Readers Write In #481: My View: Natchathiram Nagargirathu

Posted on September 1, 2022

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By Ponnuvelraj C

Ten minutes into Pa. Ranjith’s NatchathiramNagargirathuyouare introduced to a film language whose grammar is plain and simple and for some reason feels very peculiar. It makes us sit up and take note of every word that is being said and study every frame that is being shown, unconsciously searching for the subtext. The milieu of the film was a bit outlandish (the theatre backdrop) to a common man like me, but that didn’t hinder the experience one bit, as the characters of the film are so enticing.

There’s a character in the film, Arjun played brilliantly by Kalaiarasan who resembles almost everyone in the crowd. Then there is Rene, played by Dushara who is Ranjith himself. The film almost feels like a tête-à-tête between these two characters. With the casteist, prejudiced, transphobic, homophobic, endogamous and a gazillion other horrible adjectives rolled into one- Arjun, attaining enlightenment (A beautifully shot scene to depict this, where he walks along with Rene, through a gate painted with the Buddha), and realizing what is it to be in love only to love someone who he can never be with. All the other characters too play their roles just perfectly to convey the subject- Love is political.

Coming to subtexts, Ranjith the politician takes over. Whether it is Rene refusing to be called by her given name: Tamizh ( a poke at Tamil nationalists ), or Rene identifying herself as Ambedkarite when asked if she was a Communist, or the politics of food that’s put forth, or the scene that sets a context for the film where everyone in the troop brainstorms to find what is Love ( where he shows even the communities under the threat by the majority, cling on to their casteist roots), Ranjith doesn’t hold back anything. These are only a few of the references I am highlighting here. The film is filled with such gems all along.

Although the film has a handful of metaphorical references, it isn’t very abstract. That being said, it isn’t seemingly evident either. “What does the cat signify?” “What does the shooting star mean for the lead character?” Overhearing such discussions while awaiting my turn at the Popcorn counter made me smile. The creator in Ranjith had won, but what about the politician who had tugged more than a few emotional heartstrings and flamed even more sparks? That time will tell.