‘Star’ movie review: Kavin and Lal shine, but the film only glitters occasionally

Kavin in a still from ‘Star’
| Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

There’s a lot of heart in everything filmmaker Elan wishes to tell through Star. It’s a coming-of-age story that gives ample space for its actors to shine, with several heartfelt moments one can draw parallels to, and some stirring tunes composed by Yuvan Shankar Raja. But sometimes, what we do in the name of love might not be how something truly needs to be loved, and this is the case with the way Elan decides to flesh out his ideas, and the way Yuvan’s score is used.

Let’s first get to what mars most of the portions in Star — the intent with which Yuvan’s tunes are used. The soundtrack has the composer playing to his strengths and has shades of what many call ‘vintage Yuvan’. But Star is that rare film where most of the punchlines, the build-ups to the punchlines, follow-throughs, as well as the organically-written moments are overshadowed by heavy background scores that prevent us from fully being immersed in the protagonist’s world.

Take, for instance, when a college-going Kalai (Kavin) gets on stage dressed as a woman; what he says in that particular scene is one of those mantras we utter casually, that comes back later with a deeper meaning, but a melodramatic score tells you what to feel. Where it really gets to you is when Kalai enacts a scene from a historical drama in front of his father (even the stillness in actor Lal’s eyes is enough to make you weep) and the actor wonderfully presents a character showcasing his talent, yet you wish the score dropped in only when the scene reached the right moment. If anything, such embellishments only become ironic for a moment meant to evaluate someone’s acting.

The usage of the music reflects a larger issue at play here; from start to finish, you feel a certain dissonance between what the film wants you to feel and how it goes about it with its writing, which only gets clearer with aspects like the score.

Star (Tamil)

Director: Elan

Cast: Kavin, Lal, Aaditi Pohankar, Preity Mukhundhan, Geetha Kailasam, and more

Runtime: 158 minutes

Storyline: An aspiring actor from a middle-class family tackles some harsh realities of life to become a film star

Star was marketed as a heartfelt ode to the gruelling journey most aspiring actors take to reach the limelight, and we see Kalai go from a doe-eyed kid enacting a moustache-less Bharathiyar (a stand-out opening scene) to a man who is torn between choosing his passion and the harsh demands of middle-class life.

But the realities that upend Kalai’s dreams have nothing to do with the real-world issues that plague most aspiring actors in tinsel town, and more to do with the uncertainties that life throws at you. Unfortunately, even on that end, Star is hardly a novel attempt.. You also suspect a lack of confidence in the writing when the film resorts to gimmicks to feed emotions. There’s a ‘surprise’ soundtrack that arrests you with overwhelming emotions, but only for what it means to Tamil music fans and not how it is used in the film.

This journey that Kalai undergoes is the backbone meant to support the romantic subplots we get with the subsequent entries of Meera Malarkodi (Preity Mukhundhan) and ‘Jimikki’ Surabhi (Aaditi Pohankar). But an unsettling feature in both narratives is how one breaks into the other’s room, locks one in an auditorium, or just shows up at someone’s home, all in the name of ‘love’. As is the case with most films in the genre, these romantic partners are present only to aid in Kalai’s love-hate affair with acting, but interestingly — and credit to Elan — we also see the women bring that up as a concern as well.

Kavin and Preity Mukhundhan in a still from ‘Star’

Kavin and Preity Mukhundhan in a still from ‘Star’
| Photo Credit:
Special Arrangement

Now, amidst all this, what truly touches you is the tenderly-written arc between father and son. The advice the father gives before the Bharathiyar play, the pictures he takes of his son with cut-outs of Tamil film stars, the difficult decision he makes when put on the harsh end of a phone call… the magic that happens when such writing meets great actors is where Star pays tribute to all those who dream, those who stand by them and the art of acting.

It is only the memory of these few moments — and the inert good intentions of the film — that makes Star shine even when it falls.

Star is currently running in theatres

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