Messages in a light vein - Imsai Arasan 23rd Pulikesi
A COMICAL SOUFFLé: Imsai Arasan 23rd Pulikesi
Genre: Historical comedy
Cast: Vadivelu, Nasser, Manorama, Monika, Tejasri
Storyline: The uncle of 23rd Pulikesi brings him up as a selfish and mercenary ruler.
Bottomline: Old wine served with humour.
The disclaimer stating that the tale bears no resemblance to anyone living on this planet or on Pluto, Jupiter, etc., sets the mood for the laugh-riot that `Imsai Arasan' promises to be. But the film isn't entirely comical. Barbs at the morass of corruption and caste-based politics reveal the social consciousness of writer-director Simbudevan. A parody in parts, a comedy in others, `Imsai Arasan' soon dovetails into a slightly serious drama of patriotism and valour.
In what looks like a warped version of the ever popular, yesteryear historical screen drama, `Uthama Puthiran,' `Imsai Arasan' has Vadivelu in the title role a humorous portrayal of the villainous king Sivaji Ganesan so admirably portrayed in ` ... Puthiran.' Even the `Aadi Vaa' sequence is reminiscent of `Yaaradi Nee Mohini ... ' which showcased Ganesan's gorgeous style in dance and expressions. Here too you have an evil uncle, who sees to it that Pulikesi learns little about governance. If it was Nambiar in ` ... Puthiran' it is Nasser in `... Pulikesi.'
The year is 1771. Twins are born to the aging king (Nagesh) and his wife (Manorama). But the uncle decides to do away with the younger one. The babe Ukraputhan (Vadivelu), brought up in a quack's household, is an upright, patriotic citizen, while brother Pulikesi, (Vadivelu again) earns the people's wrath, for his avarice. Ukraputhan impersonates him and Pulikesi learns his lesson the hard way. The brothers unite, the uncle repents and everybody is happy.
As Pulikesi, Vadivelu's portrayal is a treat. Ukraputhan, however, looks rather unnatural, especially in the romantic interludes. Nagesh's presence in just one scene is a disappointment. And Manorama has little to offer by way of humour. But Ilavarasu's comic asides entertain. Simbudevan's dialogue is a major attraction sarcastic, witty, anachronistic, thought provoking. But sometimes you feel that that there's too much talking going on.
You never know when `Imsai Arasan' would hit a humorous stroke. They come at the most unexpected situations. The astrologer's (V. S. Raghavan) comment about the meeting of the estranged twins is one such. Raghavan's timing in dialogue delivery makes it funnier. Monika's role is miniscule, so is Tejasri's. It's refreshing to see M. N. Rajam after a long time.
Arthur A. Wilson's camera captures the bright and colourful regal ambience (created by P. Krishnamurthy) in all its splendour, and Sabesh Murali's score transports you to the king and queen films of the black and white era. Towards the end the speed at which Vadivelu seems to change his moustache, mane and attire would put a magician to shame!
The sheer gumption of Shankar and his S Pictures astounds you. To go in for a historical (albeit imaginary) with Vadivelu as hero in a dual role is gamble with a capital G! The step shows the confidence he has reposed in first time maker Simbudevan and his cast. `Imsai Arasan 23rd Pulikesi' (U) has finally managed to squeeze himself out of the impediments he faced on his way to the cinema halls. What was all the fuss for? It's just a clean, harmless story of an inefficient, selfish, bird brained king and his intelligent twin.
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