A few days ago, I heard Sanjay Leela Bhansali talk in an interview about how he feels the energies or aura of great minds like V. Shantharam or Raj Kapoor at his work space. This helped him create better; as that statement was taking a major slot on my thoughts, I watched Seethakaathi. A considerably long film which will take longer to get out of your mind. I watched the film 5 days ago and it took me this long to sum up my thoughts and write about it.
Even though ‘Seethakaathi’ has a lot to talk about like the ever sensational topic – “is cinema an art form or not?”. Or it’s brilliant sarcastic take on the business aspects of the most effective medium of storytelling. It is something else that needs to be addressed in the first place, basically the spine of the film, THE UNQUENCHING DESIRE OF AN ARTIST TO PERFORM!
To give this point a more technical approach, let me tell you about the concept of ‘Dramatic Questions’ in a film. Every film can be dissected into 3 acts (Google it for more details). And in a well written screenplay, a dramatic question will be posed at the end of the first act. For example, in ‘Sholay’, Jai and Veeru arrive at Ramnagar by the end of the first act. Now ‘will they capture Gabbar’ becomes the dramatic question. Mostly the journey to the answer becomes the second act and delivering it becomes the third.
But there are a few films that will also pose a philosophical question along with the dramatic one. Example: in The Godfather “is ‘power’ powerful enough to win over a man’s morality” becomes the philosophical question. Mostly this question and it’s answer shows you the writer’s outlook on the world. Coming back to ‘Seethakaathi’, the dramatic question is a bit vague as it’s just ‘what now?’ but the philosophical question is deeper and beautiful “does an artist and his art really die?” and the answer is quite reassuring, no.
It is the yearning of Ayya Aadhimoolam that haunts you even after the film ends. We are introduced to him on the stage, we see him lastly (physically) on the stage. And when he takes off his make-up, we see that he hasn’t earned anything for himself but lived a life feeding off his momentary lives on stage. An astonishing Vijay Sethupathi portrays an endearing old man who even if given a chance won’t complain about anything. In just 25 minutes we are told evething we need to know about Ayya. May be he accepted the first film offer to pay for his grandson’s operation but he continued it definitely because of his hunger for acting.
What an artist needs is not materialistic wealth; it’s not a life size statue that will bring contentment to his soul but applause, love, appreciation and validation for his art. The ending of Seethakaathi is a solid statement that it is not about a body, age or gender. It is about the desire to perform. It is about the satisfaction after that makes art an experience to live for, to die for and to come back from the dead for.
Until next time, bye