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Review: Rasathanthram

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Written by Guest contributor Unni

Had Cavendish, Pauling or Rutherford been alive today, they would have been proud; as their pet subject, Chemistry, is the most discussed topic these days, be it the Election “chemistry” of AIADMK (as opposed to the “arithmetic” of DMK) or the off-screen chemistry of Simbu/Nayantara or the on-screen chemistry of Mohan Lal and Meera Jasmine in Rasathantram.

Premachandran (Lal), a carpenter by profession, is well-versed in Thachushastram, Physics (corrects a kid who wrongly tries to mug up Newton’s First Law), Bharathiyar (incidentally, Rameshan Nair in Thanmathra also was obsessed with him), Nithin Mukesh and Poonthanam (!!). (As Sreenivasan says in Azhagiya Ravanan, Thayyalkaaran cum novelist aanu). This carpenter has a heart of gold and is loved and respected by everyone.

His introduction, when he steps out from a police Jeep, with the carpentry kit et al and waxes eloquent about Thachushastram, shows that he’s not just any other asari. Premachandran works with the group of carpenters headed by Manikantan Asari (Innocent) which also has his co-brother Kunjikuttan (Mamu Koya) – both of them are often at each other’s throats.

At one of his work places, Premachandran meets Kanmani (Meera Jasmine), the oppressed servant maid of the house and an orphan. The way the two meet up is indeed hilarious and brings back nostalgic memories of that “old Lal”, where he oftens commits some blunder and looks sheepishly and grins. Feeling frustrated by life and the beatings from her household, Kanmani tries to commit suicide. Premachandran saves her and brings her over to his house disguised as Velayudhankutty, as a help for his father, Balan Mash (Bharat Gopi).

Premachandran’s neighbour’s (KPAC Lalitha) daughter has a crush on him and rejects all proposals that come to her. Meanwhile Velayudhankutty wins the heart of one and all. However the cat is let out of the bag and the police soon knock at Premachandran’s door and take him to court for hiding Kanmani. Kanmani blurts out at court that she is in love with Premachandran (who is horrified) and wanted to be with him. He has no other option but to take her with him. Predictably,she confesses her love for him. But he rejects her because he’s haunted by his past. Will Kanmani win over Premachandran’s heart ?

Rasathanthram is not a great movie in terms of its theme. People argue that its old wine in a new bottle. True. However what stands out is the performance from Meera Jasmine. Rasathanthram IS Meera’s movie. Period. She rocks in the first half as Velayudhankutty and then as Premachandran’s life-partner. The time has come when we can anoint her as the next “Lady Mohanlal” – the name by which we used to refer Manju Warrier.

There is not even one iota of artificiality in Meera’s antics. After watching Achuvinte Amma and now Rasathantram, one can understand why she is being choosy about her roles. Unlike her colleagues who move to the greener pastures of Tamil and Telugu and forget their “roots”, Meera stands out for her dedication to Malayalam, even though it brings less money for her. Here’s hoping that she does not get married soon and quit the industry unlike some of her predecessors.

Mohan Lal does a neat job of Premachandran – not surprising as Sathyan always brings out the best from this actor. The scenes between Bharat Gopi and Lal are every endearing. Oduvil Unnikrishnan as Chettiyar, Suraj Venjarumood as Premachandran’s co-worker, Jagathy Sreekumar – Kanmani’s long lost uncle, Mukhesh in a cameo (Sivan), all do their roles to perfection.

The dialgoues penned by Sathyan himself, lacks the customary satire and subtle humor as in his other movies. But then Sathyan is a director first and foremost and a large number of his movies have been scripted by Sreenivasan or Lohithadas. In terms of its screen-play, Rasathantram is defintely not in the league of Sathyan’s earlier movies like Nadodikattu or even his last one – Achuvinte Amma. Sathyan’s best movies are the ones where he has stuck to direction alone.

Rasathanthram completes a hat-trick of hits for the Sathyan-Ilayaraja duo. All the songs in the movie are melodious be it “Kunkumapoo”/ “Attinkara Orathe”/ “Thevaram Nokkunnunde”/ “Ponnavanipadam” – but the best of the lot is “Attinkarayorathe” – for its rendition by Manjari, the picturesque backdrop of Vagamon (captured by Azhagappan) and the colorful sarees of Meera, in that order.

After watching Rasathantram, one wonders why Malayalm movie producers shoot their songs in Auckland , Phuket or Singapore – when places such as Vagamon or Moolamattom are there in our Gods Own Country – Maybe its a case of Compound-jasmine-no-smell” (loosely translated as “Muttathe Mullakku Manamilla“!!).

14 Comments

  1. I feel its still too early to name Meera as “Lady Mohan lal” or a successor to Manju warrier. I saw Achuvintey Amma and I felt that it was a great show by Urvashi and a normal performance by Meera. There wasn’t anything stellar about Meera’s performance in that movie. I have not seen Rasathanthram, so am unable to tell anything about her act in that movie. But Manju warrier was and is leaps and bounds ahead of Meera. Manju had a novel presence in all the movies she acted and she left her footmark in every role. To the end, she proclaimed that she wanted to end her career with a hit and she precisely did that with “Kannu yezhuthi pottum thottu”!!!

  2. Unnikrishnan – Its not just 1 or 2 movies which has seen Meera draw paralells with Manju. Remember she won a national award( for “Paadham Onnu – Oru Vilapam”) – something which eluded our Ms.Warrier as well. I dont know if you have watched that movie – her performance was tremendous!! Besides that I feel her best movies are Kasthuriman, Swapnakoodu and Gramophone. Also Meera has been in the industry for not a long period. She has time in her side to do better roles also.

    Again this is not to diss Manju. She was easily the best.

    My opinion worth two cents – Unni

  3. very true…….i dont thnk she can be compared to manju warrier .yes ofcourse meera has done a good job job in rasatantram but i dont think its all that great since “kanmani” was just a usual bubbly girl and nothng special was there to display her acting skills..

  4. Unni, I too am not undermining Meera’s performance.. In the movies U have mentioned, I have seen Achuvintey Amma, Kasthurimaan, Swapnakoodu and Gramaphone.. She was undoubtedly good in those roles, but not great that U remember her part distinctively after the movie.. You missed another movie where she was good, Perumazhakalam.. As for her potential, other than Navya Nair and Kavya Madhavan to an extent, she has no one in par with her in the current industry.. Then I have not seen “Padam Onnu: Oru Vilapam” or Rasathanthram. But what I feel is Meera excels in roles that gives her leverage to perform.. But what puts Manju in a different league than Meera or her contemporaries is that Manju excelled in any role given to her.. She did not need a character that had a hughe canvas and lot of scope to perform.. Be it in the role of a daughter of Oduvil Unnikrishnan pitted against Mohan Lal in Aaram Thampuran or in the role of a girl with mental disorders in Thooval Kottaram, or the girl who had to masquerade as a man in Daya, or the mischevious girl with a sad past to hide in Summer in Bethlehem, or the strong willed and sharp tongued press reporter in Pathram (the list is endless ;-)), Manju was stellar!! And these were any normal heroine roles in the Malayalam film industry.. And to an extent, we all can see some characterestic of Manju in all these new day heroines.. (I think you too will accept it!!) Meera or any current day actresses for that matter can be easily interchangable in the roles they perform now.. May be this has something to do with the scripts and stories that are being made into movies today.. But it was never so in the case of Manju and her characters.

    I hope I dont sound like a dead beat, die hard Manju warrier fan ;-).. Anyway this was something I felt and surely as U have written, Meera is new to the industry and by the time she bids goodbye to the film field, she can become a far better actress than Manju, and she has the potential for that… But its too early to speculate on that!!

  5. As for the national award, state award and other awards, have “always” the truly deserving and the best of the actors and actresses been honoured?? A stellar performance by Thilakan in Perumthatchan was sidelined for a commercial and more popular act by Amitabh Bachan in Agneepath for a national award!!

  6. I think Meera has incredible acting talents (not to mention how she looks 😉 ) and she fits with modern or village girl kinda roles. (refer to her movies). Manju was also a good actress but did a lot of craps. Perhaps “Kannezhuthi…” is her best performance. And (although its a pakkaa commercial one) Pathram of Joshy. She “was transforming” to be a good actress when Dilip stole her from the scene. 🙂

    I think its the media that made a lot of hype over Manju. And we can see influences of Urvashi in Manju. But Meera has her own acting style.

    But still, my fav actresses ever are Urvashy, Sukumary and Shobana. 🙂

  7. Unnikrishnan – Its OK to be a die-hard Manju fan!!..Who isnt? What I personally felt was Meera was the one actress who could fill Manju’s shoes. Not Navya or Kavya. Meera is streets ahead of both. Navya has a Saira/Nandanam and Kavya a Sheelabathi/Perumazhakalam but I would still rate Meera above both – simply because her talent is natural. She did not have any exposure in stage before she came to cinema unlike Manju/Navya/Kavya. She has not even learnt dancing!!..But if you observe one of the scenes from the “Enthu paranujaalum” song from Achuvinte Amma, where Meera starts off with a classical dance jig and then goes on to do a western danc like movemenets – it was so natural..

    You should watch “Paadham Onnu”. As the oppressed Shahina, the school girl, she was really wonderful.

    One reason why I would “equate” her with Manju is that Meera has the “looks”, even though she might slighly lack in terms of acting.

  8. To add to Joe’s comments “She “was transforming” to be a good actress when Dilip stole her from the scene. ” – Hope Prithvi does not steal Meera from the industry

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  12. I can’t compare manju & meera
    manju was such a talented actress.with her 20 films she proved her acting talent.she was the first heroine who showed courage to give her voice to all her films except the first one “sallapam”.Other than that she dub for her characters which made her unique among others.Eventhough shobhana &urvashi played wonderful characters in manichithrathazhu & thalayanamanthram respectively , a veteran dubbing artist “Bhagyalekshmi” dubbed for them.
    meera is a good artist and she gave her voice to her all films from “soothradharan” but inspired by manju.But if any one want to see the amazing performances of these artists you should watch the following movies
    1.Thalayanamanthram for Urvashi
    2.Manichithrathazhu for Shobhana
    3.Kannezhuthi Pottum Thottu for Manju Warrier
    4.Kasthuriman for Meera Jasmine
    I wrote these things because i think that acting become complete with dubbing. If one artist acted and other one dubbed for the character then how can the success of that character ,the success of that actor.

  13. On the dubbing issue:

    The blame lies on the shoulders of the directors, producers, and most of all the male audience. For some reason our men like to hear heroines speak in a high-pitched voice.

    Kavya Madhavan has repeatedly complained that she is not allowed to dub for herself. The same is true in other languages. Trisha’s voice is always dubbed in Tamil. You can hear her real voice in “Ayutha Ezhuthu”. I think she has a nice voice, but apparently it is not feminine enough for Tamil men.

    Using the same artificial voice on all heroines robs them of an identity. I totally agree that an actress is not complete without her voice. And if she is not allowed to dub for herself, after she has expressed her desire to do so, she should lodge a complaint with AMMA. Maybe even take it to court. But it will only work if all the actresses band together on this issue. An actresses’ union perhaps?

    Having lived in a western country for almost 2 decades now, it’s disheartening to see how far our culture lags in women’s rights. On a Malayalam TV show called “Shreeman Shreemati”, they showed a husband slapping his wife, as if it was the most natural thing in the world. In the US, that man (and the show’s producers) would’ve gone to jail. Why are we still tolerating such obvious abuses of human rights. Or isn’t an Indian woman a human being?

    The dubbing issue is just a symptom. The underlying problem is our society’s attitude towards women.

  14. I also heard the case of kavya madhavan .But i thought that most actresses are not willing to dub.Kavya had dubbed for her films like
    Perumazhakkalam,Annorikkal,……… Then why should she continue that . I feel that if a film is pakka commercial the heroine doesnt wants to dub and if it has any award expectation , it will be dubbed by herself only.
    Examples are there .like Urvashi ,Navya ……
    Again I thought that acting becomes complete by dubbing
    50%acting + 50%dubbing –>complete actor/actress

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