Directors of Tamil cinema are gradually picking a taste for making period drama. After Ponniyin Selvan and August 16, 1947, in-comes Yaathisai. The film tells the tale of a revolt spearheaded by a man from one tribe on another to free his tribe and have a kingdom of their own. Actors Shakthi Mithran and Seyon Rajalakshmi have depicted the lead roles in the drama. Story teller Dharani Rasendran has written and directed the film. So, how has the historical fiction action-adventure film come out? Will it help establish a bankable lead artist image for actors Shakthi Mithran, Seyon, and Rajalakshmi, and be a memorable debut for film maker Dharani Rasendran? To know that let us get into the movie review.
The film is set between the period of CE 670-710, where is revolves around the combat between the celebrated Pandiyan king Ranadheera Pandiyan (Shakthi Mithran), and Kothi (Seyon), a fictional fiery warrior spearheading the Einar clan. Yaathisai opens to an old man reciting to a kid the folklore of king Ranadheera Pandiyan which encompasses his prominent victories over various clans and kingdoms, and his accession to be the king of kings. The story unfolds through his narration. The defeated kings and clan leaders were driven out of their homelands. One such king is Uri, the ruler of Chola kingdom who has been in exile in a dense mountain forest along with his allies looking for the right moment to attack and reclaim his kingdom. In the meantime, Kothi, a young warrior from the Einar clan, which also suffered defeat at the hands of Ranadheera Pandiyan, learns about Uri’s presence and comes to meet him. He divulges his plan to assassinate king Ranadheera Pandiyan who is basking at a chola fort.
In case of Kothi’s success, Uri pledges to come to his aid with his force if Ranadheera Pandiyan’s army and allies come for retribution. Kothi returns to his village and starts gathering men to join his mission to take down Ranadheera Pandiyan. He deploys moles to learn about the moment of Ranadheera Pandiyan. Opportunity presents when one of his infiltrators reveal about Ranadheera Pandiyan’s scheduled visit to a hill top temple. Kothi prepares his men and offers sacrifices to the gods before embarking on the mission. They ambush king Ranadheera Pandiyan convey. But his small troop fights back in an extraordinary way. After severe mutual destruction, Ranadheera Pandiyan manages to escape with some of his men to an adjacent hill. Kothi marches to Chola fort and crowns himself as king. He dispatches envoys to inform the developments to Chola king Uri. Learning about it, Ranadheera Pandiyan’s men capture and kill the emissaries to prevent the news from reaching Uri. What will happen of Kothi, will Ranadheera Pandiyan manage to pull an army together and recapture the Chola fort, or will Uri run amok and sabotage his plan, is what makes the rest of the flick.
To give credit where it is due, debutant director Dharani Rasendran has accomplished a spectacular feat with limited resources in hand. He demonstrates a strong hold over his craft. It is largely his meticulous work that lifts Yaathisai above the mediocre zone. The film – unlike general period dramas that glorify bloody wars, sing praises of kings, and their assumed valor – speaks of the raw vicious nature of war and the megalomaniac men who use honor, glory, and dignity to delude people into fighting their wars. This is the underlying theme of Yaathisai. Despite the well-choreographed stunt pieces and thumping background score to build mass moments, it always subtly keeps transmitting the message through splendid scene staging and dialogues. Since it is not a commercial hero that is on the wheels, the storyteller has more freedom to create space for the rest of the characters to breathe and not just hop in and out of the flow to sever the primary character. This way we get to see how their lives are impacted by the decision of individuals with absolute authority.
The interesting aspect of Yaathisai is how the budget constraint is remarkably compensated by fine cinematography, art work, and performances. To a large degree, except for a few CG portions, the visuals of the film are brilliant. Art works in low budget films would probably have a repelling effect on us. But here it is done with a bit of inventiveness and great effort. Usually, movies with a shoestring budget commit a common lethargic blunder of casting poor artists. But the casting unit does proper work in the department and turns it into the biggest strength of the film. The drama has its share of drawbacks too. But at the end of the day, the dedicated work of the whole team is sufficient to persuade us to overlook them.
For a newbie artist, actor Shakthi Mithran has done a commendable job. He has got under the skin of his character and brought it to life. His striking physic contributes to bring in the majestic and warrior shade of his character. But the actor does overplay occasionally. Actor Seyon has equally put on a good show. Actress Rajalakshmi has brought her own aura to her part, and elevates it to a different level. She demands her presence be felt. Actress Vaidehi Amarnath has a substantial bearing in the plot. She has done complete justice to her part. Actor Sabthaseelan is effective but inconsistent in his task. Actor Guru Somasundaram serves the purpose for which he was brought on board. Actor Chandrakumar makes an impact even in a limited screen time. Actress Semmalar Annam lives up to her role. Actress Subathra Robert is functional. Actor Samar is operational. Actor Vijay Seyon is adequate. The rest of the cast has equally delivered an impressive performance as that of the lead actors.
On the technical front, music director Chakravarthy’s songs are fascinating. They evoke a sensation of that of ancient music. Even his background score adds value to the film. Cinematographer Akilesh Kathamuthu has covered the drama from the best vantage points possible. His visuals are colorful, and aid in setting the historic backdrop of the flick. Art director Ranjith Kumar deserves a mention for his superb artwork. Editor Mahendran Ganesan has put his scissors at the right spots to cut out the junk clips enhancing the work of his colleague.
On the whole, Yaathisai is an absorbing period drama that displays the dark ugly facet of monarchs and wars waged in the name of glory instead of glorifying them.