Review of Tamil movie ‘Manathil Uruthi Vendum’ by K Balachander

Veteran director KB, as he is affectionately named by innumerable fans, had a penchant for doing woman centric movies. Marked with spirited screenplay and dialogues they were indeed entertaining and iconoclastic in the 70s and 80s.

They seem a bit formulaic now as it is easy to predict the story and its twists. Still they were a welcome relief from the melodrama or mindless masala plots that  otherwise dominated our films.

KB was inspired by Mahakavi Bharathiyar’s poem ‘Manathil uruthi vendum …’ (The mind should be firm …) and he used it on couple of occasions.

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SPB and Suhasini in KB’s ‘Manathil Urudhi Vendum’                                                                     Image Courtesy – Edizon.com

He used the original song in the Tamil movie ‘Sindhu Bhairavi’ to showcase a classical singer’s (Siva Kumar) change of heart when a spunky heroine (Suhasini) demands that he should sing folksy Tamil songs as well so that the message reaches his audience. Intrigued by the challenge he decides to experiment – instead of singing only traditional verse set in Telugu or Sanskrit, he ventures to sing Tamil songs as well. Bharathiyar’s songs are an obvious choice. Symbolically Siva Kumar renders the said song seated on a rocky seashore, to be praised and rewarded by a local fisherman who stops by to listen his rendition.

KB was inspired further to use the song and used it as a title for a subsequent movie, again featuring Suhasini. The movie revolves around her and the other characters are really a peg to move the story forward. Suhasini essays the role of a dedicated nurse who is firm in the face of the many adversities that beset her including being tragically divorced. She is the sole bread earner for a big family with standard a bag of woes – ineffectual father, siblings with tragic failings including elopement, self-immolation and what not. The sob story becomes predictable and there seems to a perverse logic at play since no element of hope or optimism is permitted to last for long.

Most of the male characters are a sad disappointment – there is seems to be a dearth of credible personalities who can offset the tragic narrative. SPB plays an interesting cameo though and is entertaining as an easy-going doctor. It is interesting to spot Ramesh Arvind and Vivek in the early phase of their acting careers – one can see a spark of their talent that will serve them in good stead in future.

KB trademark style is effective as usual – taut screenplay, mordant wit and cutting dialogues regale us to no end. An interesting psyche analysis of Suhasini’s character is a charming diversion. But the movie is still not the best – the climax is fairly contrived by his exacting standards. A side plot has Suhasini exhort a petty thief to do some soul-searching and earn his living. Voila – predictably he makes amazing progress to end up as a successful businessman and Suhasini conveniently arranges a marriage for him as well. Such dreams do exist but they are not realized as depicted. Candy floss drivel certainly are not part of the realistic narrative that is the hallmark of KB’s work. In contrast one just has to see the array of troubles that bedevil the heroine where one knows that the next tragedy is just waiting round the corner.

KB, in the opening credits, provides a modern version of ‘Manathil uruthi vendum …’ that faithfully sets the tone for the tale. We get the message early and know that the movie is going to be a story of the trials and tribulations that are the narrative of a modern avatar of Bharathiyar’s ‘Pudumai penn’. (New woman).

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