Mari Selvaraj is back again as the voice for the oppressed through his latest film Karnan. Though Karnan is another story of conflict between two castes, he has packaged it with plenty of metaphors, symbols, detailing and his own mythological subversions.
If his previous outing Pariyerum Perumal served as a refreshing dialogue between the oppressed and the oppressor, Karnan takes more of a militant stand and urges the marginalized community to fight for their dignity. Even though Pariyan was never reluctant in voicing his feelings, he was mostly passive towards his oppressors. But Karnan is a fire brand youth who is fed up and is not afraid to take on the oppressor.
In PA Ranjit’s Madras, the story was built around the dispute over a wall and he used it as a metaphor to show the caste barrier between two communities. Here, Mari Selvaraj places a bus stop as the metaphor to show the difference between two communities. He takes us to Podiankulam village, where people has to travel to the neighbouring village, Melur to take bus to their destinations. The people of Melur belonged to an upper caste and assert their superiority time and again over the people of Podiankulam by reminding their ownership of the bus stop through different means. The continuous fight for a bus stop results in an attack on a bus, a subsequent police intervention and conflict between police and the villagers. The angry youth Karnan emerges as the voice for the whole of Podiankulam and teaches them the need to stand up and fight. Quite brilliantly Karnan becomes the Pariyerum perumal for the villagers in this movie.
The story starts with a girl(later revealed to be Karnan’s sister) dying on a road with seizures, while the vehicles run to both sides without anyone minding her. Her soul (with the face of their goddess kaattu pechi) wandering for redemption is seen through out the movie just like the villagers wait for their bus stop. There were plenty of metaphors thrown our way and the movie connects them to brilliant effect; a soul wandering for redemption, a tied up donkey which needs to reach its mother, a lady who needs to deliver a baby, an incomplete/headless painting on the wall, a horse which need a true master, every element contain a certain language and each one has connected well with the narrative.
In Karnan, the protogonists have names like Karnan, Duryodhanan etc. and antogonist has name Kannapiran. In Mari Selvaraj’s version of Mahabharat, Draupathi falls in love with Karnan and they persue their love. This is how he has retold the mythical tale.
Throughout the story Mari Selvaraj has succeeded in letting the feelings of every character burn inside us making it a riveting watch. He has used Dhanush and his super star image quite brilliantly. The tension is built immensely up until the pre-climax and is setup for the goose bumpish moment of Karnan riding on the horse marking the uprising of the oppressed. Dhanush has to be the best actor in India at the moment, he never gets a note wrong in his portrayal of Karnan. Lal as Yeman thatha gives a stellar performance but I felt the role would have been elevated even more if Lal himself has voiced his character. Other supporting cast does their job quite convincingly including Yogi Babu who gets an out and out character role this time.
Santhosh Narayan’s sensational “Kanda Vara Sollunga” sets the film rolling initially and we see an entire village praying for Karnan’s return as an epilogue. The tracks and the BGM syncs outstandingly to the narrative just like his work in Pariyerum Perumal. Theni Eswar’s visual language is another stand out aspect of the movie, aiding Mari Selvaraj remarkably in creating his world.
Karnan gives a surreal feel to the viewers and might have missed the rawness with its heroic climax and the metaphors thrown everywhere, but the story is still rooted and the climax gives quite the satisfactory feel the movie deserves. Clearly Mari Selvaraj wants to show the uprising of the marginalized in Karnan and urges the oppressed to stand and fight for dignity.
Streaming on : Amazon Prime
Language : Tamil