A persuasive case has been made that there exists, in Tamil cinema, a ‘new wave’ of film-making. Malayan, starring Karan, is a movie that borrows liberally all the symbols of the new wave, but none of its substance. And if you are the sort of person, who can’t be bothered about the existence or the absence of the new wave, a persuasive case can be made out why you should avoid Malayan.
Karan, who has pitched himself, with moderate success, as the hero of dry-land Tamil Nadu (Sivakasi, Virudhunagar and thereabouts), is here a worker at a cracker factory. His titular character always appears with uncombed hair, a stubble that never seems to grow into a fully-formed beard and a torn banian. The factory owner is played by Sarath Babu, who is involved in a rivalry with another factory owner. Much of the first half is spend in establishing this rivalry, in which Malayan is caught up in.
Malayan is also in love with a girl played by Shammu. Director M P Gopi’s decision to lend the romantic scenes some decidedly unfunny humour robs the movie of its emotional vitality.
Karan’s character is stuck with near-angelic qualities, which can be as irritating as the manic, cliched villainy of his arch-rivals. The shrill, ennui-inducing way the message of loyalty and the need for hope for the toiling masses is delivered at end (you have to be awake till the climax if you want experience the slow progression from mere irritation to utter ridiculousness) also falls flat.
And so, even as the debate on the new wave rages on, it is clear that the challenge is not from the more conventional forms of film-making, but from the rotten parts of the ‘movement’ itself.