Film review: Nadigaiyar Thilagam – An engaging tribute to Savitri’s life let down by lack of depth
Early life in the world of cinema is often a harsh place. It raises you to win highest praises, and yet it lets you down when you least expect it. And when you have the passion to defeat every hurdle in your life, everything is easy again. Late actress Savitri too braved through the mean world, however fate had other plans for her. That’s exactly what director Nag Ashwin depicts in his film Nadigaiyar Thilagam which is a biopic based on late actress Savitri’s life.
The sets, the costumes, the make up are the heroes of the film – without which the authenticity would be incomplete. It’s not easy to replicate the time period between 40-80s; from the rustic furniture to kemp style jewellery – everything is done so perfectly. The scenes that show Savitri’s downfall perfectly display her worries. The scenes that show her rise is complete with the classic big border silk sarees, her long bindi and dramatic eyebrows and even the makeup is nothing short of perfection. The smart move of bringing life to the film with props and makeup is an ambitious and smart move! The time travel conceit has been managed so effortlessly that it deserves praise. Among the strengths of the film is the wonderful transformation scenes of Savitri through the ages – her makeup, her antics everything transports you to the yesteryear era. Director Ashwin Nag’s intention of making us see Savitri through journalist Madhuravani’s eyes, the way she gains strength and courage only proves that Savitri’s life is an inspiration to all- even if there is a thin line between sympathising for her or gaining motivation from her.
The film aims at capturing the legendary actress’ life, her rise to fame and her downfall. And it does just that. Although visually stunning, the film presents itself as a book filled with visually striking images and a text to substantiate the lovely visual. The film merely presents us with beautiful sets, authentic props, setting and a wonderful cast only to result in the film which brings us events from her life. What one truly looks for in a biopic of a legend is the drama, the originality brought to the film. Merely translating collective knowledge about the actress to the big screen makes it underwhelming. For instance, the film introduces us to all the characters in Savitri’s life – her mentor, her love affair with Gemini Ganesan, the admiration directors had for her, however what it misses, is that it presents these only on a surface level. A film on Savitri requires more depth and intense drama that would make us understand the life of the superstar more. The music also elevates the mood of the film, it backs a few scenes with a sense of triumph but only wishes that the scenes were presented in the same way.
The film’s main theme tries to explore the marital discord between Gemini Ganesan and Savitri, as well as the latter addition with alcohol which leads to the downfall of her career. Considering how important Gemini Ganesan is in her life, the writer and director of the film could have explored about his character more, atleast through dialogues. For example, what was his relationship with his first wife, that she willingly accept Savitri later? What happened to him after they split up? It would have added another dimension to the story.
Although the film is predictable and lacks surprises, it doesn’t weigh down under the heavy weight of predictability thanks to the film’s leading lady Keerthi Suresh. She plays it almost like Savitri: charming, excited, naive, frustrated and broken yet she brings a spark of enthusiasm to the character which no new age actor has displayed yet. In one scene, Where she explores her husband’s infidelity, she is enraged, she expresses her anger by yelling, screaming and overthrowing every other emotion there is! This performance deserves praise.
Considering that she is only a few films old, Keerthy has done a terrific job although it’s certain that she would improve to be even better than this later. Dulquer Salmaan as Gemini Ganesan makes his role seem like a cake walk. Flamboyant, charming and witty he is a delight to watch. Samantha does a fine job making us root for us, especially in the emotional scenes which act as a tear-jerker. Vijay Deverakonda makes his presence felt, even he has very little to do.
Nadigaiyar Thilagam brings Savitri’s life to today’s generation. It’s vivid and spectacular in bringing the life of India’s first female superstar to life.