The outdated notion that modern man is more civilised than so called primitive tribes should have died with the end of colonialism and imperialism in this world.
But this fallacy continues to thrive in the modern mind and Tamil movie director Vijay emulating the mind set of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan tale – is also guilty of this – the way his latest movie Vanamagan is plotted.
Vijay should not have attempted to churn out a comedy from this movie with Jayam Ravi cast as the stereotypical character of Jara, a tribal from the Andaman islands off the Indian subcontinent.
Portraying Jara as a wild man brought out of the jungle and into the city, is an overused cliche and intrinsically unethical.
Just to draw laughs Jara nicknamed Vaasi by his `keeper’, heiress Kavya played by Sayyeshaa acts a brute damaging property and generally behaving like an ignorant savage bewildered by all things modern. (Although in flashbacks it is shown that Jara and his tribe had exposure to modern society in the form of tourists, contractors and policemen complete with vehicles and machines.)
Jayam Ravi has taken the character to heart giving an excellent performance as a Tarzan-like hero although one would wonder how he could be lured into such a politically incorrect portrayal of tribals.
Of course the director tries to exhibit the innocence, remarkable strength, physical prowess and environmental friendly qualities of Jara in several instances as reflective of the tribal communities’ general positive characteristics.
Like his helping to reunite a couple separated by their inability for personal interaction due to over indulgence with the smartphones, saving an injured tiger and protecting Kavya from her guardian, Rajashekar (Prakash Raj), her late father’s friend and his son, Vicky played by Varun.
The theme of the movie plot is noble: the fight against encroachment and destruction of the natural world by greedy industrialists.
And it is high time Tamil movie goers are educated about environmental awareness, the ravage of mother earth by greedy corporations and one’s duty to protect the natural world.
The movie would have been a great hit if Vijay had taken care to develop his plot more creatively instead of borrowing from pre-conceived Western movie notions and cliches.
One of the most disappointing scenes in the movie for me, is the scene of the CGI tiger showing its gratitude to Jara by mauling to death a sizeable team of army and police personnel who had ambushed Jara and his now lover Kavya.
At the end of the movie, a list of endangered tribals all over the world are highlighted for the audience as a public service by the movie makers.
Review by R. Sittamparam