If it cannot hold and protect the trees, the soil is useless. If it cannot empathise and care for others, the heart is useless — Thirukkural.
The first episode of the Netflix anthology Navarasa titled Edhiri, or enemy, directed by Bejoy Nambiar, symbolises the emotion (rasa) of karuna (compassion). It is not surprising that Edhiri’s makers could extract an excellent performance from its cast with three of the most brilliant actors occupying the screen space — Vijay Sethupathi, Revathy, and Prakash Raj.
Edhiri unfolds with a Kannadasan poem in the background. “Manithan enbavan deivam aagalam” (A human can become god). The screen splits into two with Revathy (Savithri) on one half and Vijay Sethupathi (Dheena) on the other - both on the streets.
The camera then takes its course to Savithri's house, where she teaches kids.
Dheena arrives at her house and gets closeted with her husband Sivaraman. The discussion inside the room, which is a mystery to Savithri and the audience then, and the subsequent acts of these characters form the crux of the opening episode.
The dynamics of revenge, guilt and compassion resonates in different perspectives of these characters. Actions can be borne out of anger, empathy or compassion as these characters suggest. And if you own up the blame will the overwhelming emotions triggered by the chain of events wither away?
The filmmaker throws this profound question to the audience without making a judgement.
Director Bejoy has aptly cast Revathy to unleash a stunning performance laced with subtle grace. The transformation of her varied emotions of grief, regret and compassion are all class acts on screen.
Vijay Sethupathi explores the depths of anger with explosive brilliance and even with lesser screen space, Prakash Raj comes up with a virtuoso act.
When Dheena asks for forgiveness, Savithri asks “When I didn't do anything that had to be done, how can I pardon or punish you?” Who is entitled to take these decisions in life? Can humans become god? Who is your Edhiri? Who decides your life? Will it make any change had you taken a different step in life? Bejoy asks so many questions through Edhiri.
The film also ends with a melodious track titled 'Yaadho' sung by Chinmaya Sripada and composed by Govind Vasantha. Chinmaya Sripada’s voice resonates with the emotions on screen and prompts us to ponder on our life decisions and how it might have affected others' life.
Mani Ratnam himself penned the story for Bejoy Nambiar’s film and Vijay Sethupathy has contributed to the terse but powerful dialogues.
Navarasa is a must-watch for those who are curious about compassion — an emotion that we express rarely compared to other navarasas.
In short “Yaarukenru aludhapodhum thalaivanagalam manam manam adhu kovil aagalam” (When one cries for the problems of others and helps, he becomes a great leader. Such a heart with this quality become a temple).
Navarasa is the brain-child of Mani Ratnam and Jayendra Panchapakesan in a bid to help the film industry workers, whose lives were affected during the COVID-19 pandemic. The actors and directors have charged no remuneration for their work.
Navarasa is now streaming on Netflix.