In life it is often said that in a marriage emotions tend to oscillate from one end to another just like a pendulum clock and, if there is any movie in Indian cinema that has captured this aspect of marriage beautifully then it has to be “Alaipayuthey” directed by the great Mani Ratnam. Adding charm to this sweet movie is the brilliant music and background score by a genius called “AR Rahman”. This movie was also dubbed into Telugu as “Saakhi” and remade in Hindi as “Saathiya”.
The plot of this movie is very simplistic and revolves around a young couple Karthik (R. Madhavan) and Shakti(Shalini). The movie begins with a Karthik an undergraduate engineering student who happens to meet Shalini a medical student at a wedding and he falls in love at first sight. He again happens to see her traveling in a suburban train and eventually decides to pursue her. With Karthik sure about his feelings he convinces his parents to meet Shalini’s parents to arrange his marriage to her. Unfortunately though due to arrogance of Karthik’s father Varadarajan(Pyramid Natarajan) both the parents disagree and the wedding proposal does not work out. It is during this time that couple realizes that they cannot live without each other so they decide to marry without the blessings of their families and inform them only when the time comes. However their secret is revealed when Shalini gets her proposal from the same family who have come with a proposal for her elder sister Poorni(Swarnamalya). This results in Karthik and Shalini being rejected by their family and they decide to fend for themselves and live under the same roof. The rest of the movie deals with the highs and lows in the married life of the couple which eventually culminates to a bitter sweet climax.
The true greatness of this movie lies in the fact that the story begins where most of the Indian love stories end and total credit for such a unique concept must go to the writers Mani Ratnam himself and R Selvaraj. Also the fact that the screenplay is non linear and shuttles back and forth from present to the past and back to the present makes it for interesting viewing and again credit must go to the writers. Adding more sharpness to the story is the crisp editing by Sreekar Prasad. What is great about the editing is the fact that the screenplay although being non linear the editor has managed to maintain the flow in story. Although the climax could have been trimmed short to about five minutes which is just a minor glitch in what is otherwise good editing. The story in terms of visualization is beautifully captured by cinematographer the great PC Sriram and is definitely one of the strengths of this movie. Of note is the way the song “Kadhal Sadugudu” has been captured and the physical intimacy between a married couple beautifully comes through and credit to Sriram. Also the scenes involving the use of trains have been shot realistically.
The art direction by Raghavan is top class and a great example is the use of an under construction as the home for the couple which acts as a metaphor for the relationship which is under development and hopefully will get stronger in the future. Coming to the music and background scores composed by the great A.R. Rahman which to say the least is brilliant and the maestro is definitely in his elements. Out of the 10 songs four songs are definite standouts and they include Pacchai Niramae, Mangalayam, Snehithane, and Kadhal Sadugudu. With an equally moving and rich melodramatic background score Rahman is certainly in great form and it is for this reason that the music of this movie is still very popular even today in the state of Tamil Nadu.
Last but not the least is the “Captain of the ship” or the director of this movie Mani Ratnam who is absolutely at his best in bringing out tender moments in the film to life with absolute ease. The magic of Mani Ratnam or (Mani “Sir” as popularly known) in this movie is that fact that he brings out romance of the middle class with such reality. For example the use of trains as a backdrop is absolutely brilliant and gives you a real sense of the typical Indian middle class. The fact that certain scenes such as the romance between Karthik and Shakti, the marriage proposal scene or the climax etc have been handled with great sensitivity and realism is all due to the ability of this truly great Indian director. Also quite evident is the manner which Mani “Sir” captures small but significant moments which is pure magic for example the scene where Shakti attends a function in Karthik’s home and the look of deep fondness in both Karthik and Shakti’s face is beautifully captured a true sign that Mani “Sir” is at his best. Overall a top class directorial effort from a true Indian master called “Mani Ratnam”
As for the performances which are truly outstanding starting from the supporting cast that includes Jayasudha as Shalini’s mother who is really efficient and brings the required dignity to the role. Swarnamalya as Poorni the elder sister of Shakti is real in her performance and is really good in a small yet very important role. The earthy Pyramid Natrajan is brilliant as Karthik’s arrogant father. Vivek in a small role as Sethu has done a fair job. Raviprakash as Selvaraj Shakti’s father is good and does a reasonable job in a small role. Finally the performances of the protagonists R Madhavan and Shalini. While Madhavan as the young computer engineer husband in love with his wife played by Shalini is charming and has certainly given a very earnest performance. So be it his romantic scenes with Shalini, or the emotional climax he certainly brings in a charm that is very refreshing to watch. As Shakti the beautiful Shalini is extremely adorable and has certainly given an extremely real performance as a typical middle class Tamilian wife. Especially of note are the scenes between Shakti and her mother which not only stand out but is certainly one of the highlights of the movie.
Overall this movie is certainly a well made movie and over the years has certainly become a cult classic in Indian cinema. Above all this movie whose title means “Waves” certainly proves that marriages are certainly like waves that consist of high as well low tides and it is eventually up to the couple whether they want to ride the tide or not.
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