It was in the year 2004 – Director Selvaraghavan delivered his hattrick hit directorial ‘7G Rainbow Colony’, after the highly successful ‘Thulluvatho Ilamai’ and ‘Kaadhal Konden’. ‘7G Rainbow Colony’ was celebrated much more critically and commercially, since it had won millions of youngsters’ hearts reflecting their teenage love / first love; it was a romantic drama film that was close to the heart of most youngsters in that period! Following the humongous success and Blockbuster verdict of ‘7G Rainbow Colony’ in both Tamil and Telugu versions, Selvaraghavan was supposed to narrate one of his scripts to Actor Ajith but that did not happen. Later, he announced his next film titled ‘Oru Naal Oru Kanavu’ with Dhanush and Sonia Agarwal, which was also shelved in the initial days of shoot itself.
In a couple of months, Selvaraghavan’s next film was finalized; it was ‘Pudhupettai’ – a gangster film with Dhanush playing the lead role. Until then, the genre ‘romance’ was considered as Selvaraghavan’s forte and he had not done any films out of that genre. That way ‘Pudhupettai’ became a special film since its announcement; the caption ‘Survival of the Fittest’ was intriguing indeed!
Tamil cinema had seen many gangsters film earlier – the classic ‘Nayagan’, the evergreen ‘Thalapathi’ and the massive ‘Baashaa’. ‘Pudhupettai’ was very much unique as a gangster film with its raw treatment and inimitable characters. ‘Pudhupettai’ was so fresh and its characters and the play were new to the audience. It was the first time we saw a hero’s introduction scene where he pisses in his pants in the fear that his father is going to kill him. We never got to see such a lead fame character, who is a call girl by profession. Be it Mani or the local goon head & politician Anbu, every character was very-well established and the detailing on their relationship with ‘Kokki’ Kumar was perfectly etched. We have another important character in the film – politician Thamizhselvan (this role was essayed in such an astounding way by Azhagam Perumal, which was his first film as an actor). We have seen many interesting politician characters in the antagonist roles in Tamil cinema such as Ammaavaasai (Amaidhi Padai), Aranganathan (Mudhalvan) and Selvanayagam (Aayutha Ezhuthu); Thamizhselvan from ‘Pudhupettai’ is one memorable character among them.
Of course, ‘Pudhupettai’ is the story of a young innocent boy’s transformation into a cunning and ruthless gangster. As the caption ‘Survival of the Fittest’ says, it is the story of a Wolf hunting a goat and the Lion hunting the Wolf.
It is the brilliant characterizations of ‘Kokki’ Kumar, Anbu, Moorthy and Thamizhselvan by Selvaraghavan and extra-ordinary dialogues by Balakumaran which pulls us into this mysterious dark world of gangsters. The characters grows into us eventually. We do not see Dhanush not even in a single scene, it was ‘Kokki’ Kumar who sparkles all through the film; such a great casting and direction by the team! Dhanush was blessed to get such a role in the initial stages of his career itself, which had great scope for performance. He had nailed it meticulously and it was a wow-some stellar performance by him; sad that he was not recognized with even a single notable award for this film. In every other aspect, ‘Kokki’ Kumar is an opportunist. He was supposed to study well and get into some good job as per his mother’s wish. After his mother is murdered, he has no other option than begging to earn his bread. When he gets a chance to get into a gang that sells drugs, he does not hesitate. At one point – in a ‘Life or Death’ moment, he is pushed to show the man inside him which turns his life upside down. He becomes a notorious gangster after completing a number of murders and assault assignments. He is such an opportunist that he never sees what is ethical or unethical – he kills his own mentor / guru if it has to be done and he does not feel guilty about marrying his friend’s sister without her consent. He does not hesitates to threaten her about killing her brother if she does not sleep with him. Over a point of time, he does not stop for anything and does not let anyone cross or surpass him – he cuts off all his anticipated enmities. His downfall begins when he dares to stand against Thamizhselvan.
The characterizations of Krishnaveni & Selvi and their complicated relationship with ‘Kokki’ Kumar are brand Selvaraghavan’s. Such gutsy characterization and scenes make this film even more special and unique. Kumar knows Krishnaveni as a call girl, from the days he use to beg; after he becomes a renowned gangster and knows her personally, he likes her. Does he love her? Definitely not, because he does not know what love means. At one point, he is in a situation to take the risk of going against his master to rescue her from the hell of brothel. Whereas, in the case of Selvi, he does not even know her name even after marrying her. He is extremely attracted towards her in first sight; he does not want to miss her at any cost. His mind state and emotions are very well explained in the song ‘Pul Pesum Poo Pesum’. He is very happy and proud about marrying such a beautiful & educated girl. After knowing that Krishnaveni is pregnant, Kumar realizes his mistake and marries her to avoid the society calling her a w@#$% or the child called as a b@#$%@. He realizes his love for Krishnaveni and spends more time with her since she is carrying his child. (Nevertheless to mention, it is Sneha’s career-best performance till date!) Isolated Selvi who is already unhappy and angry with ‘Kokki’ Kumar, gets more saddened with the news of Kumar’s second marriage. She does not easily forget her marriage being ruined, Kumar’s threatening in their first night, his second marriage, his cunning act in the court scene to save himself or whatever else he did to her. She waits for her time and avenges him when his child’s life is in danger.
The whole film is a flashback narrated by ‘Kokki’ Kumar himself from a prison cell. While the audience expect a sad ending as like Selvaraghavan’s previous 3 films, surprisingly we get to see an ending with a sarcastic take of today’s politics!
Dialogues by seasoned writer Balakumaran were precisely sharp; few to mention are ‘Namma uyir mela bayam irundhaa dhan, mathavan uyirai edukka mudiyum’, ‘Indha modhal kolai oruthan panraan paarunga, adhaan matter. Apdiye rendu kombu molaikkum. Adhukkapuram, apdiye varisaiyaa kolai pannitte pogalaam onnum theriyaathu. Naama nenaikuradhu dhan niyaayam, Naama dhan kadavul’ and the pre-climax dialogue to the child put in dustbin ‘Uyiroda irukkanum kannu, adhaan mukkiyam’.
The film had a fabulous camera work done by Selva’s favourite cinematographer Arvind Krishna; Pudhupettai had some altered colour tones for different scenes and moods and also some intensive colour corrections. Yuvan Shankar Raja gave a fantastic album with 10 outstanding tracks for Pudhupettai; it is his best ever album in terms of variety and experimentation. Coming to the background score, it was one of the biggest plus points of the film which elevated the mood and feel of every other scene to a different level; BGM of Pudhupettai tops the list of his finest compositions alongside Aaranya Kandam and 7G Rainbow Colony.
In all terms, Pudhupettai is one of those most ever underrated films in Tamil cinema and Indian cinema industry. At the time of release, the film was not much appreciated by the mainstream audience. The film was well-received by the urban audience, whereas the layman felt he was not entertained enough. Despite boasting of incomparably great performances, music, cinematography and direction, the film did not win any major awards at all; the film was best of 2006 than any other films that released that year, in any aspect! It was a pure bad luck for Selvaraghavan & team. Undoubtedly, it is one of those great films ever made in our industry and it would definitely be there in the list of ‘100 Tamil movies to watch before you die’ if one was made! Today, the film has a cult following alike other great films that were unrecognized or underrated at the time of release such as Hey Ram, Anbe Sivam, Aaranya Kandam and many others. Pudhupettai is a film that should be remembered for years; we wish Selvaragahavan to get back in form to give us many more masterpieces like this!
If you have not watched this classic yet, do yourself a favour by watching it as soon as possible. 🙂
Write-up by: Rahman
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