‘Baaram’ movie review: A melancholic narration that loses grip and shape

A still from ‘Baaram’  

Spoilers ahead

Very few films are capable of translating the weight of its narrative onto the viewer.

Some require us, the audience, to relate to the subject’s relevance; some films demand such a level of intelligence off its audience that principles of existentialism may seem less complicated to comprehend while some other films inflict, using various cinematic tools at a filmmaker’s disposal, the underlying emotion upon an unsuspecting audience thus nudging or pushing us over a ledge and force our conscience to be in sync with what the director intends to showcase on screen.

Baaram does none of these, and is still an example of how to get the job done.

I must tread with caution. The film does leave you wanting towards the end. Perhaps Priya Krishnaswamy could have refrained from following through with the documentary style exposition of ‘Thalaikoothal’. It does suck the energy out of the film, at least what was built up during an impressive, immersive story telling session until the interval.

Baaram delves into the prevalent but oft-shushed criminal practice of Thalaikoothal.

The cast is a mix of inexperienced and untrained artistes, and the cog among them is Karuppasamy (played by R Raju), a man who struggles to hide the disappointment of having turned into a burden for an ungrateful and unconscionable son, Senthil (Su Pa Muthukumar).

The backdrop of Baaram somehow lends itself to make the viewer reminisce about the places where Bharathiraja’s films from the late 1970s was shot. The dialogues are a crucial factor for generating this feeling; they sounded refreshing and authentic — something that was lacking in the much celebrated rural commercial entertainers of the recent past in Tamil cinema.

Karuppasamy is a man of many regrets. He spends his time at his sister’s house with his three nephews; he seems to be more attached to his second nephew Veera (Sugumar Shanmugam) and the feeling seems mutual.

Karuppasamy’s son is estranged from him but we do not know the actual reason for certain. He works as a security guard though Veera prefers he not do that considering his age. But Karuppasamy is spirited — this dialogue captures it beautifully: “Vittil poochi than vedakku nu veezhum. Naan Minmini poochi da” (I’m not a moth to stop existing all of a sudden. I’m a firefly)

  • Director: Priya Krishnaswamy
  • Cast: R Raju, Sugumar Shanmugam, Su Pa Muthukumar, Jayalakshmi, Stella Gobi
  • Storyline: The criminally unholy practice of Thalaikoothal costs an elderly gentleman his life. Will there be repercussions on those who committed it?

But it all happens suddenly for Karuppasamy. He fractures his hip in a road accident.

The shot here: a slow motion angle showing Karuppasamy’s right hand fall as if with the weight of the world bearing down on it is where the director chooses to insert her title card. Quite poignant. The worst, though, is yet to come. What follows is torment and pain, not just for Karuppasamy but also for the audience.

The elderly gent’s son, Senthil, inserts himself onto the scene. He is affected by how society perceives him but his cold heart would not budge for his father’s wails and cries for help. He is unmoved when he learns of the accident but is quite content arm-twisting his nephews (who seem partially okay with passing the buck over) into letting him take charge of his father’s well being.

Karuppasamy’s anguish at having to pretend that he is fine though he cannot move around, when his affectionate sister, Menmoli, comes visiting, is a moving scene. He shushes her, asks her not to raise her voice because the son is overhearing their conversation.

Another particularly endearing scene involves Karuppasamy’s granddaughter; the shot showing the little girl sticking close to the corner of a wall as her parents argue over who takes care of Karuppasamy. We see her face on the right end of the frame, and the lifeless, absolutely motionless, lower half of Karuppasamy’s torso filling out the left side of the frame, as her eyes wander across in bewilderment, fear, anguish and a range of other “feeling helpless” emotions. When Senthil pays a maid to help clean up his father, Karuppasamy’s emotions are quite clear. He need not be in the situation if not for his son; his eyes and wails letting us know in no uncertain terms how he feels to be robbed of his right to life and dignity.

Then one day Karuppasamy dies. At the funeral, the nephews and Senthil clash as the former catch wind that he may have been murdered by the practice of Thalaikoothal.

As a scriptwriter, this is a situation that is now perfectly poised. Post interval, as a viewer who has been completely spellbound by the happenings so far, it is quite natural to expect things to boil over, a frenetic finish that may involve pursuit, the failure and/or triumph of justice, or if it establishes the fact that deeper, and more darker, evils usually prevail over truth and liberty in a society.

Except, the second half takes its own course. At some point, it turns into a VICE video, or an awareness film, for want of better words. There is no more tension, no more anticipation. The burden seems lifted, and that is deflating from the perspective of a viewer. By the time the film winds down, inefficient scripting comes to the fore.

Baaram could have been so much more as a film. An efficient example in how to engross the viewer in its narrative technique — weaving simple cinematic shots, exploiting the most basic of film-making and cinematography principles to present a compelling tale that jolts your conscience. I wouldn’t dare say that it crumbles under the burden of heightened expectations from a viewer’s point of view, what with it being a National Award winner.

It just could have let the burden stay on me.

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Printable version | Jan 24, 2022 11:03:29 AM |

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