R C Sakthi’s ‘Manitharil Ithanai Nirangala’

Imagine casting Kamal Haasan and Sridevi together in a movie but not as the romantic lead pair. Instead you place them in  fraternal roles but back them up with powerful content. Sakthi holds the distinction for notching up this feat and the movie was quite an interesting fare.

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Sakthi’s career as a film maker belied the early hopes of a great success and at the end of it he didn’t quite live up to his initial billing based on hits like ‘Manatharil Ithanai Nirangala’ and ‘Dharma Yuddham’.

The initial scenes are a bit traumatic and meant to prop up the final climax. But the story really picks pace when Sridevi, on losing her father and being alone, decides to take support from her friend (Satyapriya) who lives in a village. Here she first encounters Kamal as Satyapriya’s husband.

Kamal runs a ramshackle mechanic shop and ekes our a rather precarious living. He is short-tempered and known to love his tipple. He believes that a gruff exterior is required to ensure that the world at large does not take you for a ride. Yet he does have a heart of Gold and shares an affectionate relationship with his wife.

The village society is patriarchal and feudal in nature – and Kamal does not quite mind being from the old school. Yet he provides enough space for Sridevi to assert her influence. It is quite remarkable that nearly 4 decades ago the director tried to convey certain positive stories including promoting re-marriage for widows and showing Kamal to reform himself by kicking the bottle.

Of course not everything is revolutionary – there are some copy book elements as well. Thangavelu-Surulirajan duo, who befool the simple villagers by pretending to be Godmen, are quite hilarious. And the comic track is developed further by involving Manorama as well. Manorama shows shades of her genius though the script does not provide her adequate scope to deliver her trademark performance.

Sridevi becomes a damsel in distress who is appropriately rescued by a White Knight in shining armour. And promptly our hero falls in love with her and chases her to no end with a marriage proposal.

Sridevi’s unsavoury past collides with her present hopes and there are some tense moments as the climax builds up. The story takes in a twist or two but sticks to final commercial formula by drawing curtains with a statement, ‘all is well that ends well’. The drama seems to be bit overdone in an attempt to shock the audience but we are used to melodrama in Tamil cinema.

A lot of liberties could be taken in the movie since both Kamal and Sridevi were relatively newcomers and not reached their super stardom. The characterization is a strong plus particularly for Kamal who looks the part.

Overall a satisfactory outing and worth a watch as a re-run.

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