Seethakathi movie review: Vijay Sethupathi’s quirky meta film celebrates art in the most entertaining way

Balaji Tharaneetharan, who made a splash with his quirky Tamil comedy Naduvula Konjam Pakkatha Kaanom a few years ago, returns with a bang in Seethakathi

Haricharan Pudipeddi December 19, 2018 12:44:24 IST

4/5

Balaji Tharaneetharan, who made a splash with his quirky Tamil comedy Naduvula Konjam Pakkatha Kaanom a few years ago, returns with a bang in Seethakathi, a terrific meta film which celebrates art in the most entertaining fashion. The film is both a satire and an endearing drama on art which as a form is losing its prominence at a time when cinema has become the major choice of entertainment. Seethakathi reminds us that it’s still possible to respect and celebrate art through cinema without tampering with the soul of the former.

Seethakathi movie review Vijay Sethupathis quirky meta film celebrates art in the most entertaining way

Vijay Sethupathi in Seethakathi. Image via Twitter

The film revolves around a struggling theatre veteran Ayya Adhimoolam (played by Vijay Sethupathi), who had refused offers to act in films all his life, but finally decides to take the plunge and what follows forms the crux of the film. Built on a quirky conundrum, Seethakathi deserves to be discussed at length, but then, doing so would reveal the film’s novel concept and ruin major surprises for the audiences.

It’s really gutsy of actor Vijay Sethupathi to pick Seethakathi as his 25th film as it features him merely for 40 minutes of the running time. Even in his limited screen space, Vijay as Ayya Adhimoolam stuns us with his versatility as we see him play a variety of characters over a period of few decades in fleeting shots. As a 70-plus actor towards the fag end of his theatre days, we see him essay the role of Aurangzeb with gravitas, making us realise his love and respect for art. Acting is his life, and the stage his world.

In one of the film’s most beautiful scenes, Ayya’s close friend Parasuram (Mouli) suggests that they advertise their stage play in a local newspaper to attract audiences. At first, Ayya is against the idea as he feels advertising is a form of disrespecting art, but he soon gives in to the idea after some contemplation. When the advertisement finally appears in the newspaper, it’s placed in between posters of several films and in this scene Tharaneetharan beautifully establishes the demarcation between art and cinema. It’s also established through another scene where we see a group of panelists on television discuss the reasons behind Ayya’s decision to enter films.

The film takes its time to warm up, and the first 40 minutes are high on melodrama, but Tharaneetharan makes up for the really slow start with a rib-tickling dark comedy angle for the rest of the film. The dark comedy portion works essentially as a satire on cinema and credit must go to the actors, particularly Sunil Reddy, for making this segment outright hilarious.

Seethakathi is not only powered by a quirky core idea, but also by its quirkiest choice of actors and it’s one of the reasons why the film works, despite the pacing issues. Also, Govind Vasantha’s music is a major highlight of the film as it beautifully heightens the emotions in the initial portion featuring Sethupathi. If only Seethakathi can be watched with an open mind and not get judged by its first 40 minutes, it’s sure to go down as one of the best films of the year.

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