This was perhaps the first ever silent film I saw. It must be in the late 90's that I first watched it (I have seen it over a dozen times now), I was extremely impressed the first time itself. The very fact that a movie can entertain you, move you by just the sheer spectacular writing of scenes and acting took me by surprise. I have been a great fan ever since.
Directed by Singeetam Srinivasa Rao (who happens to have directed another of my favorites 'Halu jenu' in Kannada, and another classic 'Bhairava Dweepam' in Telugu), the movie has the versatile Kamal Hassan and the multilingual actress Amala in the lead and popular artists Tinnu Anand and Farida Jalal in character roles.
Set in Bagalore in the late 80s (since I am from Bangalore, the movie does bring back the memories of the less-crowded and serene 'garden city' - it used to be till the late 90s), the movie revolves around an unemployed Kamal Hassan and his change of fortune for a few days when he gets to live the life of a rich man and falls in love with a girl at the same time. The change however isn't permanent and he gets back to where he started from after he realizes his mistake that materialistic pleasure does not necessarily give satisfaction. The story is perhaps not the best I have heard. But what makes it so special is its writing, screenplay and presentation.
The background music by Vaidhyanathan (as read on the credit roll. Do not recall him from any of his other films) goes great with the movie. Given that it is a silent film, I must say the director has done a tremendous job in using the background music. Each character for example has a particular track associated with him/her. Some of the scenes with a common feel like the scenes between Kamal and Amala, those with Tinnu Anand are built around a music theme. And yes, the music is very Indian with the usage of mostly Indian instruments as expected.
The movie is also special for its light humor. Right from the first scene the movie paints the mentality of the three classes of Indian society - poor, middle and the rich (if you were to categorise so for the late 80s) to the finest detail. The scenes at the chawl where Kamal stays, the scenes where he roams around Bangalore aimlessly, those with the original occupant of Room No 3039 at a five star hotel (whose room he occupies for a few days), those with the beggar on the street - are some examples of light humor in the movie which is supported by some good writing and acting. But what lies beyond the impressive light humor is the philosophy of the mentality of the human mind itself. And that has been portrayed brilliantly according to me.
Given that its a silent film, it surely would not have succeeded without the excellence of its cast. Kamal Hassan has been one of most versatile actors I have ever watched. Though not one of his most challenging roles, he hardly gets anything wrong playing this character. Amala too plays her character well (makes the character so likable, which to me is job well done). Special mention must go to the beggar played by PL Narayana. It looked like they actually got a beggar to play this one. Looked too real (since the role of a magician in the movie is played by KS Ramesh, who is a magician by profession).
The Full Movie
Why you should also watch the film - Apart from being an Indian classic which has gone on to win the Golden Lotus Award (also won by prestigious films like Rang De Basanti, Lagaan, Sarfarosh, Maachis in recent times) and getting to be screened at Cannes Film festival (which at its time was no small feat), the movie provides you some of the finest talent from down south (or rather non-Bollywood background). I have seen some of the regional films from Bengali, Malayalam and Tamil - and I must say that some of the finest film makers are from here.
Since its a silent film (can watch it w/o subtitles, which makes it a better experience and you get to watch the movie the way it was intended by the maker) you can perhaps estimate some of the finest talent our regional cinema offers. Also, the movie can introduce you to some of the other classics by Kamal Hassan (which will need subtitles of course!) like Vettaiyaadu Vilaiyaadu, Anbe Sivam, Thenali, Thevar Magan, Guna, Swathi Muthyam, Nayagan, Raaja Paarvai, Pathinaru Vayathinile (and a few others with the trio of K Balachandar, Sridevi and Rajnikant)
PS: The movie could be a touch too slow paced for a few of you (based on some of the reviews I got). But this classic surely does not leave you disappointed at the end of it. The movie is available on DC.
Contributed by Poorna Chandra