Deep Focus : Writing A Love Letter To Pariyerum Perumal And The Art Of Film Analysis

Music, staging, lighting, composition... how Mari Selvaraj uses all the tools of Cinema to craft a divine story in Pariyerum Perumal.
Deep Focus : Writing A Love Letter To Pariyerum Perumal And The Art Of Film Analysis

Analysing films has challenges of its own that are hardly talked about. You face the challenge of the reader, who has watched the film you're analysing and has given the film a place in his/her heart. But before that, you face a personal challenge — what you've basically set out to do is prove a 'feeling' you had with the film. How does one prove a 'feeling'? To put into words what you received as images and sounds is like trying to capture an essence. The answer is in finding veritable proof in the film that attest to your 'feelings'. 

Now, Pariyerum Perumal is a well loved film. Its story of love and friendship in the times of human chaos is still fresh in our hearts. And I intend to throw myself into the ring for it. This 'feeling' of mine, to prove which I'm going to explore various aspects and moments of the film, is an abstract one, and, perhaps, one that most of us felt when watching the film — that the relationship of Jo and Pariyerum Perumal BA BL is a 'divine' one, one that is perched above the ghosts of petty human social stratification that cloud the skies. 

Did director Mari Selvaraj intend to portray it like that? Did composer Santosh Narayanan create music with that in mind, or did cinematographer Sridhar shoot accordingly? Only they can tell. What I do have, as always with film analysis, is this one lonely feeling, like a soul looking for the features of 'proofs' to gain a body. 

Perhaps this divinity of the central relationship can be found in smaller signs in the film. Like the name itself, Pariyerum Perumal, which translates to "The God who mounts the horse".

When Pariya and Jo begin their friendship, he is wounded by the humiliation he faces in college, and she reaches him all draped in white — like a deity approaching a wounded human.

And when Pariya narrates the story of his life to her, she offers him help and says playfully —  "You want to be a lawyer, and I want to be an angel".

The song 'Pottakaatil Poovasam' permeates the air with a sense of divinity. Watch how Mari Selvaraj presents their world — the tender relationship between Jo and Pariya is being founded when the human world literally breaks down around them. 

In the sublime 'Nonna Mazhai koora otti' section, where Jo first expresses her love by writing the initials of her and Pariya's name on her hand, Mari Selvaraj films this in an empty classroom, perhaps, suggesting that this tender little world of love is untouched by human interference.

Later on, in the same classroom, after a bitterly humiliating episode, we see Pariya sitting alone, before he bashes up this space in rage to vent his pain.

But for now, this divine world is safe and sheltered, with Mari Selvaraj offering flowers to his angels.

These are just objective signs and symbols that I've found. To base my 'feeling' on only them would be like describing a town only through its architecture, and not its soul. What I desperately need is to find how the story, the nature of these characters and the narrative of the film leads me into feeling that. Perhaps, that can be found in how Pariya, and, consequently, Mari Selvaraj himself, refuses to label or define this relationship, because it is something more.

I arrive at an odd little scene that catches my eye — when Jo invites Pariya to her sister's wedding. At their college, once she has invited him, she turns back and leaves. The action hardly seems important, but Mari Selvaraj suddenly shifts to slow-motion just as she starts to walk away. It seems so odd, doubly so because Santosh Narayanan fills this scene with a string theme that fills your heart with romantic cherish, similar to what the slow-motion is doing visually. It is the first time that we hear this theme in the film. Why would Mari Selvaraj do this, I wonder! Why in this little moment?

 So I look ahead and find out exactly why he films this moment in this manner at this point of the narrative — this is the last time Jo and Pariya meet in their sheltered, innocent relationship. When she sees him the next time, Pariya is deeply hurt and distant. This moment is when the divinity of this relationship is fully realised, simply by the virtue that now it is soon going to be ravaged by the same human foibles that were circling them ominously. As Jo turns and moves away from him, she is also moving away from the last sighting of a smiling, innocent Pariya without knowing so. But Mari Selvaraj knows this, he knows this world is about to come crashing down. So he films this in slow motion, as if making us cherish the divinity, the innocence before it can be soiled. Santosh Narayan suffuses the moment with love, because there will hardly be any glimpse of love after this moment. How tender, and how deeply moving. This music is titled "Love Speaks" on the soundtrack. And, rightly so, because it is the moment where Divine Love speaks, before it is rendered mute and weak by human errors in the following sequences.

My heart is full with this moment, and I use it as a torch on the remaining parts of the film. The question of my search is based around this lovely theme music — do we hear this theme again? Of course we do, but much later on. And this is where the film comes full circle, as does my 'feeling' of a divinity of their relationship. This is where both I and the film gain divine resolution.

It is the scene in the final act when Jo comes to speak to Pariya at the hospital where his father is admitted. This is where Jo and Pariya reconcile. Jo is draped in white once again, and as Jo shuts her eyes and tries to summon all her deepest feelings, the same tender music sets in on the piano, marking the outpouring of her emotions. 

This choice by Mari Selvaraj makes immensely beautiful sense. After all, when we heard this theme for the first time, it was just before a grave wound was going to be cut open in the world of our lovely protagonists, a wound that would break them and separate them. And when we hear it again, that wound is healed and they are joined once again in all their innocence and divinity.

Note how this scene and conversation is lit in a beautifully vital, golden sunlight, while the contract killer stands in the background. It's once again the same human-deity contrast told to us through lighting here — Mari Selvaraj stages it as if Jo and Pariya were gifts of Nature while a human threat looms in the shadows behind. 

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