Why watch “a film by Bala”? Forget switching genres, his plottings make minor deviations from earlier films. He treats his characters (and by investment, us) like bits of paper laid bare to the mercy of a punishing storm. Letting us off only after we’ve been flushed off every emotional juice from a brutal climax. ‘Thara Thappattai’ wasn’t meant to break that cycle, but there’s other parts of the film that push me closer to Bala.

Why do we willingly turn ourselves over to Bala’s next? Despite the familiar setups, glaring trappings and predictability, Bala’s films fish out unheard voices, unseen circumstances and unfelt experiences that appeal to a part of you that’s never been reached before. Of course, the strength of Bala’s movies lie in the observations of lives, stories and struggles that happen in the same universe we share with him, but apparently in a dimernsion only he can read through.

If Bala is able to put this unique revelation down on paper, the director in him unleashes that writing into realms of Indian (mainstream) cinema very few have the guts to, while never letting this freewheeling to rob the focus, flow or intent of his films. This is not a director who sees or respects any confines of nuances or politeness.

Notorious for extracting the best from his actors through sheer brute force, Bala’s cast is brilliant as usual. Varalakshmi Sarathkumar brings an uninhibited ferocity to a character that’s burdened with sustaining Tharai Thappattai.

G M Kumar plays an uncompromising thavil player, who’s “classical” art form has seen better days; perhaps the closest Bala has come to paying homage to his guru, Balu Mahendra and their (healthy) disagreements about art.

Illayaraja’s work with Bala has always been at a different plane – one that plucks at the spiritual cord. Tharai Thappattai takes it a notch higher ’cause the story’s folk milieu and the dominance of Thavil and Nagaswaram removes every other music director from this league.

Not sure if it is Bala’s intent that he wants us to find catharsis from all the coiled-in emotions that he works meticulously on in the first two acts, the third act invariably gets heavy-handed in its attempt to strike a balance for justice.

Some people accuse Bala of spending too much time in the grim and gore of this world. Why does Bala’s light always catch the gloom and doom of the deprived? Why does his version of life sound desolate? In the film version of his ‘அக்னி பிரவேசம்’ (‘சில நேரங்களில் சில மனிதர்கள்’) Jayakanthan, speaking through his proxy Viswanatha Sarma (Nagesh) raises a question:

“எல்லாரும் இந்த மாதிரி எழுதலாமா எழுதலாமா நு சண்டைக்கு தான் வரா. லோகத்துல இப்படிகூட நடக்குமான்னு யாரும் கேகால”

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