ToLet - Pure cinema that keeps it simple and effective!
Chezian’s ToLet isn’t middle road cinema that tries to balance the sensibilities of mainstream commercial cinema and art house cinema. Much like Maerku Thodarchi Malai, this is art house cinema and is as close to reality as it can get. And unlike that film, ToLet doesn’t even utilize music to convey or amplify the emotions. Set in 2007, the film captures the struggles of a lower middle class family that is fighting all odds for a very basic need – shelter.
Before getting into the film, the director lets us know that the IT boom during 2007 sent the house rental rates skyrocketing and how this played havoc on the lives of the economically weaker. But the film as such while chronicling the pain of the affected, never gets anywhere close to a zone where it is comparing the life of the family in picture with the more well off. In other words, the film’s tone is not one that is seething with anger nor does it look to milk sympathy with melodrama. Towards the end you do understand what Chezian has been up to all this while. He has just laid out stark reality aided by some very natural performance from his cast.
The acting in ToLet is solid. There is no sense of someone performing for the camera. Santhosh (Illango) and Sheela (Amudha) as the young couple struggling to make ends meet hardly put forth a false note. Chezian doesn’t feed us the specifics but we get to know a lot about them. In other words, there is a lot of detailing but no underscoring. In one particular scene, Amudha narrates to Illango about the future she envisions for her son and how they as parents should support him should he fall in love. Through this scene you understand the sort of things this couple would have faced and their current situation is also a result of their parents disowning them. Dharun who plays the kid is brilliant and is far removed from the highly artificial kids we see on screen.
ToLet is not an overtly political film but Chezian does point fingers at the absurdities in the society. For instance, the irony of people from the film industry finding it difficult to get rental homes but being welcomed with a red carpet to rule Tamil Nadu. And as the film shows, money isn’t the only parameter that dictates how others treat you. Your caste, religion and food habits are factors that would decide whether you can rent a home or not.
The animosity of the landlady was one aspect that I felt was either overdone or not justified convincingly. Illango and Amudha have been living in the house for 5 years and so there could be many reasons for the strained relationship. But it does across as a bit overdone.
Chezian’s ToLet is pure cinema that is both subtle and powerful.