Feb 01 One of the few things that deserve to be appreciated in Rajiv Menon’s Sarvam Thaala Mayam, in which a Dalit boy dreams of playing in Chennai’s Carnatic music festival, is the fact the film has been made by an upper-class filmmaker. Menon doesn’t disappoint with his representation of caste-based prejudice which comes as a big relief.
Menon’s film is a musical drama where the worlds of a renowned mridangam player Vembu Iyer (Nedumudi Venu), an expert mridangam maker Johnson (Kumaravel) and his son Peter Johnson (GV Prakash Kumar), a crazy Thalapathy Vijay fan, collide and the events that follow form the crux of the story.
The first 15-20 minutes of Sarvam Thaala Mayam, which introduces us to Peter as a hardcore Vijay fan, celebrates the star’s crazy fandom through a few scenes and a peppy track, Peter Beatu Yethu. It plays to the gallery and just when it has earned the attention of the masses, the film slips into the musical drama mode. Peter’s mother is worried about her son’s future and in a lovely scene quite early on, we see her praying and asking God to help her son clear his exam. When prompted by her husband to pray that her son gets first class, she slightly hesitates to ask but gives in. It’s a lovely scene where we get introduced to the family but it’s also a grave reminder of the fact that people from oppressed community fear having big dreams.
GV Prakash nails his role as a Dali youngster named Peter.
When Peter dreams of playing at the Carnatic music festival after seeing Vembu Iyer perform from close quarters, we are introduced to the hard reality. When Vembu Iyer’s assistant, Mani, learns of Peter’s ambition, he says he should learn Carnatic music in Government College and become a teacher in a corporation school. Vembu Iyer, unlike his assistant, is not a casteist, and he’s someone who recognizes and nurtures talent. He doesn’t believe in us-versus-them, and Menon conveys this beautifully through the characters of Vembu Iyer and his student Nandu, who has to moved to Chennai from the US to learn, but is quick to become friends with Peter. He is uncaring about caste and even happily shares his collection of Carnatic music with Peter.
When Peter and Vembu Iyer meet for the first time and the latter learns about the former’s ambition, one expects the film to play out like a guru versus sishya drama. Thankfully, it doesn’t take the common route and instead Menon uses Vembu Iyer character to help Peter realise his dream. The scenes between them are a treat to watch.
Nedumudi Venu as Vembu Iyer is brilliant and he makes the character livelier than anyone can imagine. He gets everything about his character pitch perfect. From the accent to the personality and the occasional digs at the current music scenario; he nails the part with grace. GV Prakash Kumar is earnest as Peter, and he hasn’t looked so comfortable and effortless on screen in a long time. It could be because he plays a musician and he’s one in real life as well. Vineeth, Kumaravel and Aparna Murali are perfectly cast in their respective roles. The film works largely due to its casting and all credit to Menon for picking the right actors.
GV Prakash is shown as an avid Vijay fan.
Returning to direction after 17 years, Menon makes a solid comeback with a film that’s relevant, entertaining and inspirational in parts. Sarvam Thaala Mayam works fittingly both as a musical drama and an allegory about music for all, and it works because it never sensationalizes what it sets out to achieve. Credit