Perazhagan is an entertaining enough watch, lifted even more by Suriya’s brilliant double act. The film is a re-make of the Malayalam film Kunjikoonan (2002), also directed by Sasi Shanker and starring Dileep and Navya Nair. The film talks of true beauty being not in one’s physical looks but in one’s actions.
Chinna (Suriya) is a hunchbacked, polio affected and buck-toothed man who runs a STD booth. Looking forward to getting married, he is always ready to see girls even as he covers up his deformity with talk and humour and lives a selfless life. Karthik (Suriya again) is a tough, smart collegian in love with fellow college mate, Priya (Jyotika). Since her father, the DSP, is against this marriage, the two decide to elope with Chinna’s help. But a goon, Varadha (Bobby) who has an altercation with Priya’s father, intercepts her and Chinna as they are trying to reach Karthik and in the scuffle, Priya falls to her death. Meanwhile, Chinna comes across Shenbagam (Jyotika again), a blind girl he likes. The doctor says Shenbagam’s vision could be restored through an operation and so Chinna arranges the money. Karthik finds out that Priya’s eyes have been given to Shenbagam and he goes to the hospital to see her. Seeing him, Shenbagam, at first, mistakes him for Chinna, whom she has never seen. Chinna sees the two of them together and looking at his looks, realizing that she could despise him once she sees him and moves out of her way even as she waits to see him…
First and foremost, the film inspired from Chaplin’s Citylights (1931), has to be commended for its treatment of Chinna’s character. The film veers away from self-pity as Chinna regards himself as quite eligible and is constantly bride hunting to find a nice, beautiful girl for himself, calling himself Prem Kumar. The people around him too treat his deficiency in a matter of fact manner and both he and them are able to talk about it and laugh at it without it getting to be in bad taste. This gives the film much of its strength. Yet, at the same time the film makes you care deeply about Chinnai and you cannot help but be moved as he is beaten up by the thug against whom he gives a statement to the police or when he comes all decked up to the hospital to show himself to Shenbagam and sees her in Karthik’s arms.
What works in the film is the humour. The light-hearted scenes around Chinna are well written and constantly bring a smile to one’s face. The mixture of humour, pathos, and emotion in Chinna’s story is just about right. The film is full of memorable small moments while the final climax when Chinna and an-able-to-see-now Shenbagam finally come face to face works really well and is moving to say the least. Just see the expressions that fleet across Chinna’s face as Shenbagam comes towards him and he is not sure how she would react to him. Simply, brilliant.
On the flip side, the track of Manorama’s son who is supposedly have gone to Dubai but in actuality committed suicide due to red tapism and corruption faced in getting there is kept hanging without being resolved. Chinna keeps the news from her while periodically giving her messages from him as well as money every now and then sent from Dubai. The big emotional pay off never arrives here. Karthik’s story in comparison is too typical and not as well fleshed out and even flat and though Suriya does what he can with this role, it simply fails to have the impact his act as Chinna has.
Then there is the question of the double roles of both Suriya and Jyotika. Since it has nothing to do with the characters looking like each other nor does it depend on standard double role elements of mix ups, separated at birth or mistaken identities, Chinna and Kartik could easily have been played by different actors and similarly so, Priya and Shenbagam. Even when he sees the second Jyotika, Karthik is obsessed with Shenbagam due to the fact that she has Priya’s eyes and not her similar looks. Perhaps, it was to drill home the ‘versatility’ of the actors and highlight the Chinna-Shenbagam roles-against-type even more as against the more conventional Karthik-Priya ones.
Coming to the performances, Suriya as the ugly and deformed Chinna, who covers up his handicap with talk and humour while leading a totally selfless life, is astounding to say the least. He lives the role, he is Chinna. Just look at his body language, his walk, his voice, his way of talking in this role. He gets you totally involved in the proceedings, makes you feel deeply for his character and consequently, he makes you laugh, smile and cry with him. He rarely strikes a false note and is highly endearing in the lighter sequences with his comic timing spot on while he makes sure the film gets its necessary emotional wallop in the more serious sequences. As the smart, tough collegian Karthik, as mentioned, he is in fine enough form in spite of a role not as well thought out and gives a smouldering performance as the obsessed angry young man making brilliant use of his eyes to convey his intense feelings. However, this performance comes a definite second next to his extraordinary act in the author-backed role of Chinna. Suriya thoroughly deserved the Filmfare Award for Best Actor in Tamil that he won for this film.
Jyotika does not quite match up histrionically in her double act. She has nothing much to do as Priya while as the blind Shenbagam she is very obviously ‘acting’. Maybe that is why she is actually better as Priya. However, she does manage to carry her big scene in the climax when Shenbagam finally sees Chinna reasonably well enough. Surpisingly, she did win the Tamil Nadu State Film Award for Best Actress for the film. Vivek makes the most of a meaty role and is genuinely funny in places while Manorama lends more than able support.
Rathnavelu’s fine cinematography, the make up for the Chinna character, Anthony’s editing ensuring the pace of the film all deserve a special mention. As does Yuvan Shankar Raja’s musical score. Ambuli Mama, in particular, is a beautiful melody that is aided by its fine picturization as well. Another well composed number is Orae Oru Piravi rendered nicely by Hariharan.
All in all, the film is engrossing fare made even more watchable with Suriya’s brilliant performance(s).
Tamil, Drama, Color