Film: "Paradesi"; Actor: Atharva Murali, Vedhika C. Kumar, Dhansika, Udhay Karthik and Ritwika; Director: Bala; Rating: ****
Bala's "Paradesi" may not be as entertaining as any recent Tamil flick, but it is riveting, brutal and realistic as any film in a long time. For those seeking a realistic alternate from commercial Tamil cinema, this creation is a blessing.
In a small hamlet in Salur, reside hundreds of happy families in harmony, hope and optimism of a better future. One among them is Rasa (Atharva), who lives with his grandmother. He is the most obedient and hardworking male in the locality and earns a livelihood by doing household chores and odd jobs. However, his grandmother expects him to search for employment instead of begging for one square meal.
He leaves home in search of a job, only to return afterwards with an employment offer for everybody in his hamlet to work in a tea plantation. Excited by the promise of a decent wage and retirement from service after one year, hundreds of villagers go with their chins up and eyes filled with aspirations. But it doesn't take them too long to realise that a castle of dreams don't become reality. And reality is painful and traumatic. What happens to them and hundreds alike at the tea plantation? This forms the rest of the story.
Two most important scenes are the first and last sequence of the film. In the opening scene, the camera pans across the nooks and corners of the hamlet, focusing on trivial things such as playing children, working women and men and other things that are part and parcel of their lives. In essence, this scene is proof to the simple yet jubilant life of the people.
In the last scene, as the camera pans across the rich green tea plantation, we see hundreds of hopeless people yearning to go back to the life they have discarded. These two scenes very subtly put forth what Bala wishes to portray through the entire film.
Bala's films have always been realistic, but with "Paradesi", he has pushed the envelope. Despite its snail's pace, the film keeps one hooked on thanks to some impeccable performances by not just the lead actors, but a whole bunch of them.
The film tests patience at several occasions, but on the whole, it manages to leave an impact. It is very easy for someone to be utterly dissatisfied for being subjected to two hours of pain and trauma, but for at least those who have loved his films; Bala makes the experience worth it.
Actors who have worked under Bala are sure to be transformed on screen. This film has not one or two but as many as hundred plus actors who have shined on screen. A lot of detailing has gone into the recreation of pre-independent era. Starting from costumes to the similar look of over 200 junior artists, everything aptly works in the film's favour.
Atharva rises up to the occasion and delivers a performance worth a standing ovation. Vedhika as a chirpy, naughty young girl transforms effortlessly to a wife and mother of a child patiently waiting for the return of her husband.
Dhansika proves her mettle in portraying a role with grieving emotions. Her portrayal of a powerful woman on the inside and tender, caring on the outside is sure to garner lot of acclaim.
"Paradesi" is a creation worth sincere adulation.