“Saaga varampol sogam undo, theera kathayai ketpor undo”
As compared to most kamal films which are visual and technical delights, uththama villain leaves the audience wondering whether Kamal really does have a terminal illness and needed to rush through production on this one.
Uththama Villain has a strong story and entertaining dialogues, let down mostly by shoddy screenplay and what seems to be a half finished end-product. In parts the movie seems to be a satire on Tamil cinema, in parts a satire on kamal’s life, and in parts a plea to the audience.
Manoranjan is a superstar and he acts everywhere. He acts in front of his fans, he acts in front of the film fraternity and he acts in front of his family. There is one scene where Manoranjan is furiously cursing a Jacob Zachariah who is walking away and turning to find cameras immediately smiles and waves and then turns around furious and smiles again at a producer. Where most actors wud have made this seem staged and plastic, kamal lives the role.
Manoranjan, the vain star with an affair and a drinking problem, finds out he is terminally Ill with brain tumour and sets about righting all the wrongs he has done. Beginning with the mentor he left behind, to his family and to his true love lost in the twisting path to stardom.
And out of these attempts is born uththama villain – a movie within the movie. An enjoyable thenaliraman-esque movie where the seemingly immortal uththaman (MritunJayan) is played by a dying manoranjan.
It must be noted here that from the very beginning Aravind Ramesh and Kamal Hassan have attempted to cinematically differentiate the movie within the movie. Even with the introduction song, every move and emotion within the movies in the movie seems to be exaggerated and done in bad taste. Until the final scene which manoranjan acts out, where, as if to say that a dying candle burns the brightest, he shines. Here again the writing of kamal shines, juxtaposing bad cinema on good – not just in one scene, but throughout the movie, contrasting manoranjan’s subtle portrayal to uththaman’s forced comic.
Two actors other than kamal have had stellar performances in this movie. One is the kid who plays Manohar who brings to life kamals intelligence and arrogance in a way that makes us wonder whether he really is related to kamal. And the other is Pooja Kumar – contrasting a dumb glamour doll in the movie to being the graceful yet fiery princess karpagavalli in the movie within the movie.
There are cinematic gems in the movie – for example the scene where a dying, stumbling manoranjan dressed as the invincible Hiraniyan turns to find a shadow behind a screen wall much like the simha avataram and the scene where manoranjan is sitting between his wife and his lover comforting his wife with declarations of love while his lover looks on, immediately followed by a scene where the lover says she couldn’t bear the pain of his wife but yet doesn’t break up with manoranjan.
In many ways, the movie is like kamal himself – seeming to take on much much more than a single film can accomplish; exploring the concept of immortality through dialogues between uththaman and Nasser, tackling love through the life of Manoranjan, examining cinema, examining how a good actor is killed for masala films and many more; and yet having a strong story to back it all up.
Uththama Villain is great effort lost in translation between the script and the screen. Definitely worth a watch, and definitely worth remaking in the future.