CHENNAI, India -- Ameer Sultan's Tamil-language "Paruthiveeran" (the literal translation in English would be "the brave man of Paruthi village") traces a simple romance between a village virgin and a good hearted, but misguided hunk with a raw rusticity that becomes the high point of the film.

Inspired by a true incident in a still largely caste-driven countryside, Sultan uses a real village near the renowned temple town of Madurai in southern India and 60 non-professionals as a large part of the cast. Spinning a story of a love gone horribly wrong in a community whose people settle scores in bloody killings, the director lets prevailing customs and festivals form a backdrop to a powerful narrative.

The movie, which has done reasonable business in India since its theatrical release, opens with a long sequence at a village fair, where the characters are introduced with drums and drama: Paruthiveeran (Karthi) is a small-time crook, but one who is held in awe by the society because of his pluck and courage. Muthazhagu (Priyamani) adores him and has been in love with him since she was 8, when he rescued her from drowning in a well.

Sevvazhai (Saravanan) is Paruthiveeran's uncle, who raised him after the death of his parents. Kazhuva Thevar (Ponvannan) places family and caste honor before his daughter Muthazhagu's wishes. We know that a Shakespearean tragedy awaits us.

Thevar will not allow his daughter to wed Paruthiveeran, which would shame the family and clan. And he is prepared to sacrifice lives for this.

Inspired by Romeo and Juliet, with feuding families and bitter enmity, "Paruthiveeran" relies a little too heavily on specificity to push a universal subject. The incidents, customs and mannerisms used are highly region-specific. They could bewilder even an Indian who is not a Tamil. And the visuals often get lost in a sea of words in a strange dialect peculiar to that area. Somewhat shoddy editing doesn't help.

Fortunately, the acting is top of the line with Karthi conveying the rawness of a ruffian whose hard exterior hides a yearning for the attention and love he lost as a child. Priyamani is an epitome of defiance, a haughty young girl who guards her virginity as possessively as she does her man, bringing us the pain and pathos of a love spurned, then accepted.

Studio Green
Screenwriter-director: Ameer Sultan
Producer: K.E. Gnanavel
Director of photography: Ramji
Art director: Jaxon
Music: Yuvan Shankar Raja
Editor: Raja Mohammed
Paruthiveeran: Karthi
Muthazhagu: Priyamani
Sevvazhai: Saravanan
Kazhuva Thevar: Ponvannan
Running time -- 163 minutes
No MPAA rating