In ornate lettering, “Isaignani Ilaiyaraja's Sengathu Bhoomiyile” flashes on screen, a tribute to the music maestro. The story goes that Ilaiyaraja was moved to tears by the climax of the film and wrote a song ‘En usuru enna vittu', which ‘would echo in the hearts of the audience all the way to the parking area'. I admit I fell for this prelude. This is one of the three reasons I won't word-punch this movie right away.

The second reason is the earthy flavour director Ratnakumar manages to convey in this rustic narrative. He serves you typical slices of Madurai. A case in point is the ‘oppari' in the latter half of the film. The music, camera and editing, till then quite parboiled, go to work for this one scene.

And third, some good comedy delivered mostly by Singampuli as Ondippuli, the uncle. His character has heavy shades of Vadivelu's in Em Magan. There are a lot of “maappu-aappu” jokes, besides some original stuff.

The fake props, puffy eyes and bad lighting only reinforce what Ratnakumar said after the screening — that he had to make do with minimal resources. But he has skimped on the story too.

There's the affluent, money-minded ‘Santhai' Mayi, who manages santhaisvillage fairs. Vellai Pandi plays the role well, carrying off the heavy jewellery with aplomb. His brother in-law is Malaichami, a person of integrity, who toils to make ends meet. Azhagan Thamizhmani tries to bring a saintly air to his character, but comes through as snooty.

Mayi thinks Malaichami is naïve, while Malaichami thinks Mayi lacks character and frowns on the santhai business. They each have a son and a daughter, two couples on a double date all through the first half. Vendetta is born of rivalry in the santhai, family blood is spilled, and relationships go downhill. Is there no end to the violence? Can the broken hearts be salvaged? Can love prevail in Sengathu Bhoomiyilae (SB)?

Ratnakumar clearly wasn't looking to make this a nail-biter, plot-wise. One very nice touch is the quick, comic, plot summary by Singampuli, as if telling you that the silliness of the story (based on true events, he said) isn't lost on him.

For a movie written by the same man who wrote Karuthamma and Kizhakku Cheemayile, SB has surprisingly insipid dialogue. The actors have to make do with a boxful of clichés. And, unable to take sides, Ratnakumar ends up diluting his characters.

‘Mirchi' Senthil plays Malaichami's son Chinnasami. Senthil's small screen experience has given him a more than adequate repertoire of expressions and the ability to deliver sappy lines with sincerity. Pavan plays Vallarasu, twirling his moustache for his lady love in the first half, and alternating between confusion and rage in the second.

Stalin as Bose, Mayi's nephew, is impressive in his belligerence. His tongue-biting, aruvaal-toting ferocity is convincing.

Priyanka, as Vallarasu's sister and Chinnasami's girl, has one nice rebellious scene with her brother in the second half. Unfortunately, she also delivers a long monologue later. Sunu Lakshmi looks adequately lost as Vallarasu's love interest. She gets to sashay to music more than Priyanka does.

Singampuli has to carry the movie and the burden shows in many scenes, where he lapses into gibberish.

The music is nothing to write home about. The background score is jerky and often arbitrary. It sounds like a template of Ilaiyaraja's.

Sengathu Bhoomiyile

Genre: Drama

Director: Ratnakumar

Cast: Pavan, Senthil, Azhagan Thamizhmani, Vellai Pandi, Priyanka, Sunu Lakshmi, Singampuli

Storyline: Violence ruins family ties. Will tears and tragedy bring about a change of heart? Bottomline: A bit of man vasanai

Keywords: Kollywood

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Anand VenkateswaranJune 19, 2012