Cast: Vijay Antony, Satna Titus, Deepa
Indian cinema’s mother fixation has been legendary, though there has been an interlude of late. However, Sasi’s latest outing, Pichaikkaran (Beggar), with Vijay Antony and Satna Titus, breaks this silence on a subject which many Western critics perceive as Oedipus complex. This may also be an over-the-top view, but Indian films have often placed the mother as a focal point of a story. We remember the oft-repeated line from Deewar, where Sashi Kapoor tells Amitabh Bachchan, “Mere paas maa hai”. And Sasi writes an entire movie that revolves around a mother.
When the lady (Deepa) -- a rich industrialist -- slips into a coma after a freak accident in one of her innumerable factories, her son, Arul Selvakumar (Antony), is devastated. When medicine fails to revive her, he turns to a godman. Be a beggar for 48 days and do not reveal who you are, the sage dispenses his brand of holy concoction.
Caught in a strange paradox, Arul decides to relinquish his luxury car, his bodyguards, his palatial home and all his creature comforts to set off on a mission to make his mother smile again. Arul joins a group of beggars outside a temple, and after a war with his ego, he begins to extend his hand for alms. No mean task for a sophisticated, suave guy with a foreign degree and frequent trips abroad to squat on a pavement and ask for alms. But Arul’s immense love for his mother pushes him to this state of degraded depravation that strips him of all his worldly trappings -- a kind of prince-to-pauper drama.
But then Sasi, who wrote the story, cannot let his hero wander about without doing anything ‘heroic’. Arul’s ‘duty’ on the sidewalk ends at six every evening (like a hartal), leaving him free to do what he wants to do after that. Arul begins to work in a pizzeria, owned by Maghilini and her friends -- who hate the idea of working for multinationals and have turned entrepreneurs. Of course, they need Arul’s magic hand to turn the enterprise around.
When Arul is not helping around in the pizzeria -- which gives him an opportunity to fall in love with Maghilini -- he busies himself playing the good Samaritan, helping a destitute woman find a safe shelter or punching goons out of shape.
Incidentally, Arul’s marriage with Maghilini had been arranged before the accident in the factory, but she had not seen his picture yet! So while he recognises her, having seen a photograph of hers, she is in the dark about him. She falls in love with him which persists even after she finds out that he is a beggar.
Sasi’s script sways over such glaring coincidences, and there are plenty of these, which turn Pichaikkaran into an unbelievable romp, replete with beggars and goons and a woman willing to swoon over a mendicant.
One of the biggest drawbacks of many Indian movies is its lethargic attitude towards perfecting a script -- not drawing the line from one point to another with any fair degree of conviction. Pichaikkaran thus ends up as a beggar begging for credibility.
Add to this Antony’s deadpan face ( his lack of acting skills in Naan and Salim among others have exposed his limited range), and Pichaikkaran ends up as yet another novel idea -- of a man having to shed his clothes and comforts (read ego) to sink into destitution -- that comes crashing down. The film’s script is full of holes and penned with an obsessive eye for style and superficiality. See how Antony is never allowed to look like a beggar even during the hartal hours!