Cheran’s initial movies focussed on the rural scene and were quite melodramatic. At one level the movie is just a typical village saga for family rivalries and the mindless violence that destroys many lives.
But the movie needs to be appreciated for it taut screenplay and nuanced performances that set it a cut above the run-of-the-mill films.
The movie opens with quiet scenes of a family returning to the ancestral home that now lies in shabby ruins and one is intrigued by the past tragedy that must have forced the family to abandon their roots and move to the city. Now relatively prosperous, the group of 3 brothers and 1 sister headed by Rajkiran, playing the signature role of an ageing patriarch, has decided to return for good and rebuild their old house to its former glory.
They approach Vijay Kumar whose forefathers had specialized in constructing heritage structures keeping in mind the natural environment and lifestyles of a bygone era. He in turn deputes his son Arun Vijay to the task. (A nice cameo by the real-life father and son duo).
Arun Vijay impresses the family with his approach and work ethic. He becomes friendly with Shamitha, Rajkiran’s niece. She is shown to be a well-educated girl with homely values and respect for her elders. It is the old mix that appeals to the segment since a girl with a mind of her own usually gets stereotyped as being a brat and selfish.
We have a fun moment when the couple sing paeans to friendship between a boy and girl (Thozha Thozha Kanavu Thozha…) and then promptly fall in love. It may be a minor quibble, but it is irritating that the director ends up reinforcing the age-old stereotype while trying to show a modern take on relationships.
But things are not meant to be that smooth and we learn that the family is keen to marry Shamitha to her 40-year-old ‘muraimaman’, played by Ranjith, and who is expected to return shortly after serving a 12 year term in prison for killing his younger sister who eloped with her lover. In a flashback we learn of the tragedy and the current context of the virulent hatred shown for them by Vinu Chakravarthy and his son.
Manorama plays a gem of a role as the ‘aacchi’ for joint family and Cheran makes a point about the dying preference for agriculture as people migrate to cities looking for a better life. But surely introduction of Tractors and modern technology is inevitable, and the Luddite like solution promoted in the movie cannot be taken seriously. The premise is quite a flaw coming from a professional director like Cheran.
So the feud has ruined their lives particularly for Ranjith, who will be too old and dishonoured to find a suitable bride for himself. And to address this concern and ensure peaceful life for everyone, the elders have decided on this unusual arrangement. One finds it odd to imagine that a spirited girl would readily acquiesce to such a compromise, but it is a template in patriarchal families to leave the decision-making to the elders and make peace with ones lot in life.
Rajkiran makes an allusion to mythology when he says that the pride of the Pandavas was restored when they returned from their exile to rule their own land i.e. Pandavar Bhoomi. For him and his family, the return to their village and their ancestral home marked a similar triumph – the time they spent in the city was just like an exile from their motherland.
But things move swiftly in the climax and Cheran effects a suitable face-saver whereby Ranjith is reminded of his sister when he meets Shamitha (the dual role no longer looks contrived) and is happy enough to bless the young couple a happy life. Even if it was a cop-out, the climax is a neat trick to unravel the Gordian knot that drove the story thus far.