King Lear Gets A Sentimental Cousin And A Few Hundred Relatives In Muthaiah’s Viruman
Cast: Karthi, Prakash Raj, Aditi Shankar,
Director: M Muthaiah
In director Muthaiah's oddly structured Viruman, there are no prices for guessing how the film would end. Right from the first scene which begins with a public fight between father (Prakash Raj) and son Viruman (Karthi), the film establishes a wobbly foundation on top of which it dispenses a series of elements you need in such a film. More than a cohesive screenplay that has to organically make room for fights, comedy, and a love angle, in Viruman, these elements feel too forced in what's actually a family drama. With its requirement to first serve its hero and only then the screenplay, Viruman gets lost in the middle. It's not massy enough to work as a star vehicle neither is it weepy enough to work as a sentimental family drama.
Viruman works pretty much on the basic plot of King Lear. A selfish father, his many children, and the idea that only one of them truly loves him. Munisamy (Prakash Raj) plays this father and his power comes from the fact that he's also the local Tahsildar. Corrupt and selfish, he dangles the carrot of his wealth over his sons to keep them and their wives in control. Viruman, who chose to leave his father to live with his uncle, has always hated his father's ways and prefers to be known as his mother's son.
At first, this equation between father and son is played for laughs with every argument resulting in a punchline that has Viruman getting the better of his father. The reason for this bitterness is withheld for a very long time because these comedic bits have to work. But finally, when the reason is given, it's what you had predicated an hour ago, making the long flashback unnecessarily long.
For a film that tries almost nothing new, the only innovation seems to be in the form of its screenplay structure. It gets a 90-minute first half which then shrinks to just over an hour in the second half. This makes the first half feel like a lifetime with its hero introduction fight+song, the heroine introduction scene+song, and the establishment of a conflict+flashback. It's overstuffed with a little of everything with nothing much to address later.
This makes the second half feel hollow and rushed with Viruman simply helping and then fixing one family member after another. He just has too much work to do and too many places to be. A reason why we never feel the emotions in these scenes is the way these characters are introduced to us in the first half. In a Pandiraj film, the director spends a lot of time early on establishing not just the family dynamics, but also each character. In Viruman, with its need to also work as a mass film, the time spent establishing family members is not enough for us to care for them. So when Viruman does something great by helping his older brother, we hardly even know the man, let alone care about his canteen business.
This is true even for the other relationships in the film. For example, the film has many scenes that keep talking about Viruman's affection and respect for his uncle (played by Raj Kiran) who remained single to look after him. But these remain bits of information without a single scene that makes us feel the bond between these two people. And when that happens in a family drama, there's not much you have to hold on to.
Yet what makes Viruman reasonably easy to sit through are the performances of both Karthi and Aditi Shankar. The scenes between the both of them feel like the only events in a dull film. These are also the portions where the film isn't trying too hard to be more than what it is. There is a lightness here and Aditi Shankar feels right at home when she has to blend romance with comedy.
The rest feels too convenient and predictable with characters changing their mindset far too easily and with an ending that's too basic to give us any closure. With such choices, it's a film you'll look back at years later without being able to remember its name. They might as well have named it Kadaikutty Komban.