Ilami: Matador games

The film starts like a well-laid interstate highway, then proceeds to turn into a pothole-filled bypass route only to reach a destination you least expected.

It’s 18th century Madurai and Jallikattu (which happens even during the non-Pongal season) is a way to eternal macho glory. And probably a good weight of grain or even a sizeable piece of land. Throw in some god-fearing villagers, chieftains who revel in their glorious mane-like moustaches and of course, some good ancient Tamil romance, and you have a decent plot to execute.

One could say debutant director Julian Prakash has done a commendable job in carrying out this task, at least when it comes to recreating a 1700s village setting. Not so much when you are hit by the wooden acting from Yuvan (a supposedly swashbuckling hunter-gatherer called Karuppu) and his love interest played by Anu Krishna (a chieftain’s daughter named... Ilami—now we finally get what the title means!).

Karuppu is a happy-go-lucky man, always in the company of his two male friends. But how on earth will he win Ilami’s hand if he’s scared of bulls, she asks. It isn't enough that he’s already risked his life by gathering wild honey bee to cure her of smallpox.

  • Genre: Period drama
  • Cast: Yuvan, Anu Krishna, Akhil
  • Director: Juilan Prakash
  • Storyline: A man needs to fight a bull to get his lover’s hand in marriage
  • Bottomline: Begins well, but falters along the way

We know the hero has to undergo some macho 1700s Sathriyan-style training (while making time for some 1700s-style stalking, flirting and background duets too) to take on the raging bull. But all this is actually for a greater cause, for the honour of his village. And of course, he's got some competition from another alpha male (played by Akhil of Kalloori fame), who can best be described as a poor man’s Rana Daggubatti, going by his get-up. He's actually the saving grace when it comes to theatricals among the lot. Kishore, as a pivotal character of royal blood, is forgettable as he enters and exits like an on-stage extra.

The plot starts like a well-laid interstate highway and then proceeds to turn into a pothole-filled bypass route, finally leading to a destination you (or anyone of your co-passengers) least expected.

What Julian Prakash had in hand felt like a story that deserved way more effort, way more rawness and certainly, way better CGI (that bull felt like something out of an early-2000s video game). But given the possible budget constraints of an independent filmmaker, this is probably worth a watch in the theatre, purely for the genuineness of wanting to tell a good story that’s not run-of-the-mill.

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Printable version | Apr 7, 2020 3:53:55 AM |

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