Papanasam - A Masterclass in Grey

A good part of a movie watcher's experience is decided by how one feels right after the film. I have experienced everything from joy, sleep, sleeplessness, excitement and fear (including fear for the fate of tamil cinema). But never have I got the feeling of utmost satisfaction after watching a film. Papanasam has definitely changed that. I have not watched Dhrishyam, so my views are not biased by expectation. This is not a review. This is more like a note of my thoughts right after the film.

I have always talked about how ideas and execution are both equally important for a movie. The last two films that I watched have both reasserted this - Inside Out - Where the execution was so good that the idea carried through effortlessly and now Papanasam - where the idea was so meticulously scripted that the crew of the team almost knew what was expected and they have delivered effortlessly. It has been ages since there has been a plot that's not really elementary,yet so watertight. I always believe the more the amount of time a filmmaker spends on the plot and script and in getting things right on paper, the easier the execution. Jeethu Joseph has got everything right - So perfect that even a Gautami we are seeing after 19 years on screen performs like she has been practicing this role for all those 19 years.

I sometimes wonder - Have we been deprived in recent years of the pure joy of experiencing Kamal the actor because of his huge and immensely knowledgeable personality which invariably results in end-products which are highly self-indulgent, if not self-introspective? His actual personality often overshadows the on-screen one. Papanasam has probably lifted some weight off Kamal's shoulders and his effortless acting carries through. The references throughout the movie are impeccably timed and thought out, and it is hard to imagine that the ideas were anything but Kamal's. If this is a sign of things to come, I cannot wait for Thoongavanam. Kamal recently said 'Dhrishyam is a shirt I wanted to wear'. He has subtly shown that the model who walks the ramp wearing it is equally important - The dialogues demonstrate that perfectly.

We have seen a string of no-frills movies in recent times from promising directors in Tamil cinema, yet all of them can learn from how tightly spinned the story of 'Papanasam' is. We have been drowned in the flood of 'black and white' films even in this age of colour. I say that because it is always good vs bad. Even a small movie like Neram which played around with 'greys' in character turned our heads. Papanasam is a masterclass in grey. And handling these 'greys' in character has been a trademark of amazing film makers like K.Balachander and it was exciting to see such deft touches to the various characters. They all have their own ideas of how much they can do to push the boundaries of ethics and morals, whilst furthering their own cause. And the climax is a brilliant clash of the 'idea of right' of each character.

The greatest achievement of this film is probably the meta-glorification of cinema itself, as everything Suyambulingam does is learnt from cinema. If we get more movies like Papanasam, we can probably learn about the art of cinema itself, from cinema.

PS: A word of praise for Ghibran, who continues to demonstrate his ability to read into a situation and his sensitivity. Almost every technician has certainly proved their worth in this film.

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