The tax rebate for U certificate movies has created a huge problem for Tamil movie directors. They are not prepared to show raw emotions on screen. Be it love, sex or violence, what we see is a camouflaged version (on the other side, the censor board willingly allows vulgarity). There are only few directors who defy the norm and make a movie with conviction. Here you have a young Vijay Kumar who has written, directed and produced (probably, he did the background score too) a simple, brutally honest movie that hits you like a bolt.
Uriyadi is a game that usually happens at a village festival where a blindfolded contestant has to break a pot that is raised and lowered using a pulley. It has been used as a metaphor in this case where a caste based politician trying to play hide and seek with a bunch of students. The movie takes place in the late 90s and it starts with an erection of a caste leader’s statue. A bunch of students get in to an altercation with that caste group at a nearby Dhaba that sells liquour too. The altercation snowballs in to a bigger issue and the rest of the movie forms how the college students tackle it.
On the surface, Uriyadi might look like a simple revenge story but Vijay Kumar has built the story on multiple layers. He shows how a caste group with a mere 15,000 votes in a region attempts to build up a caste based party and how some leaders manipulate their members. The modus operandi is so realistic that you will definitely understand how caste based politics work in Tamil Nadu and the importance of statues in it. There is no other movie in Tamil that has openly talked about caste politics without even mentioning names of castes involved. Vijay Kumar impresses you with his construction of mise-en-scene of the movie. The dhaba, engineering college hostel and the college itself is so authentic that you travel to that period (I started my engineering course in 1999 and I can vouch for that) – even the posters of Kajol and Simran were from that period.
The lead protagonists of the movie, I wouldn’t call them heroes because the director hasn’t resorted to glorification of these protagonists. They are normal students who don’t like studying, have sexy posters of actresses in the hostel room, have unquestionable faith in friendship and question norms of the society with respect to caste. When someone fiddles with them, they are unstoppable with respect to their retaliation. The stunt sequences are so realistic and violent that few of the audience will be unable to fathom it. Nevertheless, the truth is real life violence is as brutal as they show it. Of course, the movie has some compromises in making and the acting part but that’s due to the budgeting constraints. It can be forgiven for the brilliance of the movie. Uriyadi is an intelligent movie. It doesn’t take its audience for granted and never tends to hide anything from them. Violence, caste politics, life at a college situated in interior TN – everything has been depicted without being overtly discussed.
Masala Cafe’s rendition of Bharathiyar’s Akkini Kunjondru Kanden is riveting and I have been humming this since I watched the movie while Maane Maane is sweet. The bigger problem I had with the movie is a larger question of whether violence is the only resort for students to tackle political oppression? Hold on to that thought when you watch Uriyadi. At the same time, Uriyadi is an example of how movies should be made – honest and uncompromising story telling.
I give 4/5 for Uriyadi and miss it at your own peril. I expect the movie to get out of theatres by this weekend because it’s really good. That’s what we do to good movies.