Power Pandi, poignantly powerful

The common tragedy with old age is not that life is cruel to you, but that it is indifferent to you. In the natural course of events life is keen to discard that which is old and always hold her arms open for that which is nascent. So what does one do, when life has apparently discarded you and death is yet to claim you?

Power Pandi deals with this question in a mature, balanced and yet “mass” manner. Pandi, the ex-stuntman is a minor legend in his field, much like the actor playing him, Rajkiran. Like any other Indian man (or woman), who has crossed the 60 year mark, he spends his life as a caretaker for the grandkids. He appears content; has everything he needs and is still respected in some manner. When he is not cavorting with his grandkids, he is doling out advice to the adolescent next door, which is returned back with hilarious and yet respectful banter.

However, being a man of action, literally, he is not able to sit idle. He gets himself into shenanigans which puts his son in a spot. Following an altercation the likes of which dominated the screen in Visu movies of the 90’s (and thankfully plays out nothing like them), he elopes with his bullet. His aimless wandering gains purpose as he decides to go find his first love. What happens then? Will there be a second spring with a fragrant breeze in Pandi’s life? Will he get friend-zoned? Power pandi leads on this bittersweet journey making us laugh and cry all along.

For a first time director, Dhanush, has picked a difficult subject and has dealt with it with elan. Barring the young romance of Pandi in Sankarapuram, which sags rather awkwardly, the movie is wonderfully paced. The way sequences are setup shows a kind of subtlety that even veterans lack at times — the scene where Pandi works as a stuntman again stands out, for the way the man finds his own relevance. I for one would be keen to see more of this director than the actor.

Rajkiran plays a role which is written just for him. He just has to play his brawny awkward self and things just flow. That said, he does shine as an actor in that drunk tirade against his son. For a man whose youth was spent in movies that had his veshti tied up exposing more thigh than any item girl, this is a dignified performance.

Prasanna stands out in his role as a loving and concerned but mostly embarrassed and withdrawn son. His neglect of his father or his frustrations with him are not wilful sins (again, as they were portrayed in the Visu movies of yore), but a natural happening when the old fail to catch up with the new. Prasanna does a very good job of portraying both the initial frustration and the later regret. That scene where he breaks down in the car while driving in the night speaks a lot more than any of the other sentimental outbursts.

Revathi who walks into the movie about half an hour after the climax wafts in like a breath of fresh air. Her poise while still portraying a cute girl who is 60+ years old is a contrast to Madonna Sebastian, who tries to do the same act with a rustic touch to it and fails miserably.

The other actors get what is required of them cleanly. Dhanush, playing the younger Power Pandi, does the typical South Indian mass hero act. But his role and the entire romance sub-plot is the weakest part of the movie. Devadarshni (DD), in a tiny role has the most powerful lines of the movie and delivers them with the cool casualness that they require.

Sean Roldan seems to have reinvented Ilayaraja in a modern and yet classic way. The soundtrack was the reason I primarily wanted to see the movie and the songs have been put to very good use in the movie. I loved the positioning of the “Soorakaathu oora paathu” song. Now why can’t they make more “mass” songs and sequences like these?

The camerawork truly stands out in the flashback sequence of the movie. The earthy colours and the arid lands of Madurai are captured beautifully. There is one silhouette during the “Paarthen” song with Pandi carrying the plough, that will stay etched in your minds long after you watch the movie. The stunt sequences are a direct homage to Rajkiran’s earlier movies where his move was basically just one punch and they work very well. The start of the market fight is truly arresting.

Apart from a bit of the apparently mandatory sermonizing and the totally disinteresting flashback, Power Pandi is a refreshingly warm and fuzzy movie. I for one know what song to play when I set out on my “soul searching” trip when my head has little pepper and mostly salt. :-)