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Badri's Tamil thoughts
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We saw the Tamil movie Autograph yesterday. The movie is a recollection of past incidents in the hero (played by the director Cheran himself) Senthil's life, about the women he met and fell in love with and the pain he experiences after seeing them a few years later. The incidents are woven together beautifully. Cheran flips nonchalantly from each phase of Senthil's life to the present. Senthil's relationships with his two loves and with his friend are handled with a lot of sensitivity and maturity, something you don't really expect from movie makers in this day and age. So many movies I've seen in the recent past tended to start off with characterizing the relationship between the hero and the heroine as being platonic in nature but in the end, due to force of circumstances (or of their own making), they fall in love and everyone lives happily ever after. Cheran has thankfully avoided the oft-beaten path.
The movie starts off with Senthil inviting everyone who has made a difference to his life, friends as well as his two lady loves. As he steps into the village where he grew up, he gets nostalgic about his childhood, his friends, the great times he had with them etc. The focus gradually shifts to Kamala, his first love. The situations involving the two are really nicely done and evoke quite a few guffaws at the goofups. Unfortunately, their love cannot proceed beyond class X because her education is being aborted. Senthil locates an old friend and with his help, he locates Kamala, who is now a mother of 3. Senthil is pained at her state but nevertheless invites Kamala and her husband to his wedding. He then leaves for Kerala where he did his college and fell in love with a Malayali girl, Lathika, crossing several linguistic barriers in the process. That affair doesn't last too long either and he gets beaten up by Lathika's father's henchmen and he last sees her in a boat, married to her relative, who was also their classmate. When he tries to locate Lathika with the help of a Tamil classmate, he tells him about the new woman in his life, Divya (played excellently by Sneha). Divya helps Senthil get his current job, in an advertising agency. She gives him the confidence to look to the future rather than brood over the past, conveying the theme of the movie that time is a great healer, but you must want to be healed. Sneha's character was a little predictable, in that while outwardly she is extremely self-confident and a go-getter, she flits from crisis to crisis, whether it is an attempted suicide for a failed love affair or her mother being critically ill.
Senthil then finds out that Lathika got widowed shortly after her marriage and soon ended up being alone with no-one to support her. Senthil begins to blame himself for her plight and decides to call off his marriage. Divya counsels him against doing this and convinces him that Lathika's pitiful existence wasn't his fault. Their love was sincere but external factors decided that they couldn't marry. The ending is quite predictable, Kamala and Lathika make it to the wedding and cast one longing glance at Senthil just as they exit stage right. The fight scenes were quite unnecessary, so producer Cheran could have saved some money by not using Super Subbarayan. The songs are quite ok and Bharadwaj has done a good job. The lyrics to most of the songs are also quite good.
The movie does make you think back to Azhagi a few times, perhaps because it touches on school love, village school life etc. But I suppose the subjects are different, so it isn't worth comparing. Overall it is a top effort from Cheran. A movie of this nature really does make you feel glad that meaningful cinema is possible, even today.
I did notice something anachronistic in the movie and if you feel I'm wrong, please let me know. Senthil's classmates in the village school kid their teacher/headmaster on the way he breaks wind (farts, for those who care to know) when they pose for a Class X group photograph by telling him "Sir, neenga matter-a potta dhaane sirippu varum". Well it was funny, but given that these were events in flashback and assuming Senthil, having done an undergraduation course and worked for a while, must be at least 21 years old, it means boys in village schools around 8 years ago were using words like "matter". I did find that hard to believe, because I think "matter" is much more likely to be used by high-school/college chaps in Madras nowadays and its difficult to think of high school boys in a village near Dindigal using that vocabulary.
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