India ,  1963
Directed by T.R. Ramanna.
A question: Let's say that you are a villager, living with your sister, who takes care of you because she is now a widower. You fancy one of the village girls, but so does the landlord's son. You propose marriage, but so does the landlord's son, and so you have to fight it out with sticks. The landlord comes up with a plan and drugs you, so that you lose the contest, and lose the girl. When you find out, they try to have you killed, burn down your house, and cause your sister to commit suicide in disgrace. Now, quick: What would you do? Think about it...ok, ready? If you decided you would make the landlord's daughter fall in love with you and marry you to exact your revenge on the family, then congratulations! You are thinking along the same lines as this movie. That also probably means that you have watched too many Indian movies, though, and should probably take a little break from them, because let's face it, that plan is really, deeply, weird.
PERIYA IDATHU PENN is a classic Tamil film starring one of the most beloved actors ever to walk the earth, M.G.Ramachandran (MGR, for short), as our noble villager with a stout heart and weird ideas about revenge. His target is Saroja Devi, who played opposite MGR in a number of films, and together they made a popular pairing. The "trifecta" comes with the addition of comedian Nagesh, who is sort of a Tamil Johnny Walker (skinny little guy with goofy voice and pencil mustache), and whose appearance in every Tamil film of a certain period seems to perhaps have been mandatory.
The music is quite good, especially a song early on that the villagers sing about the marvels of Chennai, which feels like a counterpart to the classic Hindi song "Bombay Meri Jaan" from the movie C.I.D. And it is hard to resist the number that MGR uses to romance the evil but beautiful girl he plans to take his revenge on.
The story can't sustain itself, unfortunately, over its entire 2.5 hour running time. Toward the end, it seems as though even the actors and director are scrambling to wrap up. Movements of the actors within each scene appear less well planned, and the actors increasingly "cheat out" and face the camera when delivering their lines.
Still, how can you resist the moves that MGR puts down in the opening of this song (over at youtube)?
Posted by Peter Nepstad on December 04, 2007.