Abhishek K. Venkitaraman
Being a Keralite and growing up in North, I always spent my vacations with my extended family in our ancestral home. As much as it was fun, it was at times annoying as well to spend the free time with so many people. Saivam resonated with me on so many levels. The premise of the movie is simple, extended family gathering at a plush, ancestral house for vacations and then drama ensues. Like all Indian families, there is no fun without a little drama.
Story & screenplay
A formidable head of a large family, Kathiresan(Nassar) is overjoyed when his large family consisting of three sons and a daughter, and their respective families get together at the house for a vacation. Like all families, this family has seen their share of ups and downs together and share a love-hate relationship with each other. One day the family is visiting their family temple when some unfortunate things happen. This leads them to believe that these events are occurring because they had forgotten to perform a ritual sacrifice to please their deity. The seed of superstition is sown, and each person finds a way to link the ritual sacrifice to their problems at home and work. To put things in order, Kathiresan decides that the sacrifice of their pet rooster, fondly named “Pappa” must be sacrificed in the upcoming festival. The rooster, is adored by the granddaughter Tamizhselvi(Sara Arjun). However, as fate would have it, Pappa goes missing and the drama unfolds in a small, scenic village in Tamil Nadu. What follows is a series of events where everyone has a role to play. From small, petty fights with the villagers to a childless couple in the family, each situation has a certain significance in the movie. The screenplay is in linear fashion, dragging at parts but the dramatic moments uplift it again.
Direction, Cinematography & Performances
Chettinadu lifestyle is known for the magnificent architecture of the plush, ancestral houses and the cinematographer Nirav Shah has captured this beautifully. As much as a movie is about performances, it is also about the architectural spaces and the ability of the cameraman to make the audience navigate through these spaces. There lies the real, poetic art. Saivam could have been easily a short film, but the director uses the material and spins it into a dramatic movie of two hours. The actors in this movie are not very well-known faces and this adds to the beauty and freshness of the film. Nassar and Sara Arjun are the real stars of this movie and Sara Arjun has given a brilliant performance. The slightly laid-back pace of the film only lends more to its charm. Any movie depicting a rural lifestyle demands a genuineness and rawness which the director has managed to capture. The opening credits start with a blue sky and various sounds of the village like fishermen selling their catch of the day and random conversations between people which you overhear while passing through a crowd. This sets the rural tone of the movie immediately, and for someone who understands Tamil, it will be an absolute delight to hear the local dialect.
Saivam means Vegetarianism, and this is the main theme of the movie. How human beings keep harming other species found in the nature is something to reflect upon. However, Saivam touches upon other issues like petty fights in a joint family, where you realize that family politics plays out so subtly at times that you don’t even realize. Every small temple town in South India has local beliefs, customs, and rituals like sacrifices to the deity. Coming from urban India, you might find it often silly and superstitious, but these traditions form an important part of the cultural fabric in rural India. Rural India is an entirely different universe where you might experience a culture shock. Yet, these places have their own charm, since those traditions have been kept alive by succeeding generations throughout centuries. The director succeeds in giving us a totally feel-good movie which leaves you with a smile in the end. A small, insignificant thing can grow into a family feud of magnanimous proportions in large families, and often, it is the head of the family who is seen as a failure. Love is also a recurring theme, be it a grandfather’s unconditional love for the granddaughter or Tamizhselvi’s adorable love for a rooster. We really can’t choose whom we love. If you are in for a light-hearted feel-good movie on a Friday evening, do give Saivam a watch. There is so much to love! And its really an art to spin a two-hour long movie where a rooster is the lead protagonist.
Disclaimer: The above review solely illustrates the views of the writer.