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Review: Thaarai Thappattai is brutally honest

Tharai ThappattaiThaarai Thappattai may not appeal to all but it is definitely worth a watch, feels S Saraswathi.

After the heart-wrenching tale of enslaved tea workers of the pre-independence era in Paradesi, National award-wining director Bala takes up the cause of folk artists in his latest film, Thaarai Thappattai.

A dying breed, folk musicians and dancers are slowly losing out to commercialism that has crept into every aspect of our lives.

Traditional dances that were once performed to the rhythmic beats of the thavil, urumi and nadaswaram are now influenced by film music and dance.

The protagonists in the film Sasikumar and Varalaxmi Sarathkumar are folk artists, struggling to make a living in the temple city of Thanjavur.

Sannasi (Sasikumar) is the head of a music troupe, while Sooravali (Varalaxmi) is the chief dancer, who loves him. Times are tough and the troupe jumps at a chance to perform at the Andaman Islands for a hefty sum.

But they soon realise that the sponsors are more interested in women, and not their dance.

Humiliated, they return home, only to continue their struggle without work. At this time, Sooravali receives a marriage proposal from Karuppan (producer R K Suresh), who claims to have a government job and decent salary. Sannasi is torn between his love for Sooravali and wanting her to have a secure life.

The first half ends with a stunned Sooravali being pushed into a marriage she hates, by the people she loves.

Though intense, there are plenty of fun moments in the first half, especially with Varalaxmi's delightful performance. Bold, aggressive and uninhibited, an alcohol-guzzling Varalaxmi has given a performance of a lifetime.

A chunk of the less interesting second half is devoted to the antics of an over-excited antagonist played by RK Suresh. Varalaxmi disappears to return a poor imitation of her former self in a climax that is so predictably Bala that the film loses much of its edge.

Sasikumar is completely at home in this self-sacrificing character.

The film marks music maestro Ilayaraja's 1,000th film and the legendary composer takes the film to a whole new level. Some great songs, beautiful lyrics and the liberal use of traditional instruments add to the drama, perfectly complementing the script.

Director Bala has once again scripted an intense tale of human pain and suffering that is infused with his trademark humour, great music and excellent performances.

Thaarai Thappattai has all the elements that you expect from the brilliant director and while it may not appeal to all, it is definitely worth a watch.

Rediff Rating: