Presenting a linear narrative without frills in an era of commercial gibberish requires guts. Sasikumar and auteur Balu Mahendra have it in plenty, as Thalaimuraigal shows. M. Sasikumar (Company Productions) is its producer.

Talking to the media after the screening, Balu Mahendra said, “The experiences of the eight-year old boy in Thalaimuraigal are mine. And without Sasi’s support, the film would not have been possible.” Thalaimuraigal (U), he made it clear, is very close to his heart.

The bonding between a rather rude, fanatical and initially inimical old man and his grandson is the pivot on which Thalaimuraigal revolves. Such sentiments have been seen in cinema before. But what makes Balu Mahendra’s attempt different is the strand of spontaneity that runs through the film. Plausible incidents that reveal the warmth in the heart of a martinet, place Thalaimuraigal apart.

An obstinate father (Balu Mahendra) refuses to accept his son’s (Sashi Kumar) marriage to a Catholic girl (Ramya), and what follows is 12 years of estrangement. When the son eventually returns to make up with his father, the grandson (Master Karthik) becomes the catalyst.

Life is made up of both small and serious interactions and the relationships around you need to be nurtured are simple truths that Thalaimuraigal subtly conveys. So don’t expect sudden twists and turns. In fact, the denouement is very much on predictable lines. Yet it impacts.

Not just camera, editing, script and direction, for the first time Balu Mahendra makes his presence felt as an actor too. He plays a retired Tamil teacher, who is hostile yet caring, sober yet friendly and strict yet loving, quite flawlessly. The old man has his foibles and idiosyncrasies which he tries to cover up, just like all of us.

Sashi Kumar (not to be confused with the actor-director-producer), who has acted in several shorts, including Balu Mahendra’s small screen series, Kadhai Naeram, and a few films, is the protagonist. Appreciable underplay is his asset. Sadly, cinema has not used him enough.

As the doctor wife and mother, Ramya is another talent that deserves notice. So is Vinodhini as Balu Mahendra’s daughter. Master Karthik’s expressions may seem a tad tutored, yet he charms you with his exuberance. And the icing on the cake is M. Sasikumar’s emotion-filled presence in the last scene.

Returning to the art and craft of filmmaking after the Dhanush-Priya Mani starrer eight years ago, Adhu Oru Kanakkaalam, Balu Mahendra proves that he’s a technician who is in tune with the times. For a camera person to go the digital way after decades of working in the traditional format isn’t easy. But Balu Mahendra accepts the challenge and has come out with some brilliant canvases on screen. “It’s a Canon 5D DSLR, we heard,” commented the journalist seated beside him at the show. “The kind of pen you use doesn’t decide your writing. So it is with the camera,” was the doyen’s succinct reply. “I’ve used natural lighting for the most part. I’ve allowed Nature’s rays to take its course through the camera.”

As in the past, the delectable combo of Ilaiyaraja and Balu Mahendra transport Thalaimuraigal to an aesthetic plane. If Raja’s background score adds life to the happenings so do his spells of silence.

The old man’s ancient home in the village is a character in itself. “When I saw the 250-year-old house for the first time, I felt it had waited all these years for me.” It was one of those rare moments when the creator got emotional while addressing the media.

If Mahendra’s aim was to make a film that can compete on a global level, Thalaimuraigal is a concrete step in that direction. So if film buffs out there wish to encourage good cinema support it.

Genre: Family drama

Director: Balu Mahendra

Cast: Balu Mahendra, Sashi Kumar, Ramya, Vinodhini, Master Karthik

Storyline: The affection that a grandfather shares with his grandson.

Bottomline: For those who cherish relationships