Yuganiki Okkadu : An “Epic” Visual delight!
Release date: 5th February 2009
Director : Selvaraghavan
Music Director : G.V.Prakash
Producer : Ravendran.R
Starring : Reema Sen, Karthi Shiva Kumar, Andrea Jeremiah and others...
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Selva Raghavan’s latest film ‘Yugaaniki Okkadu’ is a rare film which tries to set a new benchmark in South Indian cinema. It’s an epic battle of civilizations which encompasses themes like racism, torture and subjugation among many other things. The film starring Karthi Shivkumar, Reema Sen and Andrea Jeremiah in lead roles was released in Tamil (titled “Aayirathil Oruvan”) earlier this year in January. Produced by R.Ravindran, the film was made with a budget of Rs.32 crores and it was under production for almost two years. ‘Yugaaniki Okkadu’ is a fantasy-adventure which narrates the story of a search party which sets out on an epic journey in search of an archeologist

What is it about : Andreah Jeremiah stars as an archeologist whose father (also an archeologist) disappears while searching for a Lost Kingdom which can be traced back to the last emperor of the Chola dynasty. The government sends a search party headed by Reema Sen and they are told that this lost kingdom is located on an isolated island near Vietnam. The search party along with a military troop and a gang of coolies headed by Karthi Shivkumar travel to this island and as soon as they reach the island, bad omen strikes the team. How did the rescue team fight back? Did they really find the lost kingdom and the archeologist? This forms the rest of the story.

Analysis: Selva Raghavan’s idea and vision behind ‘Yugaaniki Okkadu’ breaks free from all traditional conventions of how regional cinema is made in South India. The film never tries to appease the audience with candyfloss or simplistic sequences. This alone makes watching this film quite a challenge because you are expected to do a lot more than just ‘watch’ the film without using your brain. It expects you to think and understand the impact of calamity portrayed on screen and its relevance in the world today. Truth be told, these days film makers hardly ever attempt to tread down this path and as a result deliver ‘perishable’ products which deliver momentary results. This is exactly where ‘Yugaaniki Okkadu’ aligns itself differently and will remain as a truly ‘Yugaaniki Oka Cinema’. No Pun intended.

The story of ‘Yugaaniki Okkadu’ is a roller coaster ride which transports us to a whole new mysterious world filled with medieval tribes who don’t tolerate any form of intrusion on their lands. Right from the moment when the rescue team enters the island, bad omen haunts them like a shadow and continues to do so for a long time. Selva teases us with a bizarre mix of sequences which make it hard to empathize with the characters in the initial part of the film. The fear of unknown is very well established in the first half of the film and almost all the actors deliver credible performances. At a time when discontinuity between scenes mars the emotional graph of first half, Selva pitches in some cleverly written scenes which take the rescue team closer to their destination. The film’s biggest strength, however, lies in the second half which is both gut-wrenching as well as spell-binding. Almost all the characters reveal their true identity which makes the story leap out of the pages and assume larger importance rather than merely being a rescue mission. It is exactly here when ‘Yugaaniki Okkadu’ fiddles with themes like clash of civilizations, forgotten rivalries, hidden motives, racism, torture, subjugation of the weak by the strong. Revealing what this is all about would be blasphemy and you wouldn’t want me to commit that mistake.

Of the star cast, Karthi Shivkumar is more than just impressive. He’s strong, believes in leading a carefree life while being oblivious to the fact that he’s destined to be a leader. One of the best scenes in the film has Karthi just staring intently while fighting for his life in an arena. He may just be one film old, but with these two films he proves that a new star has born in the South. Andreah Jeremiah is good in her meek role who’s concerned about her father. Andreah’s on screen chemistry with Karthi is great and she carries herself quite confidently. It is however, Reema Sen who leaves an indelible impression in the film in her role as a maverick police officer. What’s more interesting is her sexually liberated characterization with loads of attitude. Parthiban also delivers a credible performance.

The film however, isn’t without flaws especially in the first half. Most part of the story is narrated through flashes of images rather than a defined form. The epic battle between the rescue team and the people in Lost Kingdom could have been handled in a better way. Also, there are several questions which are left unanswered and the excessive gore and violence is frightening.

Technical Departments: G V Prakash’s background score is stunning in the film especially in the latter half. The art and the make-up department have done a terrific job in creating a whole new look for the film. Ramji’s cinematography is truly one of its kind in recent years. The yellow, brown and grey tint used in the film along with the shades of lighting used in the film, create a visually appealing look for the film which gels well with the theme and the mood of the film. Selva Raghavan has also written the story of the film apart from directing it. Despite all the flaws which people will point out, there’s no denying that it’s a brave attempt which opens the floodgates to go beyond conventional stories. Kudos to Selva for his efforts and the two years of hard work is clearly visible on the screen.

Bottom Line: For too long, Tamil films which have been dubbed in Telugu have not been able to strike a chord with the audience. It’s about time this trend changes and for that the first step should be taken by the people themselves to shed their dogma and atleast make an attempt to appreciate films which are in a league apart. In the name of Telugu nativity, the film has been trimmed by almost 40 minutes. ‘Yugaaniki Okkadu’ will remain as a much debated upon film this year because of the content, violence, sexual overtones and why it’s good or bad! Selva Raghavan has been reiterating that it’s has all the features of an ‘international’ film and I think he wasn’t lying. It definitely has its share of flaws if you look deeply but having said that, name one film in the recent few years which has left you reeling under its impact long after you walk out? Leaving aside the debate whether it works or not, ‘Yugaaniki Okkadu’ is an example of what a visually compelling story told with conviction can achieve. The seriousness of the theme might be tough to digest, but that’s exactly what’s so good about this film. It’s definitely something which has to be seen to be believed and highly recommended if you are an avid movie buff who expects something more than just ‘entertainment’ from movies. ‘Yugaaniki Okkadu’ is a rare film and true to its name it’s definitely One of its kind.

P.S : ‘Yugaaniki Okkadu’ is a kind of film which will evoke different reactions from different people and the story is open for your own interpretation. It does not follow the typical commercial film’s format and takes a serious and realistic approach to cinema. What you have read here is a personal opinion of what I felt after watching the film. I would recommend you to use your own discretion and hence I have chosen not to give a rating to this film.

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Legend:    5 - Flawless
                4 - Must Watch
                3 - One Time Watch
                2 - Wait for the DVD
                1 - Stay Away
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