Kamal Haasan’s Thevar Magan was released on October 25, 1992.
Thevar Magan hit the screens exactly 30 years ago, on the occasion of Deepavali. The movie, directed by Malayalam filmmaker Bharathan, was unique for a variety of reasons. First off, it included an excellent star cast, including two legends of Tamil cinema; Sivaji Ganesan and Kamal Haasan. The performances of these two men were quite overpowering that even genuine effort by other actors, paled in contrast. What else is there to write about the film that has already been discussed extensively? Well...
Thevar Magan revolves around Sakthi (Kamal Haasan), the son of a village chieftain Periya Thevar (Sivaji Ganesan). Sakthi goes to his hometown to ask his father for permission to wed his girlfriend, Bhanu, but instead becomes involved in village-related problems. Along the way, Sakthi is pressured by circumstances to abandon his relationship with his lover and engrosses himself in the village politics, which quickly escalates into violence.
In the 1990s, Sivaji Ganesan shifted to character roles, giving his career a new facet. Kamal Haasan once said Thevar Magan was a sort of “love story" between him and Sivaji Ganesan. He was quoted as saying, “I'm thankful that Sivaji sir allowed me to become him because I wanted to.”
The father-son bond between Sivaji Ganesan and Kamal Haasan serves as the central theme of Thevar Magan. The movie is driven by small details rather than big, dramatic moments. For instance, Sakthi swiftly grabs Bhanu's hand to help her in standing up when she slips as she enters the house. This incident is noticed by Periya Thevar, who takes offence to it. We can tell from the incident that he disapproves of their relationship.
Again… Consider Vadivelu's portrayal of Esakki. He gave a performance that was nothing short of extraordinary. Esakki is the epitome of loyalty; whether it be at the beginning, when he warmly welcomes Sakthi and his girlfriend Bhanu to Koovathur, or at the scene where he loses an arm, after deciding to pick a temple's lock, or at the moment in the climax, when he offers to take responsibility for Maayan's death. Vadivelu was convincing as Esakki that even now, 30 years later, just mentioning the character, conjures up images of the actor.
The different aspects of the soundtrack and cinematography complement and emphasise other instances of symbolism throughout the narrative. What required pages of dialogue was reduced to a few fleeting moments. Thanks to the powerful visuals by PC Sreeram and the superb background music by Ilaiyaraaja.
For instance, Kamal Haasan's character is forced into the politics of the hamlet after Maayan causes a flood that kills numerous locals. The actor's bare feet sliding into the floodwater mud serves as the sequence's focal point and foresees Kamal's future persona as a politician.
Kaka Radhakrishnan's performance as Chinna Thevar was another outstanding one that didn't receive the praise it deserved. It's not easy to play a stroke patient who has lost the use of his limbs, yet Radhakrishnan did a fantastic job of portraying a complex role. Imagine being forced to use a wheelchair and losing your right side... The fact that he had to distort his lips to show facial palsy is another thing to consider. Even holding this position without being required to present a conversation would have been difficult. With each of these, Kaka Radhakrishnan, was required to continue expressing a gamut of emotions.
Similarly, Thevar Magan regularly cuts to Gautami's character entering and exiting trains to emphasise her position as an “outsider”. The fact that only Revathy receives a love song and not Gautami's character further demonstrates the protagonist's attachment to the woman he marries.
Before Thevar Magan, Silambam was overdone in movies to suit the necessities of the medium. Thevar Magan, on the other hand, presented the traditional Tamil sport in all its splendour without exaggeration, prompting a sizable number of young people to indulge in it, following the release.
Each song, composed by Ilaiyaraaja, was an art in itself. While Vaanam Thottu Ponaa, Potri Paadadi, Inji Iduppazhagi, Saandhu Pottu, and Puthiyathu Piranthathu became top hits; Manamagale and Maasaru Ponne Varuga, that were no less beautiful or melodious, were ignored, at worst, and not celebrated to the same degree as the rest, at best.
Thevar Magan set new standards for Tamil cinema in every area, including casting, filmmaking, acting, music, cinematography, and editing. That is most likely the reason why it is still enjoyable to watch 30 years, after it was originally released.
These are some of the facts that you may already be aware of. Yet, it's good to revisit: