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Vishwa Thulasi

CASTING AND composing are scoring points of Sindhuja Films' "VishwaThulasi" written and directed by Sumathy Ram. Mammootty makes a comeback in Tamil with this lyrical love tale and so does Nandita, after "Azhagi" and the cameo in "Kannathil Muththamittaal." Master composers M. S. Viswanathan and Ilaiyaraja have left indelible imprints in "VishwaThulasi" — narration that unfolds in a musical mode.

The story that oscillates between the 1940s and '60s is yet another triangular love tale. But Sumathy Ram's narrative style and sensitive treatment have freshness. And when you deal with mature romance as totally distanced from teen time infatuation, pace is one thing you cannot expect.

Thulasi (Nandita) comes to Sundarapuri after her guardians — her grandma and uncle — pass away, to work as teacher in a dance school. It is in Sundarapuri that Vishwa (Mammootty) the zamindar whom she had met 20 years ago, lives.

They meet again and the feelings that had blossomed in their hearts as teenagers, are revived. Vishwa is unmarried and Thulasi has gone through an unceremonious ritual in the name of matrimony, but fear of societal stigma and innate inhibition keep them asunder.

Sensing their intense love for each other, Pattabhi (a very natural essay by `Delhi' Ganesh once again), the manager at Vishwa's house, helps them overcome their fears. It is then that Fate enters in the form of Siva (Manoj K. Jayan).

If the hero impresses with his restraint and underplay, the heroine achieves the same in a more expressive way. Nandita is a picture of dignity and beauty, so much at home in a native Tamil milieu.

Without any frills to sidetrack your attention, Sumathy takes you down the roads of Sundarapuri. Actually nothing much happens till the climax. Also the character of the dishevelled and mentally disturbed Siva is not new.

The young Vishwa (Mohit) is very much like Mammootty himself in looks, expression and mannerism. Hence the transition is amazingly smooth when Mammootty enters. But the same cannot be said of Ambili who hardly resembles Nandita. Seasoned actors Sulakshana and Ilavarasu have very little to do.

Inundated with wondrous music, "VishwaThulasi"s tiny two-line numbers transport you to melodic heights. So do the other songs. If "Aaya Kalaigalil ... " and "Mayakkama ... " possess the mesmerising traits of MSV's handiwork, "Engu Pirandhadhu ... ", and the arrangement in the solo number, "Thulasi ... " have typical Ilaiyaraja touches. The masterstroke of course is the rerecording.

Some of the bits (on the veena in particular) are more like full-length songs. A commendable blend of synchrony! B. Kannan's photography is much in tune with the texture of the story. So is Prabhakar's art.

Suresh Urs's experience at the editing table comes to the fore yet again in "Vishwa ... "

Certain aspects in the storyline are ambiguous — for example, why Vishwa waited so long to even meet Thulasi, why Siva had to run in such maddening fashion and injure himself forever and why Vishwa has to look almost stoic the first time he sees Thulasi after two decades are not made very clear. In a film scenario where sexy gyrations and obscene overtones are a norm, Sumathy, who is new to cinema, shows real guts in coming out with a clean film that moves quite slowly, of course, with veterans who deliver the goods with ease.

MALATHI RANGARAJAN

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