Underrated Regional Movies – Part 1

Sarvam Thaala Mayam (2018) by Rajiv Menon – Tamil

Despite having a basic premise and a simple narrative with a predictable climax, the film doesn’t fail to bring you that smile you wish for, after having watched a feel-good inspirational film. It’s also a bonus if you’re interested in Indian classical music.

Our protagonist is Peter Johnson, a young man who is introduced to us as a diehard fan of Tamil superstar Vijay, so much so that he skips exams to watch his films first-day first-show. The transition that Peter’s character undergoes from a carefree lad crazy about a film star to someone well-disciplined and obsessed with music is the highlight of the film. What connects these two Peters is the love for beats, whether he played them on drums to celebrate Vijay’s success, or to become an ace Mridangam player. That’s what the title of the film suggests – beats are omnipresent, and there’s no particular way to follow them.

Sarvam Thaala Mayam


At its core, it’s essentially a Dronacharya-Ekalavya story, but has much more to offer. Although Peter surrenders himself to renowned mridangam player Vembu Iyer, he soon realizes that the path is going to be difficult. Society is cruel, and talent is not all that it takes to succeed. The commentary on caste/class distinction raises the obvious question: Isn’t art supposed to be for everyone who wants to pursue it? Peter’s father is a Mridangam manufacturer, who is in love with the instrument in his own way, not as a musician but as a builder. The father-son conflict regarding how to view the same object, one as a means of livelihood and the other as a subject of passion, is especially interesting.

I guess the film reinstated my belief about art being subjective, and the fact that rigidity in art is never a good idea. I would say I loved the film because it gave me what I wanted to see, which may not work for everyone. However, it is still a lovely watch, and I would ask you to go for it if you want something sweet and lighthearted. My only issue was that the female lead didn’t have much to do except playing a love interest.

Picasso (2019) by Abhijeet Warang – Marathi

In around 70 minutes, Picasso is a breezy watch. The story is simple, straightforward and heartwarming, and apart from the main takeaway that is the beautiful father-son relationship, you also get immersed in the world of Marathi Sangeet Natak, specifically the art of Dashavatar folk theatre as described before the end credits. Majority of the film is a detailed enactment of one such play, which keeps you yearning for a big screen experience of the same, if not the experience of watching such performances live.

Picasso 2019


But the father-son relationship is not the sole thing to explore here. It more of an artist-artist relationship, one extending a supporting hand to another, although it may not be mutual at the moment. Pandurang is a sculptor, and also an actor on stage. He provides for his family with whatever he earns, which is never enough. He has inspired his son Gandharva to paint, who has made him proud by winning a prestigious competition that can eventually give him a chance to learn art in Spain. But Pandurang cannot afford even the 1500 bucks needed to compete for the next round. Gandharva is heartbroken, but decides to spend the whole night watching his father perform on stage – one artist accepting his defeat, and eager to see the other flourish.

The scene in the frames above touched the right chords of my heart. We see a frustrated Pandurang trying to apply makeup on his face, while the cigarette dangling from his fingers makes it difficult for him. He knows he isn’t going to make much money tonight, and he is equally heartbroken as his son for having refused him. But then Gandharva helps out his father, painting his face as he would paint a canvas. Pandurang looks lovingly at his son and flashes a teary smile. Gandharva appears to be a true artist at this moment, whether he makes it to Spain or not.

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