I saw Thevar Magan after a very long time today. The last time I saw the film, I was probably a small boy. Watching it today after a long time brought in an interesting pattern of viewing the film’s content. That Kamal heavily based Thevar Magan on The Godfather is a known fact; what with him turning gang wars into clan fights with Barzinni becoming Maya Thevar and Vito Corleone becoming Periya Thevar, the patriarch of a troubled family, and Kamal reprising Al Pacino’s role of the son, who takes over the mantle from his father, having a wastrel of a brother, the father not approving of more than one marriage holding parallels with Vito Corleone being strict on dalliances with women, the Don dying of a heart attack playing with the grandson and Periya Thevar dying playing with his granddaughters, Michael loving a city bred girl but going on to marry a country bred Italian girl and Sakthi’s love affair with Banu and his consequent marriage with Revathi and Appolonia dying in a car blast and a blast ripping apart a chariot; makes Thevar Magan faithful to The Godfather, modified to desi tastes. However calling Thevar Magan just that would not be a right assessment. That it struck a chord then with people from all walks of Tamil life is a proof of the ethnicity and realism that was very well depicted in the film.
However the fact that the film has more to it than meets the eye is evident from this excellent review. What I am to record is what I observed upon watching the film. It may have been observed before and also written about in depth. Anyway, coming to the point, I see a running parallel with Mahabharatha throughout the film. The basic premise is that it is a struggle between paternal first cousins. This might be a very basic similarity but however, as we go into the film, we are able to see that Sakthi’s activities cause heartburns to Maya Thevar, who remarks to his father, Chinna Thevar, that Sakthi has arrived yesterday and is getting more attention than Mayan himself.
Of course, the interaction between a reluctant Sakthi and a determined Periya Thevar has been likened to the Bhagavad Gita with Krishna goading a reluctant Arjuna to do his duty and not run away. To apparently reemphasize this very point, Sakthi touches a copy of the Gita as he goes to meet people after taking over his father’s mantle (after Periya Thevar’s death).
The similarities do not end here. To suggest that the similarities are not mere coincidences, the lawyer (a scheming Sakuni perhaps) says to Chinna Thevar, “Thevar vaal, idhu dhaayam vilayaadara madhiri“. The game of dice indeed, with apparent success going from one side to another; Sakthi opening the temple and Yesakki’s arm being chopped in retaliation, Periya Thevar’s men burning down the huts of those who chopped the arm and Maya Thevar plotting and drowning people in retaliation; it is indeed a see saw battle. Like with the epic, the film does not try to moralize as to who is right.
If this is not enough, what clinches the argument, or at least seems to clinch it for me, is the fact that trouble really starts to explode over a piece of land. It was the very land that caused the great war of Mahabharatha. Like Duryodhana tells Krishna, “I will not give a needle point of territory”, Maya Thevar is not ready for any reconciliation that Periya Thevar proposes. It is either you win or I win and no treading the middle path. The ensuing game of dice seems to go the way of Sakthi with him managing to break open the fence and open the land. However, in a court of people, Maya Thevar hits back and what is at stake is the honor of a woman. Sakthi saying “Enakku Mayanoda soozhchi ellaam varaadhu” seems to me to be a direct reference to Dharmaputra being hoodwinked by Duryodhana. Sakthi does save the honor of the woman in front of the court by marrying her. To emphasize this further, Banu asks, “What’s your name?” to which the girl replies “Panchavarnam” or rather, 5 hues. I think it is only a subtle reference to Panchali.
The final confrontation is also a chip off Mahabharatha. Dhritarashtra and the elders eventually advise Duryodhana but he pays no heed. Mayan has been left to grow to such a state by his elders. Duryodhana hides inside a lake with a whole army searching for his location. He is caught talking to the 3 survivors from his camp. Similarly, Mayan is hiding inside a godown with the police force hunting for him and literally jumps up from the basement like he would from inside a lake and is caught talking to his mother. This could be reading too much into the film and the epic but the way it was depicted seemed to be a loose reference to the epic. The other references however are not loose coincidences but well thought out take away pointers from the epic which gives a more earthy feel to the film.
Eventually neither Dharma nor Sakthi get any happiness over the apparent victory over their respective nemeses.
The film is deceptively deep in the sense that it borrows heavily from The Godfather but maybe what makes it so ethnically wonderful and desi is that Kamal was delving deep into The Mahabharatha.