Merku Thodarchi Malai tells the story of a hardworking labourer (Rangasamy) who lives in the western ghats with the dream to own a piece of land and earn a living by farming. He toils really hard to make his ends meet. Will his wish come true, will he lead a happy life after that? The film talks about all this but more than that, it shows the life of the people living in that hilly terrain in the most natural and realistic way possible.
Even the acting is kept very subtle, as you don’t see any character overreacting at any point in time. It doesn’t seem like you are even watching a movie. There is hardly anything that is sugar-coated in MTM. The film talks about the plight of the protagonist throughout, but you rarely see him expressive, crying or feeling sad. It is like, 'this is my life, no matter how hard I work, I am not qualified to have a content life that I dream off.'
Director Lenin Bharathi has tried to make the narrative as natural as possible. In fact, to keep the film less emotional, he has restricted the sad phase of the lead to a greater extent, for example, the hero resorts to drinking after having a financial setback. But these stereotypic scenes aren't shown on screen, but conveyed through dialogues.
The first half largely talked about the lesser-known habitual practices of the people living in those mountains and their livelihood. Audience with no exposure to the characters’ lifestyle, will be awestruck to see to what extent people go for their bread and butter. Vijay Sethupathi needs to be praised for funding this film.
The first half was more feel good than being emotional. Though the film travels at a slow pace, there is always something new to learn from the life of the people. To make it lively, Lenin has wisely used the talent and expertise of Theni Eswar. The life in his visuals, his camera angles, and the aerial shots take you to a different world, as it is so naturally aesthetic. There is hardly any close-up shots for the actors, he has used nature as the prop in almost all his frames and nothing else.
Maestro Ilaiyaraaja has left the visuals to do the talking and used music only when it is absolutely necessary. He is one of those very few music directors who knows the beauty that silence possess. During the second half, when the story gets a little intense, Ilaiyaraaja uses his musical prowess to enhance the visuals. Be it the costume designer or the art department, they have made sure that the script has got everything that it needs, not more or not less.
[Review based on a special preview show to the press members on August 22. Catch the film in theatres, from the 24th of August]