Review: Merku Thodarchi Malai - Director Lenin's masterpiece

By Santhosh Mathevan Published on Aug 25, 2018 01:27 PM IST

An outsider like Logu, for whom Thevaaram hamlet was ready to offer a livelihood and make him a successful entrepreneur, ironically employs Rangasamy, who is a local. And what connects their lives is this gigantic Western Ghats, the living fount of innumerable resources - from rains and cardamom to wind and electricity.

Filmmaker Lenin Bharathi's 'Merku Thodarchi Malai' is a documentation of such contradictions bound in the ecosystem of the mountain range.

We can see how this rocky peak has emotionally synced-up with the demographics of its foothills and settlements on its cliffs. When Rangasamy takes an outsider through his daily route over the hills, he asks him to carry a piece of rock until 'Saathan Medu'. And, he has a deeply soppy reason for that.

In a scene, there is a friendly quarrel happening between two gaffers in the hamlet. During the conversation, one of them mocks the other, calling him "physically weak", for which he replies, "Go ask your sister about my strength," that comes out with subtlety. In this village, no one is a stranger to the other. A wedlock of a pair is decided by Adivaaram Paakiyam who is distantly related, but closely acquainted. That's how Thevaaram is characterised.

This attribution of the community underpins the plot and its conflicts. For instance, a villager is not ready to take revenge or take down his friend, who, in no time, ruins the earnings of all his life. Instead, he cries along with his friend. It is all because no one in the community is evil. Going by its subtext, this is how society should be.

After a long time, Ilayaraja has been brought to his own soil of Pannaipuram, and the end product cannot be expressed in words. But, the mastery of this musical legend is experienced every time when his sounds blend with the wind on screen.

The first music we hear evolves only 10 minutes after the movie starts - rightly during the first appearance of the ghats. So far, in cinema, we have heard the sound of wind, but Theni Easwar has captured wind in his camera, which is spellbinding. Whenever he re-frames, zooms in and out the camera, we see it speaking a different story.

Comparing the first and last scenes, when Rangasamy is happy using rainwater to wash his face with the last scene where he sleeps around government's freebies - a table fan and television - it is Theni Easwar who expresses Lenin's emotions.

The community seems to be very happy until their bond with the Western Ghats gets broken by the predominance of capitalism. And, here is where Communism takes a comfort space in the plot. We see two extremes of Communism - agitative and repulsive - and two type of Communists - good and greedy. However, Lenin leaves it to us to decide at this point of his narration and concludes his 118 minutes of a masterpiece.

His 'Merku Thodarchi Malai' starts off with the silence of heavy rain and ends with the noise of breeze.