Its rudderless and painfully long narrative aside, the Aishwarya Rajessh-starrer is still a sharp commentary on the shortcomings of a functional democracy
It was an anticipated debut: a Tamil film releasing directly on a newly launched pay-per-view (PPV) platform.
But of course, Ka Pae Ranasingam did not arrive without hiccups. The film is available to view via the PPV service Zee Plex (for customers of DTH platforms), as well as the streaming platform ZEE5. Except it cannot be viewed using the OTT platform’s mobile app, at least not yet.
‘Ka Pae Ranasingam’
- Cast: Aishwarya Rajessh, Vijay Sethupathy, Bhavani Sre, Vela Ramamoorthy, Rangaraj Pandey, Abhishek, Munishkanth
- Director: P Virumandi
- Storyline: A woman fights State apathy to bring back the body of her dead husband from abroad
Viewing Ka Pae Ranasingam via ZEE5 website was an experience, and not of the good kind. Exacerbating the displeasure of a stop-start viewing experience (slow streaming and sudden failure to support Google Chrome as a browser, to name a few) was the film’s runtime: 2 hours and 57 minutes.
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It is the kind of time the Stanley Kubricks and Alfred Hitchcocks of the world didn’t need, but for some reason Tamil filmmakers seem to. Perhaps, it was director Virumandi’s way of giving maximum movie for the rental paid (₹199) that the editor’s role was deemed unnecessary.
To put it simply, Ka Pae Ranasingam is painfully long. We are introduced to Ariyanachi (Aishwarya Rajessh) from a village in Ramanathapuram district. She is married to Ranasingam (Vijay Sethupathi), who is working on an off-shore oil plant in Dubai. One day, she gets the news that he is killed, and she is told a false reason for his death.
The future of PPV
- There are other things of note that PPV platforms must keep in mind while fixing the rental price for a film. Movie buffs in Tamil Nadu are used to paying the price quoted by Zee Plex for Ka Pae Ranasingam for a complete theatrical experience. That means: watching the film on a computer browser and watching it on the big screen with air-conditioning and Dolby Atmos sound effects are two different things.
- Also, relative to the pricing, the rental duration ought to be extended. Zee Plex affords only six hours to view the film once the play button is pressed, which, for a movie with nearly three-hour runtime, is both inadequate and illogical. If PPV services cannot afford the same luxury as an OTT platform (especially, the option of resuming playback at a later time), then its purpose will be deemed defeated.
- The other major concern is power disruptions. PPV services operating in the West don’t need to account for unplanned power outages because they are almost unheard of, unlike in our country. What if you are two hours into a movie and then the power supply in your neighbourhood fails for the next four hours? Will there be a refund?
- These questions are as yet unanswered, and these are besides issues like slow streaming. If PPV is to survive its initial interest phase, more relaxation in terms of rental fee, duration and playback time should be considered. Otherwise, PPV services will run into the brick walls fast being built by OTT platforms.
A distraught Ariyanachi then recounts her meeting Ranasingam, the water diviner, prior to their marriage. The screenplay adopts a non-linear narrative, and weaves together flashbacks and present-day happenings to give us a picture of Ranasingam — a man who leads from the front the villagers’ years-long fight to secure drinking water from the State.
Gradually, Ranasingam finds that the resistance he strived to build is fading, and so to secure the future of his family, he, too, heads abroad but never returns.
Back to the present day, and we see Ariyanachi made to run from pillar to post to bring back her dead husband: her journey takes her all the way to the Prime Minister of India; the filmmaker builds his screenplay by grabbing incidents that made headlines in the past few years and then turning them into scenes.
Due credit to Virumandi, the debutant filmmaker, for his writing (dialogues) is razor sharp in places.
There is also a touch of simplicity in the manner his scenes are crafted, an appreciable quality since most debut filmmakers fall for the trappings of Tamil cinema and try to go overboard with the drama quotient.
State apathy doesn’t hit you hard — or slap you across the face, if you will — like in a Shankar film. It happens, it is usual and there is nothing you can do to change it. There is no feeling of helplessness or desperation that these scenes leave in you. It doesn’t move you, at all, and that there is how reality sans fiction feels like. Think of the injustice that happened in Hathras days ago, and think of the nationwide outrage that followed… oh no, that was a dream!
Aishwarya Rajessh aces her role as Ariyanachi; hers is not a nuanced performance but it is a character she portrays with effortless ease. Maybe, affording your lead actor more screen time (or close-ups) could have helped.
This is the biggest gripe one is likely to have with Ka Pae Ranasingam. Vijay Sethupathi is, on paper, playing a cameo. But the spectre of Ranasingam looms large on the canvas of a film that should have instead been all about Ariyanachi. It is also a sign of how things work in Tamil cinema.
So long as this industry has more male-sponsored narratives of the female perspective of things, even the so-called ‘female-centric’ films will not permit its female lead to stamp their authority.
A tip of the hat to actor Abhishek, who despite the limited scope of his character (a Government official), was one of only three or four actors in the film who delivers a close-to-believable performance.
Despite its flaws, Ka Pae Ranasingam offers interesting commentary on State apathy. If you can gather enough patience to last its runtime in one sitting, and can also look past the shortcomings of its PPV host, Ka Pae Ranasingam can indeed be some experience.