. It was perhaps the most weakly written character in the screenplay, as his transformation from a conservative man to a wannabe progressive guy was too quick. I wouldn’t say Kalidas Jayaram has a challenging role in Natchathiram Nagargiradhu, but it was a character that made him work towards understanding the character, Iniyan. Shabeer Kallarakkal as the antagonist with all that theatrics was memorable. Everyone else in the theater group looked very real and made that group an enviable space to be.
Pa. Ranjith has always spoken about his politics through the films, and I have felt that he isn’t a big fan of being very subtle about it, mainly when he uses major stars. There is a scene in Natchathiram Nagargiradhu where Rene is asked about her politics, and she replies that she is an Ambedkarite. And there was an animation sequence where she explained what made her this outspoken persona. And then we have the moments where the possessive and insecure romance and its dramas unfold. It is actually Rene’s political reading of the statements made by her partner or teammate that is navigating all the conflicts within the relationship. The movie is about theater, and the cinematography uses light very theatrically on certain occasions. One can see Rene guiding the men towards the light on two occasions. Thenma’s music understands the milieu and politics of the movie.
If you search the word political in this review, you can find it occurring in multiple places, and that’s pretty much how it felt while watching this movie. If you like seeing blunt conversations, to an extent, Natchathiram Nagargiradhu will give you that excitement. The priority is for politics over craft; thus, the deliberate efforts to talk about caste-based discrimination can look slightly odd in specific patches of the film.
If you like seeing blunt conversations, to an extent, Natchathiram Nagargiradhu will give you that excitement.
Green: Recommended Content
Orange: The In-Between Ones
Red: Not Recommended