Against the backdrop of the Madras of the 1940s is set a tale of gentle love between a sophisticated British beauty and a handsome hulk, a native from the most humble sections of society. Director Vijay’s eye for detail exemplifies the diligence that has gone into the making of ‘Madrasapattinam’ (U).

A thread of irony is unobtrusively woven into the warp and weft of the wide canvas. As a city dweller, you yearn for the unpolluted “Thames of Madras,” as the commissioner describes the city’s waterway, which has now been transformed into an embarrassment of the metropolis – the Cooum! You wouldn’t want to swap places with the old English woman (Carole Palmer is admirably subtle in the role) who returns to Madras after six decades to find her lost love. She is seen sitting on a chair on the banks of the Cooum (How could you do this to her Vijay?) re-living her past, when she is dragged out of her reverie by the children defecating near the huge gutter of filth! What we have done to the once eco-friendly city is unpardonable, ‘Madrasapattinam’ points out.

As far as the story goes several parallels can be drawn between ‘Madarasa-pattinam’ and ‘Titanic,’ ‘Lagaan’ and even ‘Nayagan.’ But the place and period of romance has been well researched and meticulously etched and that makes a lot of difference. Otherwise the romance in ‘MP’ is on known lines.

The year is 1945 and the country is still under foreign rule. Parithi (Arya) a launderer and an ace wrestler, and Amy (Amy Jackson), the daughter of the Governor of Madras, fall in love with each other, and matters culminate on the eve of Independence. Narration slows down slightly midway but the sincerity of the production overrules such flaws. Vijay’s dialogue has quite a few thought-provoking lines.

Costume or casting, cinematography or CG, sets or stunts, director Vijay has gone in for a crew that delivers. It does and how! Be it art director Selvakumar (his work in ‘Paeraanmai’ and ‘Iyarkai’ is unforgettable.), whose periodicity transports you to the pre-Independence era, lens man Nirav Shah, whose tones lend a perfect old world feel and fascinating top angles are exercises in excellence (his lighting for the huge buildings, particularly the Central Station is incredible!), Deepali Noor who proves her costuming prowess in this period drama, editor Antony, whose adeptness sparkles in his effective juxtaposing of the past and present, Manohar Varma whose choreography of the wrestling bouts, the gun fights and the chases are natural – an award-deserving effort from each of them!

Music is another major plus of ‘MP.’ The young composer G.V. Prakash Kumar has used a variety of voices (Roop Kumar Rathod, Sonu Nigam, Andrea Jeremiah, MSV, ‘Chiyaan’ Vikram and Nasser!) to enhance the appeal of the songs. GV’s theme music is scintillating and so is his RR. Lyricist Na. Muthukumar’s lyric for the ‘Pookal Pookum …’ number is particularly arresting.

Actually they make a cute pair – Arya and Amy. Arya’s eyes are his asset. So is his rugged look. And he uses them to best advantage. Amy reminds you of Amala, as she was two decades ago – delicate, gorgeous and expressive. She wins hearts mainly because her character is vested with Indian-ness and because her eyes and hair are dark. Good choice, Vijay! As Nambi, the translator, VMC Haneefa is brilliant. It’s sad that he’s no more. Even small characters stay with you because Vijay makes each of them unique.

At least Amy is shown studying the language, but her fiancé, Commissioner Robert Ellis (Alex O’Neil), befuddles you with his complete ignorance of the language one moment and a fair understanding of it the next! Amy being featured in a duet in Saindhavi’s voice is a tad too tough to digest! Vijay could have eschewed clichés such as the choice of the balustrade on the balcony as the lovers’ rendezvous, something you’ve been seeing from the days of ‘Romeo and Juliet.’ The young Amy and her older version do not bear even an iota of resemblance to each other. It’s the same with the young (played by Omar) and old Kabir.

It’s just his third film – but with ‘MP’ Vijay has climbed up several notches as a filmmaker. The producers (AGS; Red Giant) who reposed faith in the young man’s potential deserve kudos too.

Come on folks, ‘Madrasapattinam’ beckons!

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