May contain spoilers
There is a scene in Pichaikkaran where Magzhini (played by Satna Titus) is searching for Arul (played by Vijay Antony) in the rain. Arul is a beggar and Magzhini couldn’t fathom the fact that he is a beggar (she falls in love without knowing it). She tries to give him a rain coat and Rs.1000. He returns them to her and she asks “Pichaiya potta vangippiya” (Will you get if I give it as alms?). He kneels down and begs while she kisses his hand.
Sasi as a director scores at that moment and makes you question why the entire movie is not about their love story. Sasi has handled such stories in Sollamale and Dishyum. His premises always have a big what if question that Tamil movie audiences love (except for Poo). Pichaikkaran is also a big “What if” question. Based on a book (which Sasi reveals at the end of the movie), it’s a story of a rich businessman who lives a life of a beggar for 48 days as part of a penance that he undertakes to save his mother.
The premise will baffle you and the way Arul explores the lives of other beggars draws you in to the movie. While Sasi evokes sympathy, he doesn’t shy away from fun, philosophy and the cheating in the begging world. Sasi’s dialogues are sharp, witty and thought provoking at the right moments.
When you take notice of the premise and expect something interesting, Sasi travels in to the usual territory of masala due to commercial compulsions. Except for the jealous uncle, two other villains are entirely forced narratives that are placed inside just to show the action hero side of Vijay Antony. Vijay Antony is so blank and expressionless that you actually need an optical microscope to identify micro expressions in his face. It could have worked for movies like Naan and Salim but Pichaikkaran needs someone who can evoke sympathy and pain. Vijay Antony shows that he is incapable of carrying such a role.
The two characters who portray the beggars are the standout because of their natural portrayals. Satna and Bugs (Bagavathi Perumal) are adequate but Muthuraman as the evil uncle is irritating after a point. Nenjorathil, Nooru Saamigal and Unakkaga Varuven are excellent melodies in Vijay Antony’s music (can he do more music?)
Pichaikkaran is not a bad boring movie. It does provoke you to think. But in the current format it just stays as a movie that people will forget once they leave the theatre. The possibilities with this premise are endless. It could have been a love story between the beggar and the girl or it could have been a philosophical debate on money and begging. The problem with Sasi is that he chose to take the commercial route and it really affects the noble idea he wanted to plant in our heads. Pichaikkaran could have been a classic but the idea is lost among the villains, needless fight sequences and some awful acting.
Pichaikkaran is about how much a son can sacrifice to get back his mother’s life. But ironically, Sasi has sacrificed so much to give us a half-baked movie that had an idea so dear to him. It has become a perfect example how external commercial forces kill the creativity of a director. Did he have a choice is a larger question to answer.
A 2/5 for Pichaikkaran and give it a watch just for the premise.