Note: Although this piece doesn’t contain any spoilers, I’d suggest you watch the film, and then read it. But you’re already here, so you can just scroll down as well. No one’s stopping you.
While I’m taking my time to write about Vetrimaaran’s Asuran, I couldn’t refrain myself from talking about a little scene and three shots in it, which masterfully demonstrate how a skilled filmmaker uses the whole frame to talk in-depth about characters and narrative.
Here are 3 shots from the film which are from a scene in the flashback.
The scene is set in the collector’s office, and the context is, Sivasaami’s(the protagonist) brother Murugan along with advocate Venugapal Sheshadri are at the collector’s office to fight for their ownership of the fields that belong to the people of the lower caste, the oppressed. The ones being accused of forcefully seizing their fields are the higher caste, the oppressors led by Viswanathan. Venugopal is arguing on behalf of Murugan, to get their reclaim their ownership.
In the very first shot, we see Sheshadri gazing at the camera as he sits with the oppressed. It is clearly established that he is the core of this scene, as their representative and the fact that he is their with the support of the law is emphasized with the state emblem of India being visible. This is because Sheshadri is using the law, and going by the system to empower the people he is representing.
The most interesting one out of the three, is the collector’s perspective, which is a neutral perspective from where both the factions appear equal. It essentially suggests that the audience play the judge here as both the parties begin the debate. And, the difference between them is evident. The oppressed wear dark and clothes of colour whereas the oppressors are mostly in light colours. This goes with the saying that the wealthy can afford to wear white garments whenever they wish as the stains hardly matter to their privileges. Another interesting point to be noted is Sheshadri, who is in white, the colour of the privileged, despite representing the underprivileged. This is because he is an educated person who has built respect and stature for himself. The segment does he belong to, is never mentioned throughout the film.
Then, Sivasaami comes but waits outside the office, while keenly examining the proceedings. Because at that point, he is not actively involved in the movement which his brother and Sheshadri are leading, and hence, he is an outsider, Further, it would have been obvious to place Sivasaami, the protagonist at the centre of these two groups. But he is slightly towards the left, on the oppressors’ side. Again, because, at that point of the narrative, Sivasaami is working for Viswanathan, the head of the oppressor clan, and so, in a way is close to him, even though his own brother is fighting against Viswanathan. In this shot, when the conversation is between these two groups, there is no sign of law and order, because it’s a nasty fight that cares no system.
The shot changes when the collector intervenes the dirty argument, we see the state emblem hanging on the wall behind him. But it’s behind, who cares, at least in this universe created by Vetrimaaran? But wait, is it a creation of the filmmaker or a mirror to the reality’s face?
With just three shots from a little scene, there is a ton of detail to be deciphered. This is what we get when a filmmaker displays utmost passion and respect of their craft and treat it the way it is supposed to be- as an art form.
Asuran is now streaming on Amazon Prime Video.