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Pariyerum Perumal Movie Synopsis: A law student from a lower caste begins a friendship with his classmate, a girl who belongs to a higher caste, and the men in her family start giving him trouble over this.
Pariyerum Perumal Movie Review: Two deaths bookend Pariyerum Perumal, debutant filmmaker Mari Selvaraj’s hard-hitting anti-caste drama. The first death is that of a dog while the second one is that of a man. The dog’s death is a sorrowful affair for a group of people, who even give it a proper funeral. The man is someone for whom this group of people is worse than a dog just because they belong to a different caste, one which, he believes, is lesser than his!
The film’s protagonist, Pariyerum Perumal (Kathir) is from this group of people, and the dog, Karuppi, belongs to him. Pariyan aspires to become a lawyer and the plot begins when he joins a law college. There, he faces embarrassment, initially, because of his poor English, but this also enables him to strike a friendship with Jothi Mahalakshmi (Anandhi), who begins to help him out with the subject. But Jo’s higher caste family is threatened by the relationship and starts troubling Pariyan. Can the youngster stand up to their might?
With scenes that supebly capture the immorality of caste discrimination, Mari Selvaraj paints a powerful picture of the inequality that exists in our society in the name of caste. In the opening scene, we see a group of lower caste men and their dogs bathing in a small tank. They see a group of higher caste guys coming and make their way home. The other group reaches the place and we see a guy pissing in the water, exclaiming that they should put the lower caste guys in their place. Later, in an even more shocking and revolting episode, a higher caste man will piss on a lower caste man after his group had beaten the poor fellow black and blue.
The director also effectively shows us how (dis)honour killings are passed off as accidents and suicides (one of these references the infamous Kausalya-Shankar killing). We get a character, an old man who is a hired killer, who proudly describes the murders that he commits for caste as “Kula saamikku seiyyara sevai”. In a scene, we get to see a high-caste father tells his daughter’s low-caste boyfriend that he shouldn’t see her because the men in his caste would kill his daughter as well.
But as much as it details caste-based violence, Pariyerum Perumal is filled with idealism and optimism. A scene at the principal’s office, where the principal motivates a disillusioned Pariyan offers a whistle-worthy moment. Similarly, a scene at the hospital between Pariyan and his mom is charged with emotion.
If there is a fault, it is the way the female lead is presented. Jothi Mahalakshmi comes dangerously close to the ‘loosu ponnu’ archetype and Anandhi’s performance feels fake. But the supporting characters are well written – Yogi Babu who appears as Pariyan’s friend, that of of the principal, Jo’s father (the always excellent Marimuthu) and her cousin (Lijeesh). Then there is Kathir, who superbly carries the film on his shoulders with a performance that never feels overdone.
And the filmmaking is top-notch. Santhosh Narayanan’s subtle score enhances the emotional power of the scenes while Sridhar’s striking visuals are very much memorable. But more importantly, the film never feels preachy, and unfolds as a tense drama. The message is always in the foreground, but Mari Selvaraj doesn’t sacrifice his narrative for its sake. And that is something worth appreciating in a filmmaker.