Navarasa Review: This much-hyped Tamil anthology falls short of expectations
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Navarasa Review: This much-hyped Tamil anthology falls short of expectations

Film enthusiasts were excited since the announcement of the project, thanks to some of the names involved in it who seldom disappoint. But except for a few, the remaining films do not live up to the expectations 

Thinkal Menon
Aug 06, 2021
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Tamil audience aren't new to anthologies, but Navarasa is a far cry from the likes of Sillu Karupatti, Kutty Story or Putham Pudhu Kaalai, which they have experienced till date. With nine filmmakers attempting diverse emotions - Karuna, Hasya, Adbhuta, Bheebhatsa, Shanti, Raudra, Bhaya, Veera and Sringara - all set against different backdrops, movie buffs can't ask for more, especially when some of the names involved in it seldom disappoint. But except for a few, the remaining films fall short of expectations, leaving us wanting for more. 

Bejoy Nambiar's Edhiri, which deals with the emotion 'karuna' (compassion) narrates the struggles of Dheena (Vijay Sethupathi), who regrets an abrupt murder he committed to seek vengeance for his brother's death. On one hand, Dheena appears stubborn and self-convinced about the brutal act he committed, while on the other hand, he is on a constant quarrel with his subconscious mind which leaves him sleepless. The change in the character's mindset, from a revenge-seeking brother to a guilty person who cares for the widow of the deceased, is established interestingly through an imaginary conversation between Dheena and the dead person (Prakash Raj). Finally, Dheena, who is ready to surrender before the law, seeks forgiveness from the deceased's wife (Revathy). The dialogue between Revathy and Sethupathi on forgiveness is endearing, and justifies the element of compassion in it, but the element of guilt and the reason behind the murder should have been more appealing.  

A poster of Navarasa

Summer of 92, helmed by Priyadarshan, touches upon hasya (humour), which has Yogi Babu in the lead. The plot revolves around Veluswamy, a popular comedian, visiting his school at his home town for an event, sharing some of the funny anecdotes from his school days with the crowd there. Interestingly, he is addressed as nagaichuvai mannan before he takes the stage to reminisce his mischievous teenage days and leave everyone in splits. With someone like Yogi Babu headlining a segment which deals with hasya, one easily assumes that the director's work is already half done. However, the episodes which the actor narrate do not leave the viewers in splits. The likes of Nedumudi Venu and Y Gee Mahendra play their part well in a segment which had ample scope to bring the house down. It begins with the popular saying, 'A day without laughter is a day wasted'. Though we completely agree to it, we wish there were sufficient moments in it to have a hearty laugh.         

Karthick Naren had displayed uninhibited confidence on Project Agni, the segment he directed, based on adbhuta (wonder). This portion stands tall among the anthology for its unique theme and climactic twist, something which the director has pulled off earlier, too. Its protagonist Vishnu (Arvind Swami) is an exceptionally intelligent scientist who works on present, past and future, the connection between human civilization and subconscious mind, and so on. The story takes off when Vishnu invites his friend Krishna (Prasanna) to share one of his pathbreaking discoveries and how a mistake he made during his visit to the past caused an irreparable loss in his life. It will be interesting to see whether Karthick will take up this ambitious sci-fi genre and make it into a full-fledged film. A Tamil movie on a man who has got extraordinary powers to control the world would be an intriguing watch.

Navarasa is presented by Mani Ratnam and Jayendra Panchapakesan

Vasanth S Sai's Payasam, made on the emotion bheebhatsa (disgust), has Delhi Ganesh playing a 77-year-old head of the family, who harbours jealousy on one of his relatives. Set against the backdrop of a pompous Brahmin wedding, the self-obsessed septuagenarian, who is concerned about the unfair manner in which the society treats his widowed daughter, has no qualms in being rude to family members and secretly nurturing hatred towards others. It's irony that a title like Payasam was chosen for a story which explores the emotion disgust. But the manner in which Vasanth connects payasam and disgust in the climax coupled with Ganesh's flawless performance makes it a one time watch. A veteran like Rohini and the talented Aditi Balan deserved more scope in their roles, though.

Peace by Karthik Subbaraj is set in war-torn region in Sri Lanka where four men from Tamil Eelam and Lankan army take on each other in a no man's land. Nilava (Bobby Simhaa) goes to rescue the younger brother of a kid despite warning from Master (Gautham Menon), his chief in the group. The Lankan army continuously fires at him when he sets out to bring the kid's brother, and he escapes with a bullet on his body. After a point, Nilava realizes the importance of peace though he is ready to sacrifice his life for his people. A lengthy single shot is one of the highlights of this not-so-engaging segment which questions the need to wage war among human beings.     

Navarasa is an initiative intended to raise funds to support the needy in film industry

How life turns topsy-turvy for a lower middle class family, which consists of an ambitious son, studious daughter and a doting mother, forms the plot of Arvind Swami's directorial debut, Roudhram. Arul (Sreeram), who dreams of leading a happy life with his sister and mother, murders someone after he happens to come across a devastating sight. We are also introduced to a strict female cop who is investigating the case. Geetha Kailasam shines in the role of a hardworking mother who struggles to meet both the ends of life, while Rythvika and Ramesh Thilak, too, leave a mark. Santosh Sivan's cinematography is another attraction of the film, which has some haunting characters among all the films in the anthology. 

Rathindran Prasad's Inmai, which handles the emotion 'fear', begins with Waheeda (Parvathy) who develops an instant bonding with Farooq (Siddharth) over their common interest in calligraphy. However, what looks like a romantic tale shifts to an unexpected tale involving lust, murder and revenge. The manner in which the presence of a djinn is incorporated and the proceedings that follow make Inmai the most unpredictable segment among the anthology. Parvathy and Ammu Abirami look comfortable in their roles while Siddharth, who sports two looks, owns the sequences in which he appear. 

Thunintha Pin by Sarjun KM, which focuses on the emotion 'bravery', has Atharvaa and Kishore playing an army man and a naxalite respectively. The conversations between Vetri (Atharvaa) and Comrade (Kishore) during their travel after the former shoots the latter down delves into what defines the term bravery. Probably the weakest segment in the anthology, Thunintha Pin relies mostly on dialogues between its various characters and there is hardly any usage of visual language. The performances of lead actors, including Anjali who appears in a few scenes, are just okay. There is little scope for the viewers to empathize with the characters due to the staging of the events. 

Guitar Mele Kambi Nindru, perhaps the most-expected segment in Navarasa, thanks to the return of Suriya-Gautham combination, is engaging in parts. Gautham has unsurprisingly chosen sringara (romance) among all the rasas and he comes up with the romantic tale of musician Kamal and singer Nethra. The way the couple meet, the way they express their mutual affection to each other and the way the male actor proposes to his lover - all these are what you would expect from a Gautham Menon film. And the similarity doesn't end there. The female lead has a connection with Kerala. And quite similar to what happens with some of Gautham's heroes, we are told towards the end that Kamal and Nethra are no more together. The good news for Gautham fans is that the music does work here, which helps the romantic sequences between the lead pair. But knowing what Gautham is capable of with his favourite genre, we can't help expecting more from him, especially when the way it ends is not on a convincing note.  

Navarasa is currently streaming on Netflix.

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