Most Tamil films skid into one of two categories – Real Bad (usually featuring Surya, Karthi, Vijay, Simbhu, Vombhu, Kombhu et al) and the Disgustingly, Hopelessly, Offensively, Obscenely Bad (buffoons like Ajith, Trisha and Vishal are fixtures in this genre).
Since some of my readers have been lately wetting their jetties over a 17-year-old film Gokulathil Seethai featuring a B-grade star called Murali Karthikeyan Muthuraman a.k.a Karthik, I took a headlong plunge into the film a few hours back to see what the hullabaloo was all about.
For those not in the know, Karthik’s claim to fame is that he is the son of yesteryear Tamil actor R. Muthuraman, the father of Gautham Karthik, whose recent debut film Kadal was a disaster, and an utter flop as a politician.
Fortunately for me, Gokulathil Seethai (1996) turned out to be one of those rare Tamil films that falls in the Merely Bad category. And that’s no small achievement for a Tamil film!
Be warned though that the film is looong: 2-hours and 45-minutes.
Travel writer Paul Theroux was bang on target when he wrote nearly four-decades back that “only tooth brushing silences” Tamils.
I recommend every Tamil film director be handed a toothbrush after 90-minutes so that the ceaseless blah-blah-blah can stop.
Besides being the director, Agathiyan wrote the story, screenplay, dialogs and the lyrics. Even Spielberg can’t wear so many hats!
The biggest plus of Gokulathil Seethai is the all-round decent acting.
For the most part, the lead pair Karthik and the Bengali actress Suvalakshmi as well as the supporting cast of Manivannan, Karan and Thalaivasal Vijay acquit themselves well and don’t give much cause for complaint.
I can’t remember if I’ve ever seen a Karthik film previously.
But his performance in Gokulathil Seethai certainly did not induce acid reflux in me like Ajith’s feeble attempts at acting in movie after movie.
Karthik plays the wayward, single son of a rich businessman (Manivannan).
Bad as his character Rishi is, Karthik plays it with a good bit of flair and panache.
You can say what you will, but most South Indian actresses and even the Mumbai gals lack class. You can notice the total absence of class and any semblance of grace in their acting, walking, dancing, talking and general demeanor.
I’ve found Bengali actresses like Konkana Sen, Richa Gangopadhyay and Suvalakshmi to be more than a cut above their peers. There’s a certain grace and charm to them that’s sorely missing in the Nayantaras, Trishas, Kajals, Kareenas and the Tamannahs.
Except for a few frames toward the end, Suvalakshmi was extremely endurable, something that can rarely be said of a Tamil film heroine.
The second plus of the movie is the music, albeit in part.
Nilavey Vaa Vaa and Enthan Kural are easily above average songs that had me quickly doing a rewind after the movie ended.
Unfortunately, the same can’t be said of the cacophonous first song, Life is Fantastic, Make it Romantic bilge and its horrid picturization.
Where the movie goes astray and careens off the road completely is in the utterly implausible story of a young man constantly partying, cavorting with whores, mingling with pimps, drinking 24x7 and frequently exclaiming that “Love” is a bad word.
It’s hard to believe a father will take a blase attitude to such wayward antics from his only son, as Rishi’s father does until the end.
We never get a sense of why Rishi is constantly drinking, including publicly in the office.
In one of the weirdest scenes in a Tamil movie, we espy both father and son boozing together at the Krishna Jayanti festival in front of the god’s idol when there are over a dozen kids in attendance.
And what’s with Rishi’s phony accent. Reminded me of Ulaga Madayan Kamal Haasan who frequently speaks English with a bizarre, incomprehensible accent.
Suvalakshmi plays a college student Nila who agrees to marry a young man IC Mohan (Karan) handicapped with an inferiority complex. Hence the nickname IC Mohan..
I find it hard to believe that a smart and pretty young girl will agree to marry a young man like Mohan without much prospects merely because he sends her an appreciative cassette tape voicing his feelings that she’s given new meaning to his life.
That’s a big sacrifice and in a long life I’ve never seen Tamil or any other women do anything similar.
If anything, women are born with an extra mercenary gene.
And IC Mohan’s volte face about marrying Nila in the face of his parents’ opposition was cringeworthy.
My vexation with the film only worsened when Nila defends Rishi, a debauchee and indifferent Managing Director of the firm in hyperbolic terms as a Man of Distinction, Man of Dedication, Man of Discipline etc to the other employees. What was the girl smoking! Made no sense because Rishi is an extremely wayward, undisciplined character whose raison d’etre is restricted to having fun with sluts, drinking and squandering his father’s wealth.
You can’t build a noble character out of the ignoble clay that Rishi is made of.
The last 20-minutes turned utterly farcical with Rishi’s ‘love’ antics, his father’s ploy, Nila’s abrupt departure from home, the bus-ride, the credit card nonsense and the messy, happy ending in the hostel run by nuns.
By the way, only in Tamil films when a wealthy, handsome doctor groom is jilted at the altar does he calmly tell the bride that he’ll marry her younger sister instead and encourages her to quickly elope! Really! 🙁
Like with a lot of movies suggested by SI readers, Gokulathil Seethai too deserves the raised middle finger.
Just don’t raise it too high in this instance.
>> I find it hard to believe that a smart and pretty young girl will agree to marry a young man like Mohan
Not surprising given the time the movie got released. Those days, love without seeing each other, love over phone, love over letter and such weird stuff were norm.
Also the movies used to be really slow and melodramatic. Even showing drinking on-screen was considered taboo. Given all that, this movie was little ahead of its time. It would have been a really good watch had it been 17 years ago.
1. You write: Not surprising given the time the movie got released. Those days, love without seeing each other, love over phone, love over letter and such weird stuff were norm.
But love was never in Nila’s calculation.
Nila’s decision to marry Mohan had absolutely nothing to do with love. Zilch!
And she makes it clear that in her weltanschauung love will come only after marriage!
Her entire rationale for agreeing to the marriage was the pleading cassette tape Mohan sends her in which he puts her on a pedestal and claims that she gives him reason to live, blah blah blah.
2. I agree with you that 17 years back, Gokulathil Seethai would have been different from the run of the mill Tamil movies and even ahead of its time.
Mouna Ragam is also available in Youtube. It is a must-watch movie for Revathy’s flawless performance and superb background score by Ilayaraja.
Revathy used to ooze raw sex appeal in her day, very bewitching.
Mandram Vandha and Chinna Chinna Vanna Kuyil are timeless in their appeal.
Utterly crap movie.
With outdated notions about love, marriage.
Can’t see a single redeeming feature in this film.
I don’t even remember a lot, having watched it close to its release date.
Since the audience is for the most part not too demanding, the bar is very low for 99% of Tamil movies.
Yeah Indian films are generally horrible. I’ve stopped watching them, except venturing out once a year or so.
Inspite of SIs’, and my own, view on Maniratnam, it’s his movie ‘Iruvar’ that I remember fondly as being among the best Indian movies I’ve watched, long after its release date.
I can’t think of many Indian films that match the experience of Iruvar for me.
I think filmmakers are seriously constrained by the limits within which they have to work in India. And also, perhaps they are not as comfortable with the medium as some non-indian directors.
1. I’ve not seen Iruvar, at least not the full movie.
But Aishwarya Rai just doesn’t have that acting thing in her. Her looks have awed audiences and let her get away with minimal to none acting skills.
2. It’s possible Indian filmmakers may have some vestiges of talent but constrained by the urgent business necessity of having to pander to their audience to recover their investment.
Look where we’ve ended up 😀
Started as a review for ‘Kadal’ and ended up watching ‘Gokulathil Seethai’.
After all, it was Agathiyan (first Tamil film maker) who won the national award for best screenplay and direction and not Mani Ratnam. Looks like Mani Ratnam is being asked to compensate distributors for their losses. He has announced that he isn’t going to compensate citing he had sold the rights to somebody else. Wonder how much ‘he’ actually lost 😉 ?
Anyway, thanks SI. 🙂 Like I told you, I never thought the response would be this fast and I am touched by your magnanimous gesture. So you thought Karthik’s accent looked fake, eh? I personally thought it was way better than Kamal Haasan’s “I.G.R. Marar” in Unnaipol Oruvan.
Noticed your Hollywood section. Here are some for your consideration:
“Field of Dreams”
“Fried Green Tomatoes” (I was forced to watch this as I wasn’t too much into “girly” movies. But it really took me off guard).
“The Green Mile”
“Shoot em’ up” (If you’re into the ultimate “over the top” action flick)
1. You write: So you thought Karthik’s accent looked fake, eh? I personally thought it was way better than Kamal Haasan’s “I.G.R. Marar” in Unnaipol Oruvan.
I agree 100%, way better than Ulaga Madayan Kamal Haasan in Unnaipol Oruvan. Karthik brought a fair degree of charm to his role.
I’ve read reports that Unnaipol Oruvan was a dud at the box office and added a big pile to Ulaga Nayagan Dr.Kamal Haasan’s debts.
2. I think Mani Ratnam will end up throwing some crumbs to the distributors just to stop their galatta (disturbances). That’s the way the system works in Kollywood.
3. The Hollywood and foreign film sections are anemic on SI and need to be beefed up. Will do so this year.
Unnaipol Oruvan was successful at the box office. It was made in a very low budget.
Behindwoods has it listed as the 2nd most successful movie of 2009.
Sify has listed it as a “Hit”
But, the movie was a DUD in every other sense.
One of the Tamil review sites KollyTalk had a piece in December that Kamal Haasan had incurred losses on Unnaipol Oruvan.
The story has now disappeared. But if you google “Kamal Haasan does not own a house of his own” and then click the cached version of the KollyTalk result you can see the story.
I do have the screenshot but I’m too tired to optimize the image and upload it.
It’s hard to know for sure what’s a hit and what’s a flop with Indian movies because actors like Akshay Kumar have pioneered the trend of hosting “success” parties even if the movie receives a poor response!
Now every movie has a “success” party three days after release! 🙁
Yes, Kollywood “Success” parties should be called as Suckcess parties.