The story has the typical Selvaraghavan stamp on it – the underdog hero easily reminds you of Dhanush in ‘Kadhal Konden’ or Ravi Krishna in ‘7G Rainbow Colony’. The heroine too is the right contrast – confident, socially skilled and upwardly mobile. Such love stories seem incredible and usually are laden with angst and guilt.
But a surprising and needless comparison was made to the classic ‘Mauna Raagam’ – based on a single premise that the heroine is forced to marry the hero due to family pressure. While the idea may piqué interest of the average cine-goer, the comparison couldn’t be more superficial than it is.
Maalai Naeruthu Mayakkam (MNM) is a typical story line that begins with a marriage set up in the early scenes and of course the couple doesn’t seems to be destined to lived happily ever after. The marriage is a meeting of two different worlds – Balakrishna is a well-educated and seemingly well-employed youngster but he is an introvert who lacks social skills and simply is that jerk / loser that any modern girl would want to avoid. Wamiqa seems to be doing well in life and is career oriented. So the way the marriage gets organized is not at all credible – even in the traditional ‘arranged marriage’ format ( ‘boy-meets-girl’ routine) it is not managed effectively.
In fact that reminds me of the specious comparison to Mauna Raagam – except for the concept of being a mismatched couple, nothing else syncs in. (Spoiler alert – don’t read further if you haven’t watched the movie and don’t want to know about its key moments). A few pointers on this would be –
- In ‘Mauna Raagam’,Mohan is a well-sorted character who is an HR Manager. He is socially competent and sensitive. His equation with Revathi goes wrong mainly because of her initial boorish behaviour. Scenes like asking Sambhar Rice in an Italian restaurant, barging on to his wife armed with a knife because she is spending the night at a friend’s place, setting up a date to make the heroine feel jealous are really implausible in this movie.
- While Revathi may be a spirited girl, she is barely out of college and is not even a career girl. Her issue with the marriage is on account of her boyfriend, Karthik, passing away in a tragic accident.
- The movie was well-rounded – the ‘Revathi- Karthik’ college romance was peppy, the movie had good comedy track and the songs were really lovely. Sadly none of this appears in MNM.
- The movie had a perfect climax. It showed the deepening of the relationship in a more meaningful manner. It played of the egos effectively as well. And yet eventually Mohan grasps the situation and makes amends in a great ending. MNM has a rather artificial ending that wouldn’t convince most people.
- Mauna Raagam also scored on how the couple handle their estrangement in a mature manner. Forget any attempt of ‘Marital Rape’, the movie gave ‘sex’ a standard go-by as was the hallmark of that generation. Mohan goes out of his way to ensure Revathi feels comfortable and is respected as an individual. (He even sets up a brusque encounter with her parents so that they would be more welcoming when she returns home).
- MNM message is more hard-hitting though and contemporary in nature. Obviously the 80s romantic idiom is not what would work for Millennials. Boy friends, premarital sex, and relationships on an equal footing are ideas that are relevant to the current generation. By modern standards Wamiqa’s character is supposed to be traditional and conservative. Thus comparing the two movies seems like comparing Apples and Oranges.
Selvaraghavan’s story (directed by his wife Gitanjali) attempts to show us the reality in the modern world – obviously there is no candy floss happiness when partners get into an arranged marriage without understanding each other’s personalities and individual needs. Marriage becomes a game like Russian roulette that you end up losing more often than not. It is not an uncommon issue as nowadays divorces have become more common and even acceptable as against remaining locked in an unhappy marriage.
So the movie journeys in a world of realism wherein only the climax seems to be a shoddy compromise. A strong character like Wamiqa should disdain a character who is described by another girl as ‘Idhellaam namma kaala suthara case’ (He is a guy who will fall at your feet and always be there for you). If that isn’t regressive enough, Balakrishna attempting a suicide at the end to convince her is again rather corny and portrays his lack of maturity in handling a tricky situation.
‘It’s difficult to narrate some love stories… We have tried’ — this statement is what opens Maalai Nerathu Mayakkam and honestly seems to admit that the story on the whole is weak especially the clichéd climax. It kind of reminds me of a situation where one falls between two stools – it’s neither the mindless patriarchal and regressive surrender to the husband nor is the heroine truly modern and a trendsetter willing to pay the price in order to break regressive themes.