Tamil Reviews

Thirumanam, Sila Thiruthangaludan Review: Bringing Back 90s Style Mullets & Other Regressive Ideals

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Director: Cheran

Cast: Kavya Suresh, Sukanya, Aadhira Pandilakshmi, Thambi Ramaiah, Cheran, Umpathy Ramayya, MS Bhaskar

Cheran’s Thirumanam, Sila Thiruthangaludan has a young hero with a mullet. And a young heroine who dances Bharatanatyam in a temple when she feels down. It feels like a throwback to the 90s. This is not helped much by what feels like a very slow film built around a simple plot: a wedding that almost didn’t happen. Cheran also sounds and feels like that kind of filmmaker; making a tribute to the 90s Tamil films that had settled down after its rabble-rousing highly political early decades, to gentle domesticity.

But the professions and romances and ambitions of the film’s lead characters are definitely 2019. The mullet-ed hero is an RJ who secretly wants to become an organic farmer. The Bharatanatyam dancing heroine works at a large furniture and home decor store and zips around the city on her scooter. The others in the film run a designer boutique, work for the Income Tax office, operate a tourist cab company. And keep in touch via WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter, and an app called Duet.

This perhaps explains the background score and the music for the film. It is clearly ‘modern’ in its sound but coming as it does below visuals that have been shot and edited in a slow, old-fashioned way, it unsettles. Very incongruous, as if Cheran found ready-made background score, and just inserted it into the film without a thought.

However, the strongly written characters and performances redeem it all and one leaves the cinema hall feeling contended. And then, the questions begin.

*****

Thirumanam, Sila Thiruthangaludan is written and directed by Cheran, and produced by Preniss International, and stars Kavya Suresh, Sukanya, Aadhira Pandilakshmi, Thambi Ramaiah, Cheran, Umpathy Ramayya, MS Bhaskar and others. The film has music by Vipin Chandar.

*****

Aadhira (Kavya Suresh) and Mahesh (Umapathy Ramayya) love each other. A romance that’s been entirely carried out via Whatsapp, the two have met just twice. Aadhira works as a sales and marketing person at a large furniture store while Mahesh is an RJ. The two decide to tell their respective families and begin proceedings to get married.

Mahesh comes from a rather well to do family: landowners (Zamin family, as they refer to themselves in the film). Aadhira’s family are middle class, the kind that budgets everything and for whom owning their own house is the big ambition in life. Mahesh’s sister is Manonmani (Sukanya) who runs a designer clothing boutique and employs a full staff to run their large house. Mahesh’s paternal uncle Arunachalam (MS Bhaskar) is a god fearing man and the emotional core of this film. Aadhira’s brother is Arivudainambi (Cheran), a tax investigator who probably has an excel sheet for everything including the number of times he has borrowed the office car for personal trips, mother Vadivambal (Aadhira Pandilakshmi) who knows exactly what to tell whom and when, and maternal uncle Kumaraguru (Thambi Ramaiah).

And then, there are the other incidental characters. Bala Saravanan as Saravana, the Zamin family’s car driver, Manobala as Arivudainambi’s colleague, and Anupama Raman as a lawyer who advocates caution before wedding.

Because Mahesh’s family is rich and because he is the darling of his indulgent sister, Manonmani wants no expense spared for the wedding. Even if it means a Rs 12 lakh budget for the wedding invites, and more for other things. But penny pinching Arivudainambi fights it every step of the way. This leads to repeated altercations so much so at one point, the wedding is called off.

But Manonmani insists a wedding must happen on the date fixed, and convinces her brother and family to go meet a younger sister of her friend. On the way to Bangalore, Mahesh runs away and cuts off all contact. Meanwhile, Vadivambal has convinced Arivudainambi to compromise. Arunachalam and Kumaraguru trade backstories to explain why each family is the way they are, there’s a Bharatanatyam performance inside a temple and a – well, um, modern dance performance in an organic farm surrounded by cows and agricultural labourers, and some sitting in a dark corner of a room to cry.

A few more gives and takes, and a sub plot involving corruption on the part of a senior IT officer later, the two young people get married and Arivudainambi gets to deliver a long lecture on the foundation of a happy marriage, as well as a dowry that’s not really a dowry.

*****

MS Bhaskar as Arunachalam belts off another incredibly moving scene in yet another film, and Thambi Ramaiah as Kumaraguru tries hard to match him. Although the Kumaraguru backstory is much more tragic and dramatic than Arunachalam’s, it is MS Bhaskar who carries the scene. Clearly, practice makes perfect.

Sukanya as Manonmani speaks lines that sound women’s liberation and feminism. And clearly for Manonmani, these have comes from her own life experiences. She questions tradition, she questions those easy phrases people throw at women, especially the bride. She clearly has taken a liking to the spirited young woman Aadhira whom her brother has fallen for. In a scene, before the two families meet each other formally, Manonmani lands up at the store in which Aadhira works and behaves badly with her. Aadhira seems like she will break into tears but holds herself together, and after a moment of composing, strikes back. This greatly cheers Manonmani who believes the girl is perfect for her little brother.

But all this is few and far between. For such a strong character, her name’s hardly said on screen. She’s always referred to as ‘Akka’ or madam. Which would be fine, but Arivudainambi’s name is said oftener on screen, as is Mahesh and Kumaraguru’s. The driver’s name is uttered a few times oftener as the women’s. Even a throwaway character – the husband of Arivudainambi’s boss’s daughter – is referred to by name in the two brief scenes he appears. Clearly, the women in the film only exist as reference points in the men’s lives.

There’s a very loosely disguised reference to Sterlite in the film, and a passing reference to the Jallikattu protests, and much is made of organic farming as a way to rejuvenate our villages and our idyllic rural lives. And then Arivudainambi – and thus the filmmaker Cheran – gives a big thumping thumbs up to dowry as he hands over Rs 35 lakhs and the papers for a large parcel of land to the bridegroom on the day of the wedding.

Yeah, let’s all live happily in the 90s with our mullet hairstyles and gifts of property and jewels extracted from middle class families.

*****

The Thirumanam, Sila Thiruthangaludan review is a Silverscreen original article. It was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the movie. Silverscreen.in and its writers do not have any commercial relationship with movies that are reviewed on the site.

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