Set in the 1980s for the most part, Subramaniapuram (U/A) is very different from run-of-the mill crime yarns. Appreciably, even when a sequence lends itself to a garish, sensual number, producer-writer-director Sasikumar surprises you by steering clear of such temptations and sticking to a neat, linear narrative in flashback. And kudos to the art and costume team of Rembon and Nataraj for a near-perfect re-creation of the flavour of the Eighties. From costume, hairstyle, ambience and popular music of the era, each has been meticulously taken care of. Beginning with Saroj Narayanaswami’s voice on AIR’s Tamil news bulletin and moving on to Ilaiyaraja’s magic that ruled the roost, everything (including the telephone instrument) is typical of the times!
The period begins and ends with Kanja Karuppu’s long, brisk gait — thus completing a full circle. What happens in between is mainly the story of four friends. Parama (Sasikumar – the director himself plays the role), Azhagar (Jai), Kasi (Kanja Karuppu) and Dumkan (Mari) are an inseparable foursome. Gullible and naïve, they walk into the trap of the power-crazy Kanagu (Samudirakani) and commit a murder.
Another underworld connection leads them to their second heinous act, and before they realise they are caught in a quagmire of crime. Naturally, they reap the bloody consequences. It’s surprising that such gore and mayhem has got away with a U/A certification!
It’s a solid role for Jai, the Vijay look-alike of ‘Chennai 600028.’ Despite the walk that is sometimes self-conscious and a voice that doesn’t co-operate much, Jai makes an impact, thanks to his body language. And as the taciturn, serious Parama, Sasikumar looks suitably poker-faced.
The best thing about heroine Swathi is that at no point does she look as if she’s enacting a role — the Telugu import is absolutely homely. And matching her in natural portrayal is Samudirakani, who plays her wily uncle, Kanagu.
Suspenseful twists in the storyline lend pep to the dreariness that the narration slips into now and then. Certain scenes — the temple fest, for example — go on and on and try your patience no end, while sometimes sequences end abruptly. When the youngsters commit the first murder, their credulousness makes you feel sorry for them. But when they walk into it again with their eyes open, they lose all sympathy. How come looks-wise, Mari is the same even after 27 years?
In the opening scenes the shaky movement of the camera is disturbing. But soon Kathir’s lens skilfully tracks the main players as they meander through the hills, forests, lanes and alleys. James Vasanthan debuts as composer with Subramaniapuram. Reminiscent of the Ilaiyaraja melodies of yore, his ‘Kangal Irandaal …’ is a treat. The recurring maestro influence in the re-recording is enticing. Vasanthan’s use of percussion in the background is quite effective.
Bala and Ameer are his mentors — hence expectation about Sasikumar is high. The debut making director lives up to it … to a reasonable extent.
Director: M. Sasikumar
Cast: Jai, Sasikumar, Kanja Karuppu, Swathi
Storyline: Influenced by avaricious, small time politicians, a group of gullible young men go astray. The results prove disastrous.
Bottomline: Sometimes brisk, sometimes boring!