First of all, a big Thank You to the censor board and all those politicians out there, who have allowed this movie to release without any fuss. Right from the selection of the title, the director has included a lot of metaphorical nuances and analogies throughout this bold, hard-hitting, political drama, for which he has to be lauded.
Joker deals with Mannar Mannan (Guru Somasundaram), his protests against everything that he feels wrong, and what actually turned him into a self-proclaimed President. Yes, you read it right. He thinks he is the President. There is even a handmade poster in his house that has his photo beneath the pictures of Abdul Kalam, Pratibha Patil and Pranab Mukherjee. There are two sidekicks who help him with all the protests (played by the veteran theatre artist Mu Ramasamy, who has been made to look like writer Jayakanthan, and Gayathri Krishna) that he stages against the government.
Each and every frame has been placed intentionally right from the word go. When we first see Mannar Mannan, there is an intentional crudeness that has been brought up to show how his life actually is. We are slowly let into his world and his protests. Even the smallest of things, from the posters and banners of heroes placed by the fans, to the people of Pappirettipatti (there’s even a Pappiretti Bhavan), though having TV sets and mobile phones don’t have toilets, have been shot to perfection. But the movie starts to get too preachy after the initial 5 minutes. If we analyse it as a phenomenon, it can be agreed in a way that people tend to like the extra preachiness and the narrative which just holds their throats and shoves all the themes upon them. That is what Joker started to become after the initial 10 minutes. The cinema started giving a documentary feel at times during that initial period.
But, after the 30 minute mark, the magic started to happen. The movie was brought back to life by the wonderfully written love track between Mannar Mannan and Mallika ( a standout performance from Ramya Pandian). The movie flips into a flashback, where all the preachiness isn’t dramatised and the messages have been properly ingrained into the story of the couple. These issues aren’t staged and that makes this part extremely effective. The fact that the local cable stations telecast the latest films at night is a major issue. But it’s slipped casually into the scene where Mannan tells Mallika he owns a TV set during her visit to his house to inspect the facilities, before she can commit herself. Open defecation is an issue, but unlike the scene at the start with the boys where a broom was forcefully used as a metaphor to describe how the situation actually is, it now becomes a plot point. Mallika will not marry someone whose house doesn’t have a toilet. (A Tamil heroine who is bold, who is pragmatic and speaks her mind, who has to be won over is an eternal rarity). Another issue isn’t even stated. It is let to the people to understand the reality that there are TVs, but no toilets. Later, when the President (the real one) makes a visit, we tackle the issue of Potemkin villages which also plays a vital part in the story. And what about the issue of people being roped into political gatherings, to act as cheering crowds in exchange for biriyani and booze? This harsh reality becomes the basis for the Mannan-Mallika romance. This actually proves the mettle of the writer in Raju Murugan.
The romance is so pure and unadulterated. It flows in such an organic way without any melodramatic moments, which made me long for much more of it. I wish Raju Murugan makes a completely romantic movie with lesser known stars one day (Though Cuckoo was a full-on-romance movie, the blindness of the lead actors took the first spot) , which will make wonders. After the sustained period of romance in the flashback , which actually played out like a low-key version of a Shankar flashback, the movie comes back to be its preachy self, which it was at the start. The monologue at the end by Mu Ramasamy is a particular low point of the movie, though the dialogues were hard-hitting and brilliant. Had the director made him burst out in anger or sadness, it would’ve been more effective. To make him speak in front of the camera gave me a documentary feel at the end, though the director might have thought this way the best way to convey what he wanted to.
Raju Murugan proves his journalism skills in showing the plight of people and the reality of their lifestyle in a wonderful way. His writing is incisive during the mid-section of the movie. Raju Murugan’s affinity for the great Ilaiyaraja shows up in Joker too, with some of the rare hits of him ( along with an MSV song) playing in the background at quite a few moments ( even a character in the jail sings an Ilaiyaraja song) . He once again proves how good a dialogue writer he is, along with able help from Murugesh Babu, with the dialogues being mighty impressive, thus forming the strongest pillar of the movie. The dialogues are exceptionally strong and bold. The director criticises every politician and all the people through his witty and nonchalant dialogues, which are sure to raise a few eyebrows ( A big surprise that no one has protested against the movie and its dialogues till now) . Except for the feel of preachiness, Raju Murugan strikes gold once again, after Cuckoo.
Casting Guru Somasundaram as Mannar Mannan is an inspired choice. He carries the entire movie on his shoulders with a drop-dead stunning performance. The audience laugh with him, weep with him and this makes everyone look up and notice who he is. A great actor can always make you buy even a poor movie to the maximum possible extent, and Guru Somasundaram becomes the biggest factor for us to negate all the minor flaws that show up here and there. Mu Ramasamy too gives a solid performance, except for the climax part where the staging lets him down.
Chezhian proves his might by delivering what the director expected of him to perfection. The use of helicam to show Mannar Mannan’s house was a wisely thought out and executed move. From showing the raindrops to showing the beauty of Delhi, he’s been exceptional. Sean Roldan’s music forms the backbone of the movie. He has given a magnificent contribution to this movie with an outstanding background score and a superlative album, which has exceptional numbers throughout ( Ola Ola Kudisaiyila and Chellamma are the two gorgeous picks of all the standout songs) , and the unusual spaces that he creates during the dramatic moments have been spellbinding. Let us hope he carries this terrific form of his for as long as he can.
After the monologue at the end, Mallika is shown to be breathing heavily, fighting for her life when she is having zero chances of survival, and the slowly camera pans out where Isai is getting ready for her next protest, even after all the things that’s happened. So, Raju Murugan inadvertently asks us to stand up and fight till we breathe our last with a mesmerizing analogy.
Joker is a rarity in the modern-day cinema. What would’ve well been a cult classic, falls just short because of the overdose of preachiness at times. But, miss this movie at your own risk, as Guru Somasundaram and Sean Roldan will make you sit awestruck by their earnest contribution to the movie. This movie, which portrays reality and sticks true to its story, is one of a kind, that has to be welcomed with open arms.
Joker- The ‘Real’ Hero!