Mozhi surprised me.
I don’t know what exactly I was expecting, probably some sort of a love story, eventually the kalyanam at some wedding hall in Madras, women in saris and jasmine, and maybe a fight scene thrown in to keep the mens happy. And honestly, the cover of the DVD was a little too family-friendly for me.
But I bought it anyway on my last
shopping stockpiling expedition to Landmark for two reasons: first, I remembered there had been a lot of favorable buzz when it hit cinema screens last year, and second, it has Prakash Raj in a lead role. Show me a film where he has more to do than play the older cop/buddy/Dad and I’m there.
So, the film starts with these two friends Karthik (Prithviraj) and Viji (Prakash Raj), and no, the lead actresses don’t have “Raj” in their names. The guys are in the music side of the Tamil film biz and they get an apartment together. The crabby building secretary finds out they’re singletons and declares they must move, “˜cos bachelors are too much trouble. (Don’t I know it; they’re almost as bad married men!)
Viji says to Karthik “Why don’t you get married?” and the ever-idealist, ever-romantic Karthik explains he has to first fall for the girl, complete with lightbulbs and bells going off.
He’s out on the street and happens upon the modern, liberated Archana (Jyothika, wearing trousers and shirt with a messenger bag slung across her body) and sees her beating up a wee twig of a drunk man who’s been abusing his wife.
Karthik thinks the wife of Surya is damn cool, plus she reminds him of his Mom (er, okay”¦.). Bulbs and bells go off and he’s in love. Cue the dream sequence (Jyothika in a frothy purple gown, then as a cop, then a tough girl on a motorbike.)
And lucky Karthik, it turns out Archana lives in the same apartment complex. He tries to chat her up and gets nowhere. Finally, after rescuing her ailing grandmother, and still not getting a rise out of Tamil filmdom’s heroine, he says “What is your problem, girl?” and just then, he learns, as we the viewers do, that she’s deaf and mute.
She’s also traumatized. Archana’s father split when she was a kid and then her mother died, leaving the little girl in her grandmother’s care.
Archana and her best friend/translator, the widow Sheela, become friends with Karthik and Viji, and love grows as the quartet hang out. Karthik learns sign language, and wants to marry Archana, who freaks out and tells him to go away. The rest of the film is what happens afterward.
Now, when I say this film is different, please don’t take that to mean “dark”, because it’s not; there are some exceedingly sweet moments in this film (I personally found the little soap carving of a violin that Archana gives Karthik rather corny). But it is part of that current wave of Tamil films that show more of the day-to-day lives of people, without so much dishoom and no item number.
Viji is that always cheerful guy you’d like to have as a friend, and my favorite scene was the one with Prakash Raj dancing around in only a towel to Hava Nagila Hava, of all things (and you thought all those Kosher dosa places on Curry Hill were the only link between Israel and southern India). It’s quite funny to hear a man of his years and not insignificant figure refer to Little Prakash Raj as his “shame shame puppy shame.”
While Prithviraj plays him with great reserve, Karthik is written as such a decent hero that you almost expect to see a halo over his head. And his strength in resisting the repeated pouty advances of the sexy neighbor girl seemed rather super-human to me; I think most men would have been flattered and given in. But Prithviraj is credible as this guy with a heart of gold, and his lisp is endearing.
For Tamil movie fans, there’s an opening movie-within-a-movie sequence where Karthik and Viji work on the film’s score. When commenting on the plot of the film, Prakash Raj (who not only acts in Mozhi, but is also the producer) says to his buddy “I pity the landlords’ daughters in Tamil cinema, they only find beggars for husbands.”
The film was shot in and around Madras, so anyone feeling a bit homesick will catch some glimpses of Marina Beach and several shots at MusicWorld and the food court at Spencers Plaza.
And a brief word about the DVD I watched, a Moser Baer version. For Rs. 34, I think it’s a great deal. The picture quality is good, the English subtitles were there, and there were even extra features! (A long press conference and the music release.)
See it or skip it
See it! In spite of being a little too long (did we really need the storyline about the Professor who was stuck back in 1984?), and having one or two snafus on the subtitles (“banquet” instead of “bouquet”), the movie is a lovely change from a lot of what has come before. The characters are all older than undergrads and so their stories involve more than hanging out and flirting at the local Barista, even if the plot still evolves around the ubiquitous filmi concern: marriage.
And by the way, when was the last time you saw a filmi heroine who wore trousers through all but two or three scenes in a film?