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Updated: May 21, 2014 15:56 IST

Onaayum Aattukkuttiyum: Wolf-whistle for Mysskin

Sudhish Kamath
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Onaayum Aattukkuttiyum
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Onaayum Aattukkuttiyum

What a comeback this is for Mysskin who has once again proved that he’s one of the most exciting, even if inconsistent, filmmakers of our times. The actor-director is in sparkling form as he returns with a career best in this dark, gritty, moody, philosophical metaphor-infested chase film that’s mostly brilliant.

Onaayum Aattukkuttiyum is a dark fable, the kind you shouldn’t probably tell children but trust Mysskin to give the kid a reality check, when he’s supposedly reuniting the family in a cemetery of all places. Not only is it a morbid tale about morals and redemption, it’s also a bleak, cynical look at a world run by a pack of wolves, one that’s cruel to the innocents.

The film begins with a top angle wide shot of a flyover. A man runs into frame, falls flat, gets up again and runs, leaving his gun… and a pool of blood behind on the road, we notice as he cuts closer. We are hooked instantly and Mysskin sucks us into the thick of action, with every moving frame composed to heighten the intrigue of the story he wants to tell us.

This is the auteur at his very best and it can now be debated if there’s another filmmaker around who is as radical as Mysskin in his shot-taking, framing and blocking of action, where dialogues are perfunctory and the drama in the action takes centre-stage.

While most filmmakers rehash the same old types in the name of character, here’s a director who gives even extras more character and depth than we see in protagonists of many mainstream films. This is something Mysskin started doing quite early on in his career; he had used it quite a bit in Anjathey and abused it in Nandalala but here, every character is written as a metaphor because this is a fable he has constructed with a cast of animal-like creatures.

A super surreal fable. So if he plays an assassin called Wolf, he feels the need to give himself a tail visually towards the end. Take a look at the villain’s sidekicks. They are all given traits of assorted animals as credited in the end-credits. Yes, it does feel like experimental theatre with elements of mime routed into cinema. Some of it works and some of it feels funny, but there’s no doubt that this is as creative as a filmmaker has got with characterisation in mainstream Tamil cinema. Thiagarajan Kumararaja did something similar in Aaranya Kaandam (by basing each character on an animal), only that he did it a lot more subtly and didn’t feel the need to spell it out in the end credits. Only the observant few got the references. Mysskin doesn’t want to take that chance. He wants the masses to know every detail of what he’s done.

He’s been guilty of overstating ever since he had an innocent man called Kuruvi die flapping his disfigured little arms, you know, like wings (because of his bird-like name and nature), with a bullet piercing through his T-shirt that has a dove illustrated on it, with the words Peace, in Anjathey. Though he has considerably toned down this desire to make his metaphors that literal and one could argue that this is now his signature, it would be great to see the filmmaker liberate himself from this need to tell people that he’s a thinking filmmaker and let us interpret it, mine it for meaning and go home with our own perspectives on it, rather than being spoon-fed on what to think.

Having cast himself and Sri in the titular roles (of the Wolf and the Kid respectively), Mysskin has extracted the very best out of every actor and extra in the film that most performances feel so real (except the characters that are intentionally surreal and stylised).

Onaayum Aattukkuttiyum compares well with world cinema (this feels like one of those many South Korean chase thrillers about killers seeking redemption) but with a little more restraint and understatement, Mysskin has every potential to breakout at the international festival circuit and make us proud someday.

To speak Mysskin’s language, the vulture that waits to attack the remains every Friday approves.

Genre: Thriller

Director: Mysskin

Cast: Mysskin, Sri, Shaji, Adithya

Storyline: A kid saves a dangerous dying fugitive and triggers off a chase between the hunter and the hunted and soon, the definitions blur

Bottomline: A mostly superb and almost riveting piece of cinema

The most disappointing fact is this superb movie has only got limited screens/show(s) in most of the theatres! There was pin drop silence in the movie hall right from the start to the end of the movie. Another heartening thing was audience stayed patiently and applauded when the director's name appeared at the last during the end credits.

from:  bala
Posted on: Sep 30, 2013 at 23:33 IST

A perfect review for the perfect film...But what's the point when review has nothing mentioned about the music of raja sir????Music is the backbone of this thriller(there is no songs in the movie..a rare thing happens in indian cinema)
please includes review of the music...

from:  siva
Posted on: Sep 30, 2013 at 00:34 IST

ILaiyaraaja's music is the backbone of the movie(in fact Mysskin calls it as 'Foreground Music' and not 'Background Music'). Despite this the review remains absolutely silent on this.

Very strange indeed!!

from:  Rajendra Kumar
Posted on: Sep 29, 2013 at 19:52 IST

Am an ardent reader of The Hindu since my childhood. I happen to read the Tamil movie review of Onaayum Aattukkuttiyum on Cinema Plus today. This is was I felt after reading that review: Baffled! For the only reason because Sudhish Kamath forgot (?) to mention about the great work of Music Composer Ilayaraja Sir performed for this movie. Ilayaraja scored phenomenal Back ground score for this movie using all String based instruments.
If you keenly noticed there was no percussion instrument used for this thriller movie. It was amazing that for this Genre movie has no Bass/Percussion. To my knowledge no composers have used only ‘String’ instruments.

from:  Suja
Posted on: Sep 29, 2013 at 13:47 IST

Sir,this is a great review. however it is sad to see that you have not
mentioned about Ilayaraja, photography and other technicians. Without IR
this movie is not complete. hats off Myskin and team!

from:  Kamraj
Posted on: Sep 29, 2013 at 12:18 IST

Mysskin has every potential to breakout at the international festival circuit and make us proud someday. TRUE.
Nandalaalaa proud of Yesterday.
O&a proud of Today

from:  sathi
Posted on: Sep 29, 2013 at 10:59 IST

There is no word on ilayaraja for his scores.

from:  Akash
Posted on: Sep 29, 2013 at 08:25 IST

No mention of Ilayaraja's superb score for the movie?

from:  Sundar
Posted on: Sep 29, 2013 at 07:45 IST

I dont feel like watching Raja Rani, which will for sure tone down the
intense feelings I have got now after watching Onayum Aattukuttiyum.
This is the Mysskin I felt after watching Anjathey that refused to go
away from my thoughts for a few days. This is like a bang after having
got beaten up with Mugamoodi. But always, Nandhalala will be his best
(dont care if its a lift juz because of that soul wrenching music)
followed by Anjathey and this. I hope this partnering with the musical
maestro never breaks.

from:  Harish
Posted on: Sep 29, 2013 at 07:45 IST

Excellent film.. Mysskin again proves that he is one of the best

from:  Ras
Posted on: Sep 28, 2013 at 22:29 IST

loved the film and your review too . but don't know why you didn't mention Ilayaraja's name . he done an amazing effort and it's definitely his GREATEST contribution to the film. without it i can't appreciate the film.

from:  Tinku
Posted on: Sep 28, 2013 at 19:01 IST

The reviewer has conveniently forgotten the main hero of the film called Ilayaraja.

The Back ground Music score, probably the best in Indian cinema so far is an
understatement here!!!

from:  Suren
Posted on: Sep 28, 2013 at 18:48 IST
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