The average film goer does not get an opportunity very often to see a multi layered film of this kind. The length notwithstanding, the film has many things going in its favour and could well be perceived as an important watershed in our cinema.
Full credit to Kamalahasan for giving the viewer a kind of film that offers more than just action and theatrics. The aging matinee idol may well be past his prime in navigating the role of an young film actor but he throws in his talent with his story and screenplay. The multi layered story not only offers some great cinematic moments and takes you into a real world of make believe but also gets veterans like K. Balchander and K. Vishwanth to portray very credible roles with consummate ease and poise. The film maker also gives a birds eye view of two culture forms: Theyyam (a Kerala dance form) and Villu Pattu (a Tamilnadu form of story telling). The later had the celeberated Kotha Mangala Subbu who decades ago told the story of the great Mahatma in this form.
Manoranjan (Kamal) is a matinee idol who is basking in the glory of his success. His wife Varalakshmi (Urvasi) is unmindful of his little private secrets and has the advantage of the backing of her father film maker Poornachander Rao (K. Vishwanth). Even in the midst of the success of his latest film made by Poornachandra Rao, Manoranjan is smooching his lady doctor Dr. Arpana (Andrea – very elegant presence and under played performance). Two disturbing pieces of news disturb the on going celebs. Jacob Zacharia (Jayaram) comes to reveal that Manoranjan has a daughter unknown and hidden away from public glare and also that the actor has a brain tumour that can prove fatal. The past catches up and the future bleak.
This humbling moment takes the matinee idol back to the film maker who made him the star Margadarsi (K. Balchander) who initially refuses to make peace and thereby a movie for the dying star but later on coming to know of the impending tragedy decides to make his final film. How the swan song pans out is what Uttama Villain is all about.
Margadarsi goes to tell a story of an evil king Muthurasan (Naseer) who kills his own brother in law and imprisons his daughter Karpagavalli (Pooja Kumar). The evil king then summons Uttaman (Kamal) who he believes is immortal and can help him wad away the impending doom to his kingdom. This story is narrated in the making of the film using the two art forms of Theyyam and villu pathu. This part of the script is also laced with a sense of humour that is very different from what the Telugu audience is used to and brings in a degree of novelty.
The 172 minute narration meanders and brings in one too many elements and tries hard to tie the loose ends and thereby misses the punch. We have the uninspiring attempt of the father making peace with his insensitive family members, with his daughter who is initially unforgiving. The parallel stories of the film in the making and the unfurling tragedy in the life of Uttaman who is playing the role of an immortal person even as he is fighting death is too convoluted t be effective.
The film is however filled with moments to endear and recall. Kamal while dealing with the life of a film maker and a star is not a Guru Dutt so the poignancy of a Kagaz ke Phool is conspicuously absent. It is akin in grandeur to the Raj Kapoor’s tale of a man in the world of entertainment who unfortunately is not lucky in love in Mera Naam Joker but nowhere to the grandeur of that film. Yet it must be said to the credit of the film maker – Ramesh Arvind that he surely tries to infuse many interesting and intriguing factors to the story. Some of the support cast give the film some very rich moments. MS Bhakser, K. Vishwanath, the legendary K. Balchander, Naseer, Urvashi, Parvathu Menon embellish the tale with their sincere and heart warming performances. You cannot miss the fact that Balchander and Vishwanth with whom Kamal has made some fine films are pitched against each other in a cinematic duel.
One lingering doubt and a question raised in the film the crux of which is obviously lost on the film maker: Will there be listeners to an endless story.
Rating : three stars
+ Novelty and performances. Choreography
– Too long and Kamal’s aging.