Karnan is a younger man ready for a navy job in a village that has no mercy from the State (oh, the spirited irony of this!). They do not have a faculty, a hospital, not even a bus stand, regardless of having petitioned for it a number of occasions. They’re compelled to make use of the bus stand in a neighbouring village, the place begins the abyss of indignities meted out to them. Mari Selvaraj’s sophomore film Karnan is about the village’s fight for dignity in opposition to a system that is intentionally and cruelly stacked in opposition to them.
From the a lot smaller and considerably subdued effort that was his earlier film Pariyerum Perumal, Selvaraj takes a large leap with Karnan, which is extra forceful — each in its message and in making. Considered one of my largest issues about Pariyerum Perumal was the submissiveness of the protagonist, Pariyan. He silently suffers unimaginable violence, standing up for himself in managed methods. For Pariyan, so long as he may research, the violence is simply inevitable irritation.
What would have occurred if Pariyan wasn’t even allowed to board a bus on the primary day of his school? What if Pariyan was denied the very factor he considered his ticket to a dignified life? That is the story Selvaraj explores with Karnan. Naturally, this story is far darker, extra violent, and gut-wrenching.
Karnan‘s largest success is within the writing. Despite bringing collectively dozens of characters, Selvaraj makes every certainly one of them actual. Yaman, performed by an enchanting Lal, is the kindly godfather. A pillar of assist for Karnan, whereas additionally defending him from the hazards of the latter’s personal anger. A widower nonetheless crushingly in love — filling coronary heart and soul into Deva’s rendition of manjanathi puranam.
There’s additionally the village chief who refuses to take down the towel wrapped round his head — a signal of subservience demanded by dominant castes; Yogi Babu’s character, who’s cynical, however comes round; a younger lady whose college-going goals are crushed; the boy who raises a horse; the pregnant lady who stands up for her son; Karnan’s sister who’s each proud and scared; the lover who places up a good fight — Karnan‘s universe is made from multi-dimensional individuals, as advanced as they’re grounded.
The very best of Karnan is, in fact, reserved for the eponymous hero. Dhanush is improbable as Karnan, carrying an insatiable rage in his complete being. His journey from being the indignant teenager who desires retaliation for on a regular basis injustices to the village chief who merely desires his rights is poignant. As his enemy will get larger and extra highly effective, Karnan will get stronger, but extra susceptible.
There’s a level within the film the place he’s placing up his bravest face and gearing up for a fight in opposition to the police. He tells his lover, “you do know they’ll finally catch and throw me in jail, proper?” She says that she does and is prepared to attend for him. In response, he asks, “what in the event that they kill me whereas inside?” The scene lingers for simply a second, for us to see that Karnan is aware of that their protest — which the oppressor will see as provocation — will solely beget extra merciless violence.
Simply a couple of minutes later, we see what an developed, but raging, chief would do. Within the improbable climax scene, Karnan pleads to his oppressor — whilst he is holding a sword to his throat — to not enrage him additional. He doesn’t need revenge; he merely desires to be heard. Even when he’s misplaced a lot, he’s working to stop additional injury. This Karnan too is beneficiant, throughout the constraints of his lived actuality.
The film takes its time to ascertain these characters, with good motive. Karnan isn’t the story of 1 particular person affecting one other particular person in a single incident. It’s the end result of historic violence meted out to an complete neighborhood by these in energy. To grasp Karnan’s rage, we have to see how everybody disregards his complete existence each day. The dearth of a bus cease is a metaphor. What Selvaraj desires us to see is the cruelty that each one of us is able to, even when the chances are actually low.
Take the instance of the scene the place Karnan requests a bus conductor to cease at his village, as over a dozen passengers have to get off. The conductor and driver decide a fight with him, abetting him to leap off a shifting bus, however they would not cease for a second for the villagers to get off. The primary half is stuffed with many incidents like these.
We have to watch each certainly one of these incidents to know why the villagers are all the time combating, why they hold yelling at one another, why the entire film is considerably high-pitched — there isn’t any different means their story might be instructed.
The boldest assertion that Selvaraj makes is in presenting the police in the way in which he has. He makes no bones about exhibiting them because the violent software of an oppressive and casteist State. There isn’t a good cop to counterbalance the dangerous ones. At greatest, there are helpless ones who cover in the bathroom when unable to observe the atrocities round them. He affords no kindness to the Collectors, politicians and businessmen both.
For a film that is written with such intricate care, the course is patchy. It has some ingeniously stunning moments, whereas others that fall flat. The motif of the younger goddess lends a magical realist timbre to the film. It acts as a illustration of the previous, of everybody who has died from the apathy of the State and its individuals. Using the panorama is phenomenal — the ponds, the rocks, the thorn shrubs and the barren lands including a silent however tangible layer to the story itself.
Santhosh Narayanan’s background music elevates the film, at occasions stunning the viewers, shaking us out of a reverie we’d have fallen into. Utradheenga Yeppov is positioned and filmed excellently — its job to not evoke a particular feeling, however maybe cease us from suspending disbelief solely. So intelligent and so impactful. Kandaa Vara Sollunga within the prologue affords a legendary high quality to the film and its hero.
The film, nevertheless, struggles in what may be seen as mass hero scenes. Using silhouettes to spice up Karnan’s picture feels feeble. His speech to the village about placing up a fight is not as roaring because it might be. The scene simply earlier than the climax between the daddy and son feels rushed, doing little for the emotional observe.
But, these are minor blips in what’s a exceptional murals. With Karnan, Mari Selvaraj establishes himself as a highly effective voice in Tamil cinema, one which all of us have to take heed to. Dhanush reveals but once more that he is prepared to again vital scripts and deliver fascinating performances. It’s now the viewers’s flip to observe, expertise, debate and devour Karnan.