Seethakaathi Movie Review – Vijay Sethupathi – Balaji Tharaneetharan

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Cast: Vijay Sethupathi, Archana, J. Mahendran, Mouli, Rajkumar, Bagavathi Perumal, Karuna, Ramya Nambeesan, Gayathri, Parvathi Nair, Sundar
Direction: Balaji Tharaneetharan
Music: Govind Vasantha
Cinematography: Saraskanth T. K.
Editor: R. Govindaraj
Running Time: 173 mins
Release Date: 20th December 2018

Seethakaathi Core Synopsis:

Seethakaathi discusses an ageing Superstar’s ‘undying’ love for the art — theatre. I would call it an experimental venture because Tamil cinema is largely about the hero, and this film is anything but that. Ayya Aadhimoolam (Vijay Sethupathi) is portrayed as someone whose stature is bigger than his stardom. Even at the ripe age, he enjoys performing on the stage and such is his passion. He strongly believes in the immediacy of audience reaction in theatre and refuses to act in cinema. When someone asks why, he says, “Paraatto, thitto stage-la udane kidaichududhu illa.”

Seethakaathi Core Analysis:

Director Balaji Tharaneetharan takes his own time to establish who is Ayya Aadhimoolam. Initially, in the fleeting shots, you could see Vijay Sethupathi perform a variety of stage plays including Lava Kusa, Kovalan Kaadhali and Sathyavan Savithri.

Ayya Aadhimoolam is someone who travels by auto. Someone who loves children, in particular, his grandchild. Someone who cares for his theatre troupe and mentors budding talent. Someone who views art as a personal journey – that is more about self-exploration. Someone who is unperturbed by the dwindling audience. Someone who thinks theatre should not have to struggle in a country with a rich legacy in the performing arts.

After 40 minutes, Seethakaathi takes a different turn, and you are introduced to another genre altogether. It takes immense guts for Vijay Sethupathi to pick this one as his 25th film — given that he is not ‘seen’ throughout. But hey, you ‘feel’ his presence definitely. As a septuagenarian, Sethupathi shines — no doubt. But that doesn’t seem enough. I am sure he has spent long hours in the makeup room to wear the prosthetics, but there was still something missing.

The film does have its enjoyable moments. If you liked Balaji Tharaneetharan’s debut film Naduvula Konjam Pakkatha Kaanom (NKPK), you would naturally like Seethakaathi. (I am talking about the style of narration here). Watch out for the scenes involving director Sundar (Bagavathi Perumal) and actor Saravanan (Rajkumar). With their earnest performances and timings spot-on, they send out ripples of laughter. Sunil Reddy (actor Vaibhav’s brother) makes his acting debut with Seethakaathi, and his portions are equally hilarious. Though he majorly looks distressed; sometimes, overtly so, he does make you laugh. The second half is entirely his. Rather, I would say, he has made that entirely his.

Seethakaathi would have certainly worked for me if the entire film had been on Ayya Aadhimoolam — a star of a certain age. I would have loved the film more if Balaji Tharaneetharan cared to explore the other things in the film — for instance — the friendship angle between Parasuram (Mouli) and Ayya Aadhimoolam — or the family angle between his wife Lakshmi (the underutilised Archana) and Aadhimoolam again.

Govind Vasantha lifts your mood with his soul-stirring music. Despite an engaging screenplay, Seethakaathi just doesn’t come together as a cohesive whole. Part of the problem, I think is the core idea. Maybe, I couldn’t connect with Ayya. You either connect or you don’t. There are no in-betweens. Seethakaathi affects us, impacts us, and attempts to move us. But the attempt isn’t wholly achieved.

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