The tragic consequences of feminism in a patriarchal society like India were used as a theme by many pioneering movie makers in the late 70s. Indeed the storyline was prefixed just like shooting fish in a barrel. Unfortunately most of these movies did not meet with much commercial success.
Decades later we are fortunate to discover the pioneering work by moviemakers like C Rudraiah who dared to bravely venture in making meaningful cinema. He was a contemporary of K Balachander and Bharathiraja but ended up being a one-movie wonder.
It is truly a classic Tamil movie down to being a Black & White movie when the era of colour movies had already arrived. Produced on a shoestring budget the movie still did not meet with adequate returns on the box office. But it excelled in so many departments including cinematography and music.
The movie spoke a visual language that presaged the arrival of Balu Mahendra on the scene. Using English dialogues, it broke all possible clichés regarding film making. The enviable star cast of Kamal and Rajni together is something that will make us think in wonderment today. Of course the dynamics were quite different when the movie was being produced as Kamal was an established star but Rajni was still finding his feet in the industry.
Sripriya’s character seems to be dysfunctional and so it is given the social context prevailing at the times. It is quite a wonder that people so easily forget that Man is a social animal and to thrive in such a society would require one to accede space to the demands that social norms and the powers that be demand as a matter of course.
Indeed there is a thrill in being a rebel and that too one with a cause. But in some ways it is being pig-headed and foolhardy. All the more since Sripriya is not secure emotionally and is prone to making wrong moves when she is under pressure.
So the concluding line is perfect when Sripriya sarcastically notes that a woman who doesn’t know anything about woman’s liberation and is happy to focus on her home & hearth is indeed likely to have a happier life than her more rebellious sisters.
Rajni plays the role of villainous and masochistic boss but it is Kamal who is the key. He shows a rare sensitivity and understanding towards Sripriya. Unfortunately she misses to spot it or at least accept it. She indeed misses the bus in the her life – for an alliance with Kamal in a softer Metrosexual Male avatar would have suited well for independent persona.Such a move would have indeed added peace and stability to her disturbed life. Kamal could indeed morph into the modern-day male who is supposed to be comfortable with his emotions and does not mind being mindful on a person’s right to self-determination.
Instead she is caught in a warped negative script wherein avenging Rajni’s affront takes precedence over everything else. In this particular sequence the director scores rather well as he sticks to behaviour that his true to the characterization of his actors. So there is no candy floss happy ending where the wrinkles are smoothened and the cracks are papered over. Such a move may have even resulted in a better performance at Box Office and fitted the overall formulaic film making that dominates commercial cinema – a variant of the ‘Taming the Shrew’ theme.
Rudraiah’s team had other ideas and they were courageous enough to bite the bullet. And the shades of grey were rightly picked by the director who went on to give us a hard-hitting climax. This has significantly contributed to the movie acquiring a cult following with the audience.