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Movie Review: Kasi (2001) Back to Movie
Rate movie A movie review by Balaji Balasubramaniam
Fans Rating: 82%%82%% 82% (87 votes)
Movie Still Fun, youth and extravagance are undoubtedly the buzzwords in Tamil cinema today. But director Vinayan moves away from all this in Kasi, a movie that revolves around a blind singer, and in the process, gives us one of the most affecting movies in recent times. The movie was originally made in Malayalam as Vasanthiyum Lakshmiyum Pinne Nyaanum and brought its hero 'Kalabhavan' Mani very close to a National award(the award ultimately went to Mohanlal). Ironically, Vikram, who also lost the award(for Sethu) the same year, now stars in this Tamil remake.

Kasi(Vikram) has been blind from birth and makes his living singing by the roadside. His father(Vinu Chakravarthy), whose arms and legs are paralysed, his mother(Vadivukkarasi), an asthma patient, and his younger sister Lakshmi(Kavya Madhavan) are dependent upon him. His elder brother Sevalai('Thalaivasal' Vijay) is a drunkard who snatches up the money Kasi earns while his elder sister's husband(Chandrasekhar) is threatening to send his wife home if he doesn't get the rest of his dowry. A dumb girl Kaveri(Kaveri) is in love with Kasi. Kasi(and the rest of the village) thinks the world of Raghupathy(Rajeev), an ex-MP, who makes annual trips to the village. This time he has promised to pay for Kasi's eye operation and his sister's marriage. But he has his own agenda and that brings Kasi's world crashing down.

I am seldom a fan of movies where the director piles on the sadness in an obvious effort to drive us to tears. And Kasi is definitely is a tearjerker in every sense. There are very few moments of mirth as Vikram, his lover and his sister are shamelessly manipulated and destroyed by Rajeev. But the surprising thing here is the profound effect their experiences have on us. And the reason for this is the way things are handled by director Vinayan. While the happenings are definitely sad, the characters are realistic and their emotions are natural and underplayed. There are no loud cries or other sentimental outpourings and characters convey their emotions with sad looks and sorrowful smiles. Our heart goes out to them and that is the director's triumph.

Kasi announces its intention of being a tearjerker within a few minutes of starting. Vikram's troubles are introduced one after the other and almost every character who is introduced seems to have a handicap of some kind. But what differentiates the movie from countless other similar tearjerkers is the fact that the director doesn't continue to dwell on these sadnesses. Once the initial introductions are done, he begins to focus on Vikram's naievity, goodheartedness and innocence (see his comment after Chandrasekhar blatantly uses his blindness to get his dowry) and this makes the sadness subtle but powerful. The fact that Vikram doesn't realise what is happening around him makes the film very effective.

The movie is populated with characters that have a big effect, both positive and negative, on us. Kavya Madhavan and Kaveri easily earn our sympathy as Rajeev takes advantage of the love they hold for Vikram. Their predicament is tough and their silence is entirely believable. And as he reveals his gameplan, Rajeev turns into one of the most detestable bad guys in Tamil cinema in recent times. The depravity of his acts, the cheap motive behind them and his outwardly good guy image easily make us hate him. Supporting actors like Manivannan and Aishwarya too portray memorable characters that have their moments.

As Kaveri and Kavya are pulled deeper and deeper into sorrow, the director very effectively contrasts this with Kasi's blissful ignorance of the situation as he prepares for his sister's wedding(his meeting with the washerwoman is a wonderful scene). The director keeps the story moving and successfully keeps us wondering about what will happen next. The climax, while not entirely unexpected, still manages to catch us by surprise with its timing and method of execution. It is powerful while the final ending itself is touching.

Vikram once again proves himself to be an actor par excellence. With only the whites of his eyes showing, he frequently manages to make us forget that he is just playing a blind man. His gestures, hand movements and body language embellish his performance and suggest that he must have spent some time observing blind people their behaviour. Kavya Madhavan, who played the same role in the Malayalam original, is brilliant as his sister. Her initial chirpiness gradually gives way to sadness and she portrays this change wonderfully. Kaveri, who also reprises her role from the Malayalam original, is also good. There are no false notes from the rest of the cast either.

Rate movie A movie review by Balaji Balasubramaniam