It been 18 years since the release of “Kandukondaen Kandukondaen”, the last film directed by the ace cinematographer Rajiv Menon. Since then he has been busy with his Mindscreen Institute and just wielded the camera for Maniratnam’s “Kadal” and “Guru”. So when we heard he is going to direct again, it was sure that he had something brilliant in mind to tell through the film. “Sarvam Thaala Mayam” has been touted as a musical which is beyond boundaries, caste and culture in a very contemporary setting. To add to the musical touch, Rajiv Menon rolled in GV Prakash as the lead actor and music by none other than AR Rahman - the dream duo which gave us some memorable songs in the previous two films.
Johnson (played superbly by Kumaravel) comes from a family which is in to making Mridangam and other percussion instruments generation after generation. He can hardly support his family with the income he gets by selling the instruments. However, along with wife's income through selling soup, they manage to make ends meet. Their son Peter Johnson (GV Prakash) is a carefree student and hard-core fan of Actor Vijay. In one event, he ends up seeing the famed Mridangam performer Vembu Iyer (Nedumudi Venu) playing Mridangam and instantly gets attached to the instrument. Inspite of the caste difference (being ignorant largely), he tries to join Vembu Iyer as his student. After the initial resistance, Vembu Iyer allows him to join. However, Vembu Iyer’s close aide and trusted Shishya Mani (Vineeth) plays spoil sport and creates issues using the caste angle. The rest of the film deals with Peter and his efforts to excel in this field which is staged through a reality show contest.
The stupendous performance of all actors in the film is a big plus. A large credit of that should go to Rajeev Menon for the stellar casting. The real hero of the film is Nedumudi Venu. Am sure he is going to be a big contender for “Best Supporting actor” role in Tamil this year. He excels in each and every scene and gets maximum applause in the theater. GV Prakash can be proud of doing this film. Its visible that he has worked hard to make the role credible and pulls it off flawlessly. The heroine in this film (Sara played by Aparna Balamurali) has a major role to play in motivating and encouraging Peter to attain his dreams. She does her part well. Vineeth is seen in a Tami film after a long gap and he makes use of it.
The movie also dwells into motivational aspects, especially I loved the part where Peter travels to various places to learn playing various percussion instruments and tunes. The title song “Sarvam Thaala Mayam” captures this splendidly. The director approached the conflicts in a very contemporary manner. Peter is very clear about his wants and dreams and delineates the basic needs from his passion, inspite of the financial constraints in the family - Be it the scene where Peter gets drunk and abuses his parents for not allowing him to follow his dreams or the scene following the pre-marital sex, where we see Peter telling Sara that he loves her a lot, but then, there is a wanting and inner urge beyond these – to perform and to excel in his passion, which he is unable to satisfy! While the premise of the film is based on caste issue, it never gets preachy. Instead the scenes are shown very subtly through normal dialogues and small incidents like the one where Vembu Iyer loses his Rudraksh or the scene where Peter and his father have tea in their village. We can see the brilliance of Rajiv Menon’s writing in these sequences.
Technically the film is brilliant. Cinematography by Ravi Yadav is a great boon for the film. While most of the film is shot indoor and being a drama genre, you may assume there is no much scope for Cinematography. But Ravi Yadav uses great shades and gives a fresh whitish tint throughout the film. The picturisation elevated the average songs to a different pane altogether. Editing was crisp and Rahman’s BGM perfect to the T.
On the negatives, the reality show angle actually takes away the originality of the script but it does add to the drama and an interesting climax which is over shadowed by AR Rahman’s brilliance. The other issue with the film is that as audience, you know how it’s going to end. Some conflicts could have helped to make the film little more interesting. Even when you think Johnson might fall sick or Peter’s finger injury might get worse, none of these develop into real complications but disappear eventually. I was also not convinced with Peter’s costumes in the film or for the songs. When he is shown as someone coming from a backward family struggling to make ends meet, upmarket clothes and shoes could have been avoided.
Overall Sarvam Thaala Mayam is a well-crafted film with very noble intention/message and presented with a “feel-good” coating. We just hope Rajiv Menon does not go back to his hiatus again.
Rating – 3.75/5