There are several moments in this film that are meaningful. Loved Vijay Sethupathi’s acting. Without a single line of dialogue, purely by his actions and body language the film conveys to us the reservations Murugesan has about teaching the Pannaiyar how to drive. He doesn’t want to lose his job. He doesn’t want to lose the new identity he has found. Which is why later on when Murugesan explicitly reveals his thoughts to Peedai, I was like “Why is this needed? We get it Mr.Arun Kumar. Move on to the next scene.“
That brings me to one of the biggest negatives of this film. The constant underlining of emotions through background music and song lyrics. This is the kind of film where when someone becomes sad, then there will be loud sad music blaring with the lyrics going something like “My heart feels heavy” and so on. Why is this underlining needed? Let’s not underestimate the empathy of South Indian movie watchers. If an emotion is conveyed in its true form on screen, bgm or not, big stars or not, it will touch the hearts of the viewer. This holds true for any art, not just films. So holding back that pen when you feel the urge to underline something is what distinguishes a great artist from an ordinary one.
It was heart-warming to see that the actor who played the driver role in the short film version of this, also had a character to play in the feature film. Makes you feel that the director is like the Pannaiyar in the film, “Vaanga saaptu ponga!”
The film touches upon some very delicate emotions. The feeling of owning the car after starting driving lessons for a day or two, the little skirmishes that the pannaiyar and his wife keep having, the emotion of wanting to have your name on the car only after it has become rightfully yours and Murugesan admiring the romance between the couple from a distance. These are some minute points that makes you forgive the director for the other blemishes. You feel like Anbe Sivam climax Kamal facing Santhanabharathi, “Sila vishayangal correct ah capture pannirukkeenga. Mannichutten. Polachu ponga!”
The pannaiyar and his wife in this film definitely remind us of the people in Ki.Rajanarayanan’s short story Naarkali. They have many things at home but its free for other people in the village to use. On the surface, this makes them seem like they’re open-hearted. But, the subtle message here is that by doing this they’re ensuring that they are surrounded by people as much as possible. Old age without someone around you can be daunting. In a way, its their loneliness that makes them adopt the car and its driver as their kids. The film rarely shows us much of Murugesan’s real parents. It doesn’t matter. The pannaiyar and his wife are his foster parents. And the fact that the director did not underline this particular point is great. You only keep hearing the old lady screaming “Murugesaaa!!” and maybe one line where she says, “Indha moonjiya paakkalanna soru eranga mattengudhu”
I love Vijay Sethupathi a lot more now after watching this movie. He has no qualms about retreating into the backdrop in a film and letting other people in the movie take over. He has clearly understood that this film is equally about the relationship between the pannaiyar and his wife and looks like he’s fine with it. Promising times ahead, especially given that he has a line of films ready to be released next.
The bit with Attakatthi Dinesh wanting to sit in the front seat of the car seemed odd and unnecessary. Although I’m willing to take that as a viewer wanting to be part of this ideal dreamworld where everyone is good at heart and nothing bad happens to them. After watching the film, I definitely felt that. It would indeed be fun to go on a ride in this Padmini and have a chat with these characters. It would be great to stand in the footboard of a bus with the crisp air caressing your face and visiting this imaginary ideal world tucked away somewhere, far far away from a world in which migrant workers get beaten up in prison and folk dancers are forcefully impregnated by rich men.