For those who celebrate Selvaraghavan for his unique craft in terms of the visual grammar he brings on screen, Nenjam Marappathillai is like a big hope. I am not saying I loved the movie in its entirety. The eccentricity at times is far too annoying. But at the same time, you as a film buff will also agree to the fact that original ideas aren’t that smooth to pitch and will have rough patches. Nenjam Marappathillai is uneven for sure, and at the same time, it manages to amuse you with its unconventional tone.
Ramaswamy, aka Ramsay, is the central character here. He takes care of the business run by his in-laws and is pretty much living a puppet life under his wife. To this life of Ramsay, where money was never a concern, comes a girl named Mariam whose job was to be a domestic help along with being a nanny to Ramsay’s son. But things weren’t really smooth for Mariam after she reached that house, and what we see in the movie is her experiences in Ramsay’s house.
In the very first visual of the movie itself, Selvaraghavan flashes those three colors in front of us; red, blue, and green. From Pudhuppettai itself, Selvaraghavan has shown us how unsubtle he is about using color as a metaphor. The early moments of the movie and the dialogues have this cheesy Tamil movie texture to it. But it’s from the moment Ramsay appears on the screen; the wackiness starts to unfold. Selvaraghavan shows us the illusions or fantasies of a man who seems to be suppressing his anger of being a puppet by acting like an overly optimistic person. But the eccentricity slips into becoming wickedly funny in the second half when we see Ramsay dealing with the supernatural in a way we don’t expect characters to behave.
Post NGK, there were many theories about the real meaning and hidden meaning of scenes and statements in that movie. There Selvaraghavan never made an effort to manipulate the viewer into exploring those interpretations. Here also, he is not interested in spoon-feeding the viewer. Some of the bits in the movie feel like instinctive filmmaking. For instance, the police station and courtroom featuring song come at a place where you are definitely not expecting a quirky thought. Nenjam Marappathillai is like that throughout. The transition from one scene to another scene is pretty jarring, but each scene would have something like a performance or visual composition or background score that would work for you.
Arvind Krishna uses almost all the less used lenses and colors to create the peculiarly supernatural world of Selvaraghavan. The entire movie is presented as a play happening in Ramsay’s life, and they have used red for that. Ramsay’s eccentric celebrations and illusions have a stark green color, and to know the interpretation of the blue color I might have to watch the movie again. Just like the narrative, the music by Yuvan Shankar Raja is also on the wacky side.
SJ Suryah finds the high pitch of the character quickly. It takes a while for us to understand the character’s psyche, and once we get it, it is fun to watch SJ handle that character. There is a second-half monologue-like sequence after which his character does something horrific. The output of that whole sequence was absolutely hilarious. Regina Cassandra, as the stern Mariam, was really effective. Nandita Swetha fumbles in the initial caricature bits of her character. But as the focus shifted towards her in the second half, the performance showed significant improvement.
Nenjam Marappathillai is definitely not perfect and has a lot of issues in convincing the viewer. But Selvaraghavan’s decision not to spoon-fed the audience and go after a wacky subject like this with his signature color schemes and unique characters makes it a movie that you just can’t ignore completely.
Selvaraghavan's decision not to spoon-fed the audience and go after a wacky subject like this with his signature color schemes and unique characters makes it a movie that you just can't ignore.
Green: Recommended Film
Orange: Okay, Watchable, Experimental Films
Red: Not Recommended