Kavin in Star
Kavin in StarYouTube screengrab

Star review: Kavin’s coming-of-age drama is moving despite inconsistencies

Director and co-writer Elan presents a struggle-ridden, coming-of-age story entertainingly, with a superb Kavin who shoulders it well.
Star (Tamil)(3 / 5)

Young Kalaiarasan (a wonderful Kavin) decides to dress up as Tamil poet Bharathiyar–who famously had a twirled moustache– in a fancy dress competition. His father Pandian (Lal) tells him he should do so well that the audience should forget that he does not have a moustache. 

Paying heed to his father’s words, the young boy stuns the audience, and this scene is what later defines the narrative of Star, directed and co-written by Elan. 

Following the carefree, happy-go-lucky Kalai, Star narrates the story of a young man from a middle-class family and his cinema aspirations. Encouraged by his doting father Pandian, Kalai holds onto his acting ambitions throughout his engineering degree and after. Once the degree ends, Kalai finds himself thrown into the deep end of the real world where he realises that cinema is a world apart from college plays and cultural events. The rest of Star tells the trials and tribulations Kalai faces and whether he achieves his dream or not. 

Tamil movies are often infamous for their quick fixes, especially with movies that follow the lead character’s ambitions. However, Star takes a different approach. Hurdle after hurdle is placed on Kalai’s path and the audience is kept in the dark about where his life would take him. As the movie progresses, it would not be a surprise if the audience wanted to give a piece of their mind to Elan for letting Kalai suffer endlessly! However, some parts of the film do seem like quick fixes to help Kalai - whether it is a campus recruiter offering him money to pursue his acting dreams or his mother (Geetha Kailasam) having a charge of heart about his acting career overnight. 

Star, however, falters in the second half. Though some scenes have high emotional payoffs, the film gets distracted from the original plot. This distraction also slows down the pace of the earlier half. Nevertheless, the climax does make up for the diversion. 

The humour, especially during the first half, is organic, keeping the narrative alive. Yuvan Shankar Raja’s music lives up to the hype – from young Kalai’s Bharathiyar performance to the very last scene, Yuvan’s music tugs at your heartstrings and adds to the emotional graph. Ezhil Arasu’s cinematography, particularly in tense moments and during the climax, is laudable. Through his camerawork, he keeps the audience on edge and anticipating when something might go wrong with the protagonist. 

Kavin nails the role of the tortured artist. He is merely a shell of his former, cheerful self in the second half, and the transition is convincing particularly in a scene where he is unable to look at himself in the mirror after a life-changing incident. His resilience on screen is a treat to watch and whether it is grief, self-doubt, or joy, Kavin excels in portraying Kalai. 

Lal as Pandian is simply superb. He is unlike the grouchy, pragmatic fathers of sons Tamil cinema is used to. The relationship between Kalai and Pandian is heartwarming, with moments of humour, especially when both are at the receiving end of Kalai’s mother’s anger. It is also refreshing to see a healthy father-son relationship instead of the usual overbearing mother coddling her precious son and the father being the ‘bad cop’. 

Geetha has perfected the role of the feisty, spirited mother who only wishes the best for her son and does the same in Star. Kalai’s college sweetheart Meera (Preity Mukundhan) is a slight departure from the usual romantic leads of the hero as she has a mind of her own and does not shy away from calling out his toxic behaviour when she has to. Surabhi (Aditi Sudhir Pohankar), another female character, on the other hand, is your average manic pixie dream girl or the ‘loosu ponnu’ in colloquial terms. Her backstory seems forced and her character comes off as ‘cringe’. One cannot help but wonder if a woman was consulted when Surabhi’s character was written. 

A notable moment in the story is when the film takes a refreshing stance on moral policing in colleges. Kalai even says how there is a man behind a woman’s defeat while trying to call out institutional sexism. But, the same sentiment does not extend to Kalai’s sister (played by Nivedita Rajappan), who we are told nothing about. Did her dreams take a backseat because her family could not afford to have more than one dreamer? Were her ambitions ‘defeated’ because of the men in her family? A little more definition would have been great. On the whole, the women characters in Star could have used a little more depth though some are quite memorable.

Despite some inconsistencies, Star works well because Elan presents a struggle-ridden, coming-of-age story entertainingly. Tamil cinema has been experiencing a drought in theaters and Star brings some rain to the audience. 

Disclaimer: This review was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the film. Neither TNM nor any of its reviewers have any sort of business relationship with the film’s producers or any other members of its cast and crew.

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