[There are some spoilers in this post, you have been warned. This neither a review, nor an explanation of plot points.]
For me, a movie is good if I liked it. That's pretty much the only benchmark I have. I might have a lot of complaints about it, there might be several things that aren't technically right or illogical, but it doesn't quite matter as long as I come out of the theatre without a headache(ref. Lingaa - what the hell was that?).
It is said that when Balu Mahendra was 'accused' of not being able to make crowd pleasing masala movies, he made Neengal Kettavai with all those elements regarded as crowd pleasing, title being something of a slap to those accusers - here, I've given you what you asked, now what?
Uttama Villain is Kamal's or KB's (there isn't much of a difference in this context) Neengal Kettavai of sorts. In the post movie discussions with my friends, all of us pretty much agreed upon the possibility that KB and Manorajan swapped roles, Margadharisi being Kamal. It was as if KB asked Kamal for a swan song. I am conflicted between trying to find deep, underlying meanings in every dialogue, and just sitting back and be entertained. I thought I'll be able to write a coherent post reflecting on this but I will spare you the pain and make discrete points about what made Uttama Villain work for me. (It is fitting because the movie in itself (and the movie within the movie) was a set of discrete scenes - like a highlights reel).
- KB. It is probably really cold of me but I honestly don't know if Uttama Villain would have worked at the same level for me if KB was still around. This disturbing thought has been lingering on my mind ever since I came out of the movie hall.
- I really like plays. In retrospect, what seemed like actors going overboard with their acting is in fact Kamal and KB going back to the first principles of acting - emoting without subtlety. This definitely wouldn't have worked in, say Panchathanthiram, but it most certainly did here. May be KB wanted to do a drama after all, for one last time.
- I wouldn't want to be Ramesh Aravind :) People aren't crediting him at all. That seems unfair. I don't know how much of a free hand he had in dictating how things shaped up, may be it was a new experience for everyone involved, but it could also be that he was so good at directing that it didn't stand out at all. Like Mysskin said to Madan after Pisasu, (and I paraphrase) if people start noticing the camera work, or the lighting, or some other aspect outside of the screenplay, in that particular scene the story has failed.
- I didn't like pithukuli Pooja at all. If it was a KB movie, may be Sridevi would be playing it? I can see her pulling it off wonderfully.
- I would have really loved to see more of Manoranjan's life. For some reason I keep thinking Abirami (the heroine in Virumandi) would have perfectly suited Yamini's role.
- The whole point of the movie could also be Kamal questioning his own battle against commercial cinema. Just as the movie was facing problems with release I was discussing with my friends that if Kamal was still making Sakalakalavallavan-esque formula movies perhaps he wouldn't be facing so many protests.
- Also just like plenty of others, I felt I saw Nagesh in everything KB did. Everything from him saying, "aiyo" to the shakes in his voice, looks like immortality is a given when you're a true craftsman.
- In the end, he didn't give us a commercial,lazy movie where the hero magically recovers from whatever disease that caught up with him. Saagavaram pol sogam undo?
I saw some brilliant writing. Youngest old man - oldest young man, touché-poosai, and plenty of other things including referencing 'Rime of the Ancient Mariner'. It was fun watching Alavandhan, Punnagai Mannan, and not to forget, Aboorva Ragangal, all revisited like a magician doing his last show, not failing to miss a single fan favourite.
This movie has been more entertaining than most movies that have come out in the recent times. May be we needed this to go back and refresh our idea of a good movie, during the times of formulaic nonsense storylines. I'll stop it here as I'm scared of repeating the same things over and over again, because theerakadhayai ketpaar undo?