Pariyerum Perumal Movie Review: Subtle and yet so concrete in nature

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The engrossing narrative sort of sucks you in, disturbs you and makes you understand and realise the divide that exists in our society.

There are three instances in this movie which is and will always be reverberating in my mind all my life. First is when Pariyerum Perumal (Kathir) – or let’s just call him Perumal for this review – gets into a fight with his classmate Sankaralingam (Lijeesh) for sitting in the front seat of the classroom. While other guys step in and stop the fight, he keeps reiterating that he won’t stay behind and will stay ahead. Second is when he has drunk alcohol and has come to the classroom. The professor lashes out at him and asks him to get out of the classroom. He replies in anger asking if he shouldn’t come to the college at all. The third is when his father has accompanied Perumal to college to speak with College Principal (‘Poo’ Ram). His father asks him if he can speak freely to which Perumal tells him to be bold and courageous while talking. That’s the power of this film. It is not a spoon-feed material. You realise, you think deep, and you understand the emotions behind those dialogues and know where’s that coming from.

Let me put those three instances this way – “I WILL stay ahead”, “SHOULDN’T I come here?”, and “MUST speak with courage”. These were said in a different context in the movie. But you realise that it is coming out of him in such wrath because of the divide that is existing in the form of caste and religion. And the movie never really tells you that plainly but makes you feel the pain of Perumal. The opening line – Caste and religion are against humanity – that follows the acknowledgements, in the beginning, give you some idea of what to expect in the film. But the narrative of this film is so subtle and yet so concrete in nature. I could only see two instances where the movie referred to these terms directly – one of the professors accuses Perumal by pointing out that he used the reservation quota to get admitted into this college and the other where Anand (Yogi Babu), best friend of Perumal in college, clarifies that he does not befriend people by looking at their caste or religion.

Written and directed by Mari Selvaraj, Pariyerum Perumal is both the title of this film and the name of the titular character which means God on a horse as is explained by Perumal himself in the film. The story involves two different tracks – one that is of Perumal and another is of Thatha (Karate Venkatesan). The former is like the ocean of the whole narration and the latter is like the river which meets this ocean in the end. Perumal is studying in a law college and he has a love interest in Jothi Mahalakshmi aka Jo (Anandhi). On the other hand, we get to see glimpses of Thatha who we get to know as an expert in killing people without ever getting caught. So, when Thatha becomes an important part of the narration in the second half, we are not oblivious of this character and know what he is capable of.

Perumal is fighting against all the forces that are trying to put a barrier in his path as he is striving hard to earn a name for himself in the field of law. There is a lot going on in his life and with that, the movie brings out the emotions in us to the fullest. It touched me to witness the funeral of a pet dog being carried out by Perumal and all his neighbours in the village. Having Dr. B. R. Ambedkar, one of the greatest figure in Indian history, as your role model is something to be proud of. But when the admission officer notes down in the admission form that ‘Perumal wants to become Ambedkar’ so that he can point that out to him in future for any wrongdoings, we sense the sheer stupidity in his thought. And when Perumal is beaten, warned and even literally pissed on by the family members of Jo, we see him shivering with pain on the floor and I almost shuddered in shock myself. I jumped out of my skins when in a riveting scene Perumal is forcefully carried by 3-4 people into the fields, beaten and he somehow escapes from them. I was in a state of disbelief and utter shock when Perumal’s father is harassed by Sankaralingam. I could feel the embarrassment in the eyes of Perumal’s father when his lungi has been removed and he runs off out of shame.

There has been a countless number of films in which the story involves a romantic angle blossoming between the lead pair and the problem occurs due to their financial differences, religion issue or the caste difference as is apparent in this case. We see closeness developing between Perumal and Jo in the college. It is refreshing to see this pair on screen. Both Perumal and Jo have no problem of whatsoever being together. But when the parents of Jo warn Perumal to not see or talk to Jo any more, we do not see any caste difference being specifically pointed out. Jo’s father (G. Marimuthu) tells Perumal that he knows who he is, where he is from and what he belongs to. So, that gives us an indication of the divide and oppression that is being talked about here. Also, Jo is actually like a devathai (angel) as Perumal denotes her and she also behaves like one as we find her very innocuous in the film. She has absolutely no idea about all the warnings that Perumal got from her father and her family members. Although we do care about Perumal and Jo and we want them to be together, it is the misery of Perumal which we are more concerned about. Not only was I dumbstruck by the magnitude of troubles that he goes through. But it hit me hard enough to think how tough it can be to keep all his problems to himself.

As I was feeling the excruciating pain of Perumal, the movie did have its share of laughs as well. Yogi Babu as Anand was hilarious. I laughed out loud whenever he came on screen. He never stops mocking the professors and his timely responses were sidesplitting. Even the drama created by the fake dad of Perumal (Shanmugha Rajan) in front of College Principal was amusing. It was like going through a range of emotions from being very dejected to laughing my heads off. Also, the scenes in the movie do not stop abruptly thereby allowing the feel of every other scene to be absorbed by us. Like the scene where Jo extends an invitation to Perumal to come to her family wedding function, smiles at him and walks away. It shows their reactions for a while and we know that she has expressed her love towards him. Also, I really can’t pinpoint any particular character as the leading pair and the supporting casts performed very well and looked like they belonged there.

The analogy created in this film is spectacular. Perumal points out to Jo’s father that people like ‘him’ are being treated like dogs. This reminds us of his pet dog that got run over by train. Another analogy is when the camera focuses on two glasses of tea on the table with a flower in between and a mesmerising song called Vaa Rayil Vida Polaama composed by Santhosh Narayanan (his work is excellent in this film) explains it beautifully: Osaththi korachchal ennavo enakku athu puriyala, azhukka karuppa ennavo enakku athu theriyala. As a matter of fact, all the songs created the mood of particular situations in the movie very well. As the movie neared its end, two dialogues kept ringing in my ears – one by the College Principal when he says that let him fight and then die instead of hanging himself in the room; and another when Perumal tells that it’s him who has kept the pride and respect of Jo’s father intact.