Cinematography: Saloo George
Story Writer: S. Suresh Babu
Swarnam is a gripping portrait of a few lives shredded apart by the vicious forces of materialism and greed. A stark and illuminating film that’s as touching as it’s disturbing, Swarnam is a worthy watch for a few heartfelt moments and a tremendously talented cast.
Along the banks of the Shiruvani river lies a small village that believes in the legend of a golden treasure that lies buried somewhere deep down the torrents. Many men have ventured into the Chavumkayam in search of the gold and several have never returned. Divakaran (Kalabhavan Mani) is one of the fortune aspirants; a harsh and inconsiderate man with an eye for little else than money. Busy in the pursuit of affluence and wealth, he despises his wife Radha (Praveena) and her orphaned niece (Nayanthara), a faithful devotee of the Lord Ayyappa. Divakaran’s obsession leads him along a path of self-deceit and betrayal until he finds himself entrapped at a point of no return.
Swarnam works majorly due to a solid script that doesn’t much beat about the bush. Suresh Babu has no qualms demonstrating a staunch devotion, skillfully interlacing it with the black elements of hatred, spite and lust. There’s a whole lot of obvious symbolism thrown in, and the script cleverly steers clear of the formulaic potholes. However, as the redemption gathers momentum it slips off for a few moments in the climax into a theatrical finale that goes totally overboard. And then, everything’s well with the world again.
I can by now see the atheists having a fierce go at Swarnam with their cudgels. A blatant propagation of a firm faith might just be one of their many concerns about the film; rather an unadulterated assertion that the supreme power lies within irrespective of the religious convictions is likely to be met with greater dissent.
Kalabhavan Mani almost literally strikes gold with Swarnam. Coming in the wake of a spate of crass action flicks that had fast begun to make no sense whatsoever, the film puts on offer for the actor, a fantastic option to break free and get his act straight. As the callous man-monster with no ethics or morals, Mani simply startles us with a potent performance that’s quite spectacular. Radha seems anguish and agony personified at a very base level; the seething and simmering bruises within are bared effortlessly through a towering feat by Praveena who is back on silver screen with a vengeance. I wish we could see this incredible actress on screen more often especially after this awesome act that is truly worthy of a few accolades. There’s also a whopper of a show put in by the kid artiste Nayanthara, who should without doubt be one of the front-runners for the year’s acting honors.
It’s indeed disheartening to see horribly atrocious graphics barging into an otherwise smooth sailing narrative. The raw gold being graphically simulated looks like a squished firefly with the glow in tact. There is plenty of external footage of the Sabarimala as well that’s technically way off beam.
Though it’s plainness is often too apparent, and ordinariness too wholly evident, Swarnam remains a film of fine craft and control, if for no other reason than its allegiance to straightforward filmmaking with a rationale drawn clear. And it certainly is not without its fair share of charms as well.