Yudham Sei had me wondering why exactly Mysskin made this film. Is it just furthering career prospects or has he lost out on fuel after tiring himself out with Nandalala (2010)? Is he exploring which genre of filmmaking finally suits him or has he finally succumbed to the main stream masala profit motif? I felt watching the film that it is all of these PLUS something else. That something else – is what the character Judas is all about. In his previous film Nandalala, Mysskin himself plays the protagonist’s role of a mentally deranged person, a state which society has forced on him and in this film he has played it through Judas. And unlike Judas, who betrayed Jesus, here Mysskin’s Judas does not betray the victims and the vulnerable. He is also capable of guiding the fight right inside enemy territory and in destroying evil.
So who is the vulnerable and who is the evil in the film? Like we see in many recent Tamil commercial films, the vulnerable are the young girls, their chastity and its associated honour. InYudham Sei, it could represent anybody who is a victim of social circumstances and power politics or it could even be a tribal girl/community or caste victims on either side of the caste spectrum. And the evil, of course, is the business man (Manicka Vinayagam) and his mafia, the corrupt police personals using young boys brought for hired violence and sex trade and then there is a Chief Minister also somewhere in the background who is responsible. Just like in real life where the Moaists have taken up arms to protect the tribe’s honour from the abusive State, Mysskin has taken up ‘arms’ in this film against social injustices as he perceives them, by making a commercial masala thriller film. Hence the title Yudham Sei (Wage your War). But just like revolutions fail, when they are played through confused attitudes and manipulative perspectives, here too, Mysskin’s revolution never quite lifts off.
The film is overloaded with symbolism and suggestions. When a girl commits suicide after being physically abused, her parents lay her body on a coffin like pedestal with candles burning all around it seen in a top angle shot that is repeated with candles burning and candles not burning with the girl dressed up as a tribal girl. Though the actors look decideedly upper class city bred people, portraying their daughter in a tribal costume on her death bed reeks of political symbolism. Also, ideas are simply borrowed and used without any perspective whatsoever. The film starts with Akira Kurosawa’s Rashomon (1950) type rain, where the crime is suggested rather laboriously. In the middle of the film, there is a dialogue, where Judas tells JK, that like in the famous film Rashomon, there is an ambiguity to the crime. But in Yudham Sei, by the time the film ends, there is no ambiguity of the crime. So the only ambiguity could be of the director himself, outside the story line. This kind of a reference amounts to little more than abuse of the great Kurosawa rather than looking up to him for ‘inspiration’.
The film, to me, essentially has 3 major scenes and an item number with ingredients of story filled in between. Apart from the above mentioned rain sequence, the second scene that I would refer to is the knife fight sequence between the hero JK in the desolated over bridge in the night with many hired killers. This is extremely well done sequence, but then it stands out like a sore thumb as it does not blend well with any of the other sequences or the development of JK’s character. The third main scene in the film for me is the climax sequence in some shed type desolated landscape, where every thing happens from suspense, conflict to resolution, justice etc. This scene is a kind of exaggerated war drama enacting with killers fighting with injuries etc. We have seen such typical climax situations in umpteen number of films. But Mysskin is not merely telling a story, he is also pitching style as he provokes and tries to ‘educate’ an audience; he gives references to world classics and even promotes himself as a new wave commercial director and what not. However, after pitching heavily on the style of shot taking and choreography in the beginning of the film, the story telling and dialogue technique merely settles down to a Tamil Sabha drama kind of approach with even actors behaving like that. In the climax scene, the shot taking style can be seen crumbling, heavily overused and finally exhausted. The top angle shots, low angle crane movements, camera going upside down, are all overdone. In his earlier film Nandalala too, such shots are used as an overkill.
After the success of the item song – Gana Pattu in his first film Chithiram Pesuthadi (2006), in which Malavika was the dancer, Mysskin has again inserted an item number in this film in similar style. In this film too, he has draped the main dancer in the same lemon yellow sari; probably the same costume as used by Malavika but the grace of Malavika is simply missing in this new dancer (Neetu Chandra), though she does suit the oomph role. Also, the song picturization is weak when compared to the song in Chithiram Pesuthadi. So, even if Mysskin has tried catering to his Gana Pattu fans, this song hardly does justice to it. The song also is used to push the story development rather forcefully, where all the villains and Judas are seen together. Myskkin has roped in director Ameer Sultan of the film Paruthiveeran (2007), as the main male dancer and briefly introduced the popular Tamil writer Charu Nivedita too in this song. Seeing Charu, I felt this song should have been done entirely with him and not with Ameer.
By including such well known people in the film and also others like film director Cheran – a National Award winner – in the main role as the CBCID officer and K Hariharan – Filmmaker, Film Historian, Theorist and Director of LV Prasad Film Academy – as the Commissioner of Police, Mysskin seems to be making some kind of secret ‘political’ network or pact. And this pact making extends even further. One of the main evil person in the film’s story is the shop owner who is abusive of the girl customers changing in the trial rooms in his shop – this could be a networking with the filmmaker Vasantha Balan of the film Angadi Theru (2010) or the gory details of violence in the story could be a collaboration and networking with director M Sasikumar of Subramaniapuram (2008) and Eesan (2010) or it could even be a partnership expression with Gautham Vasudev Menon’s film Vettaiyaadu Vilayaadu (2006). Probably, Mysskin is desperately seeking friends in the film circle and even announcing a conglomerate, to which he is asserting leadership. Oh yes, apart from these main scenes, the film weaves in the intricacies of the story that sounds insignificant and even confusing. It doesn’t matter.
Cheran as the CBCID officer has tried valiently. His fight scene in the bridge is simply brilliant and I would rate this as the biggest achievement of the film. I also like his presence in this film. I had also liked him in his earlier film Pokkisham, which he directed and also acted. But in this film, he doesn’t look entirely convinced about his role and that confusion shows in places. Mysskin and Cheran have not really sorted out how to portray a character playing a CBCID officer. It cannot be a typical corrupt brutal police official (like we see in many films) or efficient (like Kamal Haasan as a Tamil Nadu cop in Gautham Vasudev Menon’s Vettaiyaadu Vilaiyaadu). Many Malayalam films have handled CBI and Central Government cops, but it has not been a practice here in Tamil commercial cinema. There is a certain confusion in how to portray them. So maybe this is the problem of Cheran’s role. Though as mentioned his fight sequence is superb, what it does to the characterization over all and his continuity is not at all convincing. Moreover, the various other action sequences in the film are far below standard compared to this fight scene in the bridge. Cheran’s relation with his superiors, colleagues, his sister, Judas, his home, office, his body language, his make up, his role in the climax scene are all very patchy, discontinuous and do not flow well. The random references to J Krishnamoorthy by Judas and the fact that JK’s ‘house’ is full of books and that he even gifts a book to his associate at the end of the film are all very unconvincing.
Of the rest of the cast Jayaprakash playing Judas has done a neat job. He is the centre of the film, as he is the main narrator and voice over of Mysskin. The entire Mysskin sermon uttered by Judas on his death bed is the fulcrum of the film but it has to be said it comes too sudden, and feels artificial and forced on him. The other main characters played by Y Gee Mahendra and Laksmi Ramakrishnan as the aggrieved, revenge seeking parents of the girl who commits suicide stand out in the film, especially Lakshmi’s role as the ‘Kali Avatar’. In Nandalala we saw actress Rohini torsoed as a mentally deranged woman and in this film we see Lakshmi torsoed as a revenge seeking woman. Deepa Shah as the new heroine in the film has no role to play apart from running along with Cheran and I wondered why she was cast at all.
The film ends with the brother of the girl who committed suicide, who after completing the ‘revenge duties’, checks in at the airport for an International flight as Mahesh Muthusamy (the name of Mysskin’s cinematographer for Nandalala) and we see him going up in the elevator of the airport to a bleached out space. Maybe it could also be yet another networking pact offered by Mysskin to director S Shankar and his film Indian (1996), in which actor Kamal Haasan, calls from a foreign country suggesting he will be back if needed. With all these deals, at the end of the film, I wonder now whether to see Mysskin as the political pact maker with local, International film directors and their films or simply an aspiring filmmaker attempting something in his own right.
Tamil, Action, Drama, Color