Sarvam Thaala Mayam

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Sarvam Thaala Mayam Movie Synopsis: A mridangam maker’s son, who aspires to learn the instrument from a maestro and become a mridangam player, has to cross social and personal barriers to reach his goal.

Sarvam Thaala Mayam Movie Review: In an early scene in Sarvam Thaala Mayam, Johnson (Kumaravel), a mridangam maker, tells his son Peter (GV Prakash Kumar), who has started to entertain notions of becoming a player by learning under the maestro Vembu Iyer (Nedumudi Venu), that doors will shut on his face if he ever tries to pursue his daydream further. “I will break open the doors if I have to,” Peter retorts.

Very soon, we see Peter standing at the gates of Vembu Iyer’s residence. But as Johnson had predicted the gate is shut the moment Mani (Vineeth), Vembu’s disciple and assistant, hears that Peter has come with the hope of learning from his guru. Peter doesn’t smash open the gate, as he boasted, but ensures that the maestro gets a glimpse of his potential. But Vembu is a traditionalist to a fault. He cannot imagine that a person with the social status of Peter can learn the intricacies of playing the mridangam. However, with sheer doggedness, the youngster manages to convince the veteran to give him a chance. The gate is finally open for Peter, literally! But both guru and sishya have their own internal and external battles to fight, especially with Mani plotting to ruin both their lives and reputation.

Returning to the director’s chair after 18 years, Rajiv Menon gives us a film that is highly topical. Like last year’s Pariyerum Perumal, it talks about caste, but without pointing fingers. At the same time, it gets across its message of inclusivity and meritocracy. The narrative is fleet-footed and doesn’t let the seriousness of its themes weigh the film down. And the film is refreshingly visual, despite being a drama. The gates of Vembu Iyer’s house become literal representation of the central conflict. In one scene, Rajiv Menon films Peter from an upside down angle to convey the fact that the complete transformation of the character. And in another, a rudraksha that Vembu Iyer gives to Peter acts as a visual metaphor for knowledge transfer. Rather than dialogues, visuals are used to denote caste.

The naturalistic performances only enhance its appeal. While every actor feels perfect, Nedumudi Venu towers over them all with his commanding performance which makes us empathise with a flawed genius like Vembu Iyer. The handheld shots (Ravi Yadav is the cinematographer), AR Rahman’s minimalist score and the sync sound combine to give the film a touch of intimacy.

And this is why some of narrative decisions in the second half come across as mere contrivances. The romance between Peter and Sarah (Aparna Balamurali), despite its progressive approach towards pre-marital sex, seems shoehorned in; the use a cross-country journey as a means to inform us of a character’s internal growth feels like a cliche; and most importantly, the use of a reality show as a means to amp up the drama.