A film by the immortal, of the immortal

Disclaimer: I am an ardent fan of Kamal Hassan, the actor. However, I don’t endorse most of his personal views, especially on religion. Kamal and I are Scorpios, a day apart rather and have so many commonalities in life.

I was all excited to see Uttama Villain. His last few movies haven’t been like the ones he has given in the 80s and 90s which was probably his golden period. Uttama Villain, seemed to be a movie about a movie star, one who has achieved superstardom rather. From the trailer and hearsay, I was expecting to see how an aged actor reinvents himself touching upon his Professional Guru while also embracing a first time Director and a 20-something Music Director. Who else, other than Kamal Hassan has the guts to test new talent in today’s age, especially given the fact that big budget movies and the expected results are projected to be a big hype. The star cast looked impressive too – Pooja Kumar, Andrea, Urvasi, Jayaram, MS Bhaskar, K Vishwanath and the legendary Late K Balachander, the man who made what Kamal Hassan what he is today. The film’s opening scene begins with the tepid narcissm that Kamal has been accused of over the past few years, with the hero of the movie Actor Manoranjan visiting a Multiplex to view the film he has acted in with the crew and special guests with all the pomp and disrespect, especially asking the Audio Team to reduce the sound of the speakers. The first few minutes of the film go off track with scenes that are largely disconnected. I wonder if this piece was planned to confuse the audience in a way. I could see puzzled faces (even in the dark) in the multiplex that I was watching on the first day of screening the film in Chennai. That the movie received unwarranted attention by not being able to be released for the first two days and lost the crucial 3-day weekend is another topic to write about.

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I loved the conversation between Jayaram and Kamal. No other actor in India can emote as well as Kamal when it comes to such melodramatic scenes. Two breaking news are brought to the attention of the viewers almost suddenly. One about his past and another about his (?!?!?) future. Manoranjan, the actor tries to do good for the past while also trying to do his best for the short while that he is about to live due to a severe tumour in the brain. He approaches his Mentor Margadarisi played by the ace Director K Balachander who initially refuses to do a film with Manoranjan, accusing him of becoming too arrogant and too big in life, something that is reminiscent of Kamal himself. While Manoranjan tries to justify why he needs one cult-classic kind of last movie, Kamal himself may not have such a chance, not anymore atleast with the passing away of Mr. Balachander. So, Maragadarisi and Manoranjan decide to make a movie which is called Uttama Villain. Until the actual film finished after some 2 hours and 45 minutes, I still wonder why the tag “Villain” for the film within the film. Confusing right. Yes, it is.

Story and Screenplay is by Kamal himself, so knowing him, he has well touched upon the 8th Century Theyyam art form to narrate the movie “Uttama Villain” the film within the film. There is a parallel track of Manoranjan’s personal life – his daughter aptly played by Parvathy Menon getting to understand her father better. And then there are a few emotional family drama scenes which is tragic to say the least. Gets a bit too much on the audience. Manoranjan narrates the story of “Uttaman” an artist who enters the kingdom of Muttarasan (played by Nasser) who wishes to become immortal (Mrityunjay in sanskrit, meaning one who doesn’t have an end). Uttaman helps the princess to regain the throne by conning the King. And finally, uses the Hiranyakashipu Story to ensure the king kills himself with the poisonous claws of the Lord Narasimha, a role that the King plays in the stage drama, which is also narrated through Theyyam.

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And suddenly, the movie ends, with a pic of Manoranjan (or Kamal Hassan) on the Big screen – indirectly, or rather directly implying that he is immortal.

There are two mainstream songs and a couple of them through the art form. Except the opening number, which is foot tapping, no other is quite remembered. Ghibran has done a good job with the music department, given that it is a complex film with too many layers, something that Kamal is fond of and has done many times in the past. Visuals are awesome, the colours beaming out of the big screen, especially during the Theyyam performances. It was also a great idea to showcase the legendary Subbu Arumugam, ace Villupattu artist and also dedicate a song in this tradition.

Overall, Uttama Villain is a good watch for those who love and appreciate good cinema. Provided you are able to come to terms with what Kamal is trying to infer – that an actor of such stature as Manoranjan is immortal. Manoranjan is an actor who has grey shades – gets a woman pregnant before marriage, then marries someone out of force and continues to have an illicit relationship with a girl half his age and chooses to live a life in his own terms. That the life of Manoranjan has too many strains of that of Kamal Hassan is another.  I wonder, if history will keep such actors (like Manoranjan) immortal.

Time will tell.

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