Monday, September 05, 2005

Sila Nerangalil Sila Manidhargal

That this movie got made in the 1970s will be very hard to believe for many many generations to come. This is due to the condescending way with which we look at the older movies and our nonchalant feeling that the newer generations of film-makers are making better movies in the Tamil Cinema arena (I, myself, am guilty of this). The fact, I see on second thoughts, is that such gems get made once in a while. We have gems being made now as well. But, its more like a freaky occurrence. Well, in that sense, this movie is a freaky occurrence too. Perhaps, the freakiest of them all. IMHO, Jayakanthan should have written and directed more movies. He (like Sujatha - who in his screenwriting stint wrote, more often than not, for movies of much lesser worth), is no stranger to Cinema. In the preface of the book on the screenplay of this movie (available in some Tamil bookshops), A. Bhimsingh, the director of the movie [*], beams that working with Jayakanthan was a revelatory experience and he was quite awed at knowing that Jayakanthan was a fantastic screen writer and that he understood the grammar of Cinema very well.
This is a movie about Ganga (Lakshmi in a career-best role; and National Award winning role), a Brahmin girl, who gets sexually 'assaulted' (well, there is a big question mark left here which is an audacious stroke of beauty from the writing department) by a man who gives her a lift on a rainy day, and how that day changes her whole life and how she attempts at getting her life back to normalcy. The movie works at various levels -
1. a searing criticism at the way marriage/sex/women are treated by the bourgeois society.
2. a character study of a lonely woman and loneliness itself
3. an unusual love story (heck, this description sounds terrible; but, hope you get the point)
4. and above all, a movie about relationships.
When Ganga's uncle asks for her pardon, the way the film cuts to the time when Ganga leaves with him to his home and he says "I will show them what's what!" is the clearest testimony for the reason behind the movie's title apart from the study of the lives of the two protagonists.
The movie steers clear of all clichés starting from not being yet another overtly pseudo-feminist fare (which was quite an identity for "good films" of Tamil Cinema in the 80s) with its very non-judgemental look (to such an extent that it even refuses to observe from a typical feminist standpoint, though that might be the most rightful position to take) on that fatal incident. After years, when she decides to meet the man (who is then introduced as Prabhu played by Srikanth) and she even befriends him, it is very strange from her part to catch the man who raped her and ruined her whole life. The girl going after the man who 'raped' her has been the plot of many movies [**], mostly terribly handled, and as if it was a righteous thing for the woman to go for that man. But here, it is not a mere indictment on the woman to go after him; but a willful decision from her part to do so; to prove her "smartness" to her uncle who, quite stupidly, says "she should go get that guy and marry him if she is smart enough" trying to prove she "cannot marry" unlike all other women. Her loneliness and Srikanth's helplessness and guilt plays the main factors in their progressing friendship. When Prabhu says he never forced anybody and asks Ganga if he really forced her that day, it is suggested that it was not a rape at all. In short, when Ganga finally yearns for his love, she no more feels he was the reason for her state of abandonment; rather, its the people around her who disowned her after that fatal incident years ago.
The writing involves many moments breaking many a cinematic cliché. Just to sample, Prabhu is a rich man. But still "his English is not good" (at least he thinks so; portrayed without much emphasis on it by, say, letting him speak horrible English) and admires Ganga for that. Literary references have been mostly absent in the history of Tamil cinema. But here we get references to Chekhov, Wodehouse (in a throw-away scene) etc.
Well, this is the only Jeyakanthan movie (clearly the man behind this fare) I have seen and I am still on the hunt for his other movies.
Also, Check out Baradwaj's take on this movie.

* - A. Bhimsingh collaborated again with JK and made Oru Nadigai Naadagam Paarkkiraal. His son, B. Lenin, adapted JK's "Oorukku Nooru Per" (a very serene, 'art-house' work which won him the National Award for the Best Director.

** - Sirai, a movie made by R. C. Sakthi is quite similar to this movie (and inspired by Benegal's Nishant, perhaps). Only that there we have a self-conscious director telling us that he has tried to tell the story "visually" (being apt to the cinematic medium, that is). But, something awfully goes wrong in its execution and becomes an unbearable piece for most of its running time, thanks in large proportions to the comedy track which in an approximate measurement goes for more than an hour.


  1. Cool Post mate!

    I watched that movie when I was too young to understand anything - will catch it again one of these days

  2. hey that sounds very interesting. Will watch it when i get a chance. Have heard a lot about the book in the movie "Aval Oru Thodarkathai".

  3. Oh.. Then, I need a revisit to "Aval Oru Thodarkadhai" to refresh the finer aspects of the movie apart from the main storyline as I have which the movie only in bits and pieces in recent times. must have watched it completely when I was young.
    And the movie appears like a reworking of Ritwik Ghatak's "Meghe Dhaka Tara" with a KB-type strong female protagonist unlike the Bengali classic.

  4. sila nerangalil sila manithargal was the screen adaptaion of JK's short story agni pravesam.The short story created a lot of stir when it was published.And please what was the need to put sujatha in a jk post.Sujatha is just another screenplay writter, who can write screenplay for boys, y mentioning him when talking about the jnapith.

    yep many of KB's earlier movies with female protoganist are inspiration from Ritwik movies.

  5. Sen,
    Well.. the obvious details were left behind in my post. And the movie was rather an adaptation of the novella "Sila Nerangalil Sila Manidhargal" itself which referred to the short story "Agni Pravesam" (and so does the movie) written by J.K. himself.
    And the reason to talk about Sujatha was the plain reason that he was one more writer who was not alien to screenwriting. There was no comparison at their respective screenwriting talents. Sujatha chose a different path and wrote anything and everything mostly which did not appeal as an art.

  6. Thank god for someone who loved the movie as much as me!For days after I saw it I could speak of nothing else - it seemed so true to life.I read the book recently and relived that joy ( I like to pretend the last chapter doesn't exist.)

    This movie is not in the same league as the other so-called feminist movies which KB mate. Aval oru thodarkathai - was it the one with Sujatha, the working woman and a bunch of younger siblings to support. If yes there are no "finer" asects to it AT all.

  7. Tilotamma,
    Welcome. and well.. as one who doesn't admire KB, thats what I suggested about "Aval Oru Thodarkadhai" when I said "finer aspects" (unlike "Meghe Dhaka Tara"). The typically strong female protagonist of KB movies are many a times too unreal to take, IMO.

  8. /*continued*/
    :p .. My remark on "Aval Oru Thodarkadhai" was more like the way the garrulous Psmith would say in one of those Wodehouse novels.

  9. You know it is really strange that thirty years later we should still be speaking about the movie - BTW have you read the short piece by JK on that little girl, (amma - athai vandurakka, cooling glass potundu..).

    I also loved Srikanth's daughter. Damn forget her name! Did she act at all after that?

    The only KB character I might buy is Avargal Sujatha.

  10. sri,
    Doesn't arangetram also have a story close to that of meghe dhak tara.I forgot the details about the movie. Vaguely remmber that it is about a heorine who sacrifices for the family.

  11. Sen,
    First of all I don't think many of KB's earlier movies with female protoganists were inspired from MDT. All of them had "strong" (mentally, that is) female characters unlike MDT and the focus of the movies were different from what MDT was about.
    "Arangetram" had a storyline (like so many other movies did) of a daughter (the eldest daughter this time) sacrificing for her family (and becoming a prostitute on the way). But I felt that the storyline of "Aval Oru Thodarkadhai" was very similar to "Meghe Dhaka Tara" for the main reason of the subplot involving the protagonist's sister marrying her lover. On second thoughts, apart from that there was not much similarity between AOT and MDT either.

  12. obviously KB is not going to do a total lift off.AOT has more similarities.Tnink Arangetram has that family structure younger brother, sister, old parents. old Father not able to earn. She spends for the younger brother, but he gets back at her and more than the characters go to the brink at the end.Think pramela runs like crazy women or somthing right??.

  13. Thinking of it again arangetram is THE movie that is more closer to MDT rather than aval oru thodarkathai.

  14. The storylines of both these movies have some similarity with MDT (like the ones we pointed out above; the protagonist goes insane in "Arangetram" which is actually not similar to MDT). But both the movies are much different in the other significant aspects (director's POV and the way the story is handled) from MDT (I hope you've seen MDT).
    That is why I think "many of KB's earlier movies with female protoganists were NOT inspired from MDT".
    KB's female characters are.. well.. his own.

  15. Heroine bears everything for the welfare of others.But at the end, the entire family keeps away from the heorine, only one male character supports her and the heroine is driven to the brink of suffering.In MDT when her brother tells her how everybody in the family is doing, the mental anguish she has manifest itself as craziness in arangetram.

    Of course KB is not going to make the
    heorine suffer from TB, he has changed the movie a lot.But definitely the basic structure of arangetram is inspired from MDT.

  16. BTW where did u see Sila Nerangalil ??.

  17. Yeah.. tht's right on the aspect of plot details. applies for AOT also to some extent. But the onus of both the movies are widely different from MDT. Here in "Arangetram", KB shifts primary focus on the social issues like family planning, gender issues, etc. Thats all I say.
    I have a vcd copy of the SNSM.

  18. I came here following the comment on my blog. Good review....always wanted to see this and some other classics. Did u get the VCD in Chennai - where? By any chance any one knows where to get such movies in Bangalore?

  19. I saw SNSM twice and it has sketched a permanent niche in my heart ever since. It is one of those movies that clings to your heart, your mind, your life even long after the days have passed. I am glad to see that there are still folks like me to love these type of movies. I just love it. There is no words to describe it.

  20. HI all

    I watched the movie today .

    its fantastic...salute to bravo film made in tamil cinema in 1976s..



  21. hi guys
    where can i download the songs of this film??please inform..

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  23. This time I'll take the space and time not comment about post, but to thank you -first- for the great site of yours and congratulate you -second- for having so much time on this. Keep up the good work.

  24. Oh.. Then, I need a revisit to "Aval Oru Thodarkadhai" to refresh the finer aspects of the movie apart from the main storyline as I have which the movie only in bits and pieces in recent times. must have watched it completely when I was young.