A “Romeo and Juliet”-style yarn is cranked up to the colorful and violent max in Tamil blockbuster “Paruthiveeran.” Pic has done boffo biz in Southern India (where the Tamil-lingo industry dominates) but has also captured the imagination of Northern India, which generally favors more commercially slick films. Rough production values are mitigated by a myriad of sophisticated cinematic techniques that show this is no boondocks effort. Fests that appreciate curry flavors will eat this one up, though uninitiated auds could experience culture shock.
In an extended opening-titles sequence that makes the frenzied camera and cutting of “Moulin Rouge” look placid, a revenge stabbing takes place at a town fair in the remote southern Indian village of Paruthiyur. Viewers are immediately warned that they’ll need to hang on tight to keep up with the complicated plot and multiple characters.
A chief participant in the stabbing is titular hero Paruthiveeran (Karthi), a low-caste vagabond. His stated ambition is to spend time in a government jail rather than local lock-ups, which offer only short-term incarceration for each transgression.
Feisty young beauty Muthazhagu (Priyamani) believes Paruthiveeran is the man for her, despite his violent manner, shameless fraternization with hookers and otherwise rambunctious ways. As revealed in a sepia flashback, Muthazhagu would have drowned in a well when she was young if Paruthiveeran hadn’t come to her rescue.
In between their respective families brandishing swords at each other, and (sometimes comically, sometimes violently) squabbling among themselves, Muthazhagu manages to have her name tattooed on Paruthiveeran’s chest while he is comatose from drink. This indelible declaration of love finally helps the hero appreciate her eternal affection, but the warring families respond by going into overdrive.
Yarn is augmented by comedy, colorful dance numbers featuring actual cross-dressing eunuchs, and local musicians. However, the bloody and downbeat final reels will test the endurance of auds who reach the pic’s tragic finale.
Ameer Sultan’s creative helming, which includes split-screen, appears unbridled and sometimes outright chaotic, but always serves the script. Yarn appears to be contempo, but little evidence of modernization creates a timeless, almost mythical atmosphere.
Perfs are consistent with the bombastic storytelling. Newcomer Karthi manages to imbue the initially unlovable hero with surprisingly sympathetic qualities. Lead actress Priyamani charms with her energy, and deservedly won the actress gong at the Cinefan fest. Version caught there was a shorter one prepared for the fest, omitting at least one song from its original reported running time of 185 minutes. Pic also won Best Indian Picture.