A chocolate wrapper is thrown out the window of a bus by a girl. Two guys who have been 'sincerely loving' her decide to fight over it. I didn't feel like I was behind a fourth wall. I was in the vicinity of the shoot just like everyone else and was watching these fools rolling over each other after hearing "Start..Camera.. Action." Oh wait, K S Thangasamy is just learning.
The scene sequence mentioned above has little to do with the principal characters of Raatinam. The lead character here is Jayam (Lagubaran), who courts a girl, Dhanam (Swathi), and decides that all is fair in love and war. If this is going to be another example of Kollywood's idealized definition of love conquers all, we need to see where both characters are coming from and feel for them. Lagubaran maintains the same look- a blank, lost stare into nothingness. A side profile take of Swathi smiling doesn't do the trick either. Looks like Director Thangasamy thought that playing these two clips over and over again, would let us see Jayam and Dhanam through his eyes. We don't.
The more derivatives we see of this kind of a love story, the more superfluous they become. Even those that head the Kaadhal/ Subramaniapuram way have become predictable. We need to be invested in the lives of these characters and empathize with them for such stories to still matter. But, Jayam and Dhanam are empty headed characters with a unidirectional motivation. They both hail from respected families extending from different wings of the same political party. Their love affair sends a wave of disturbance all the way up to the leader of the party. The families, at both ends, have a lot at stake and latch on to the humane optimism that things will settle down by themselves. Irrespectively, Jayam and Dhanam are bent on doing one thing and one thing only, pursuing their relationship; as if they were extremists sticking by an ideological choice made after a personal awakening, the memory of which no longer remains. What makes it even harder for us to side with 'the good' is that 'the bad' seem more reasonable. Dhanam is a minor, still a student who spends a fair share of her time riding far away with the older Jayam, even if it is at the cost of skipping classes.
Nevertheless, Thangasamy has got some of the ingredients right and Raattinam becomes so much better in the second half. The colours are toned down, the final musical montage ('Yakkai Suttrum') creates mood and the visual of the giant wheel is strangely arousing. Raattinam looks and feels better than it is. I like that the family members, on both ends, aren't demonized as overbearing villains. They restrain themselves as much as they can, before finally crossing moral boundaries... things get bloody ugly.
There are highs and lows in this Raattinam. Thangasamy is far more adept at handling serious drama than he is at pointless comedy. He directs his actors with ease and naturalism even though the characters he has written for them are hardly flesh and blood. Playing Jayam's brother, Thangasamy delivers the goods. Raattinam might be Thangasamy's debut venture but it seems quite personal. The film consistently improves and although it fails to hit the mark, you see that Thangasamy's learnt a great deal about filmmaking.