Merku Thodarchi Malai (Western Ghats) is a rare Tamil film which instincts reading and exploring rather than merely viewing. Reminiscent of Satyajit Ray’s depiction of characters and region in Pather Panchali (1955), Lenin Bharathi’s film captures the timelessness of the unexplored region of the Western Ghats. There’s a spatial screenplay which documents as well narrates the story of the region and its people which crawls timely. With minimal human close ups, it’s about the expression of Western Ghats, for instance, in form of torrential rains which then sow the human emotions.
There’s a constant layer of questioning about development in Lenin Bharathi’s moving film. Smoothness of the exploration of region through characters gets pretentious when a narrative is infused – nevertheless, an impactful where time flows into a misery of development. When the camera zooms out from dawn to day it doesn’t merely zoom out to depict the scenic beauty of the Western Ghats, its counterpart leaves a punch when the camera zooms out towards the end. Theni Eswar’s scenic and evocative Cinematography brings out the flavours of Western Ghats. Slowly simmering through frame-in-frame, Eswar captivates us into the moving images which becomes an integral part of immersive experience.
Editor Mu. Kasivishwanathan seamlessly joins the frames creating an organic narrative which brilliantly retains an understanding of space and time. The most interesting stretches are the introductory where the characters are effortlessly established doing daily chores from distinctive terrains. Merku Thodarchi Malai breaths pathos as Lenin Bharathi presents a mirror which reflects an introspection of the development. While the pre-climax lacks the credibility to captivate and the capitalism vs. communism aspect remains subtle, Merku Thodarchi Malai ranges at the peak of realistic filmmaking. Simple is fragile and compelling, Lenin Bharathi brings an aesthetic essence to the contemporary storytelling.
It’s dedicated to the landless labours of the Western Ghats, who travel across the Tamil Nadu-Kerala border for work – beyond the border of language barrier Merku Thodarchi Malai is an important film, about the region and its people. And I have found one of the top contenders for Best Films of 2018. Even with Vijay Sethupathi’s backing as a producer, the film failed to reach a wider audience but managed to achieve the positive reception across the globe.
Release: 24 August, 2018
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