One of the most eagerly expected movies of the year, 'Kaaviyathalaivan' brings G.Vasanta Balan back to the forefront after the average 'Aravaan' released in 2012. A period film, based in the 1930's and depicting the golden age of Madurai's theater companies and its artistes' lifestyle, is certainly a fantastic premise and supposedly a treat for connoisseurs of Tamizh cinema. Produced by industrialist Varun Manian and YNot Studios' S.Sashikanth, can G.Vasanta Balan strike gold, with the backing of A-list performers and technicians ?

The film certainly belongs to the two male leads and both Siddharth and Prithviraj Sukumaran compete fiercely with each other to deliver good performances. The film is seen from Prithviraj's point of view and being the antagonist himself Prithviraj, making a comeback to Tamizh cinema after 4-year absence, has delivered a very professional performance and his expressions were top-notch. The "tamasic" nature of his character was very well brought out by him. The only drawback one could find with his performance, is his dialogue deliveries, which are laced with Malayalam-accent, which is surely a no-no for this type of film. Siddharth however steals the show, with arguably one of his best performances of his career. His body language, facial expression, eye-movements were terrific and his earnestness is so apparent on screen. Both male leads rocked the stage show sequences and kudos to them once again ! Vedhicka looked like a million bucks and has performed well, in a character with limited screen timing. Her dancing talents were put to good use and hope to see this beautiful damsel, doing more good roles in Tamizh cinema. Anaika Soti makes her Tamizh debut and is okay, though she clearly doesn't fit into the script. Veteran Nassar was majestic as Sivadass Swamigal and the ace performer delivered a near flawless performance. Thambi Ramaiah and Singampuli provide the comic relief and the rest of the cast includes Babu Antony, Mansoor Ali Khan, Ponvannan, Kuyili, Karikalan, V.K.T Balan, George, T.P Gajendran, Anjali Devi, Gayathri, Ponnammah and etc.

With a big budget and top-class technicians, 'Kaaviyathalaivan' has fantastic technical outputs and is a treat for the audience. Perumal Selvam and Niranjani Agathiyan are in charge of the costume designing and kudos for their homework on the attires of the artistes, which resembled the drama troupe folks of 1930s. Also, the detailing in costume designing for the stage show sequences, deserves mention for the designers. Very good work ! Action choreography is by B.Thyagarajan and his work fits the script's nature and is effective. T.Santhanam takes care of the art direction and he deserves a round of applause for the set work he created for the entire film. The sets for stage plays, the drama troupe's home, the palace bedroom and various other sets, as well as the properties pertaining to those period, were all rich and intricate in details. T.Santhanam's art work adds plenty of color to the film and becomes the basis for the film's screenplay. Fantastic output ! Praveen K.L's editing was clean and he keeps the tempo of the film stable throughout, but the length of the film is an issue. But the way he edited the stage play sequences, deserves a special mention. The film wouldn't have attracted attention, if not for Nirav Shah's cinematography. A splendid work of art from Nirav Shah ! He brings out the right look and feel of that era, with apt lighting and color tone. The stage play sequences, especially the "Mahabharatham" episode was a brilliant piece of work by Nirav Shah. 

Music by Academy Award-winner, A.R Rahman was classy and mesmerizing but they sound very contemporary in composition. And the style adapted in instrumentation, reflected more of M.S Vishwanathan's era, rather than the 1930's & 1940's era of Thyagaraja Bhagavathar and P.U Chinnappa. The opening "Vaanga Makka Vaanga" is one of the best of the lot and was shot on the male leads and their drama troupe. The song has many shots of various stage plays and some scenic locales of the Karaikudi and the surrounding Chettinadu area, becomes the backdrop of the song. The extended "Alli Arjuna" song appears in bits and pieces and is a stage act, plucked from the 'Mahabharatham' episodes. "Thirrupugazh" sung by the legendary Vani Jeyaram, is the introductory song of Vedhicka and was shot on her, performing intricate dance movements, with style and elan. "Sandi Kuthirai" was shot on Siddharth and Anaika Soti and is a complete dance number, which was shot like a stage act. Siddharth's character was portrayed teasing Anaika Soti, with the help of Singampuli. "Sollividu" is a another melodramatic song, shot on the two male leads, enacting the epic 'Karnan' episode from "Mahabharatham". The cinematorgraphy and the rich detailing in art work for this song deserves special mention ! "Aye, Mr.Minor" was shot on Siddharth and Anaika Soti and it acts like a night rendezvous between the love-struck couple. The art work, depicting a Madurai palace bedroom and the courtyard scene was very beautifully shot and lighted by Nirav Shah. "Yaarumilla" is a dream song shot on Siddharth and Vedhicka, interspersed with some montages of scenes between the lead artistes. The oil lamp-lit sequence, which was completely shot indoors, was very romantic and Vedhicka looked absolutely gorgeous in her saree. A.R Rahman's background score had plenty of styles and shades to it, and supplemented the screenplay very well. The background score added more tension wherever the screenplay necessitates, and elevates the mood of the scenes.

G.Vasanta Balan has scripted this story and its screenplay based on the autobiography, "Enadhu Naadaga Vaazhkai", written by Avvai Shanmughan, which was last printed in 1972. Also, the life and times of Sankaradas Swamigal, who was one of the founding fathers of Tamizh Theatre movement in the early 20th century, was an inspiration for this film. In fact, Nassar's character is an ode to Sankaradas Swamigal. The film's premise is a magical one and the scope is there for a rock-solid drama film, but 'Kaaviyathalaivan' becomes overtly melodramatic, in many places and has not much depth in its script. The film's basic core is the enmity between Prithviraj and Siddharth, where the former feel overshadowed by the latter, whereas the latter considers the former as his dear brother. The script leaves us with many unanswered questions and there's no organic development in the screenplay. Everything happens just for the sake of story-telling and no explanation is given. For instance, the film takes a turn from relationship issues into a patriotic theme but why such an event happens, is not properly explained. Siddharth's patriotism feel comes out of nowhere and we are expected to just accept things as it is. Writer Jeyamohan handles the dialogue writing, and though the ace writer's dialogues sufficed the needs of the script, the more colloquial-style doesn't really fit the era the film depicts. Was it a conscious decision by G.Vasanta Balan, is a question only he can answer. Films with such themes, should have very strong characterizations, but most of the artistes in 'Kaaviyathalaivan' merely scratched the surface of their characters, rather than delve into them. The film becomes predictable after a stage but nevertheless, it is a wonderful attempt from the makers, to deliver a good film for the Tamizh audience.

'Kaaviyathalaivan' - No where near being an epic, but a very good attempt indeed !

Ratings: 3/5 STARS


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