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Film Review: ''Karuvelam Pookal''


IT IS a graphic picture of the abject misery of the rural poor. Its hard hitting message screams at you from the screen, loud and clear. Hitherto, there seemed to be only a couple of angles to child labour, viz., children losing out on their carefree child hood and basic formal education. But there are so many other unthought of issues too, says scriptwriter and director Poomani, through the film ``Karuvelam Pookal,'' jointly produced by NFDC and Doordarshan.

Karisalkulam, a small village, is inhabited mainly by farmers. When the arid land offers them nothing but penury, enter the match factory owners from nearby villages. They lure the credulous, illiterate villagers into sending their daughters to work at the factories from dawn to much after dusk. The initial euphoria of a steady income gives way to despair, as is clearly brought out through the story of Nallamuthu (Nasser), his wife Vadivu (Radhika) and their three children. Mariyappan (Charlie) is the match factory agent in charge of finding child labourers for the factory. While the children slog in the factories the men of the household become lazy appendages who spend their time getting drunk. Nasser, as the cynical father, who does not wish to get his daughter married because he does not want to forgo the income, has rendered a splendid performance in ``Karuvelam Pookal''. Mention must be made of the scenes in which he cries aloud at his tragedies and when his impotent anger is turned towards the agents of the match factories. Radhika's is another sterling portrayal. In the role of a responsible mother caught between her husband's apathy and avarice and her children's untold suffering, she indeed lives the character. Sonia is the eldest daughter, Dhanalakshmi. Caught in the quagmire of drudgery and in the strangulating web of poverty, she seeks a way out, but sadly the respite is too shortlived. A convincing essay by the young actress.The visuals of the opening sequences transport you to the days of Bharatiraja's ``16 Vayadhinilae''. The beautifully captured rustic ambience is another creditable show by Thankar Bachan who has wielded the camera. The dialect, the innocent humour, the openness and the gullibility - Poomani presents them all with absolute vividness.

Ilaiyaraja's music in a bucolic setting is an exotic combination, as ``Karuvelam Pookal'' clearly proves. The lyrics for the song ``Kaalayila Kann Muzhichaen'' are particularly touching and the soulful melody adds to the effect.

The factories need only young girls and the boys therefore escape the hardship. After stressing on this point throughout, it is strange to see the boy accompany his sister to work, in the end.

The fragrance of ``Karuvelam Pookal'' is bound to last in the minds of the discerning audience. A film that makes you think.

MALATHI RANGARAJAN

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