Through 36 Vayadhinile, Rosshan Andrrews tells us the story of women we all know. The mothers who settle for a life of fulfilling their children’s dreams and leave their own behind. His Vasanthi Tamilselvan is the personification of all those women; that middle class wife and mother content to coast along life, the one whose biggest problem is the rise in vegetable prices.
The younger Vasanthi is the girl we all know, too. She who shined brightest in school, while fighting battles for others and for herself. The girl we all wanted to be.
Vasanthi’s transformation is not as dramatic as the one Jyothika effected in Chandramukhi. There’s no psychological disorder at play here; no crazy dancing in front of kings. Yet it is no less extreme to watch the mundane – marriage and motherhood – make her a shadow of her former self. She fades into the background, seemingly content everyday life. Until the day she is presented with an opportunity to do something grander, and fails. Miserably.
In a particularly memorable scene, when Vasanthi’s friend Susan asks her what became of the girl she once was..she says, “Theriyala. Thedanum.”
Her search leads her to organic farming before culminating in a meeting with the President of India. Again. A rather convenient plot device, but one that is inspiring nonetheless.
It’s not just Jyothika’s stiff cotton sarees that that will draw comparisons to Sridevi from English Vinglish. It is also the equally alluring performance that makes it difficult to take our eye off her when she is on screen. The joie de vivre she possessed during her heyday, has mellowed down a little. She’s still the girl who danced unabashedly in the rain, singing of dark clouds. Except..she likes to sit down these days, when it rains. It’s rather hard to see beyond her in this film. She shines brighter than the rest; even as she turns in a remarkably restrained performance.
Santhosh Narayanan’s music too blends seamlessly into the background. The only jarring note in this otherwise pitch perfect film is the art direction. The props and sets are so bright and colourful; unrealistic for a movie set in a middle class Chennai neighbourhood.
Viji’s dialogues are simple, yet effective; his words take us deep into the psyche of a woman intent on finding her way out of her middle class nightmare. And when she does, her words sparkle with confidence and wit.
In an otherwise restrained movie, Roshan Andrrews insistent, hamfisted messaging sticks out. ‘Your dream is your signature. Be the Next.’ he says. And in case you missed what that means, he reinforces it with pictures of several successful Indian women, and ends the slideshow with a picture of Mother Teresa. The writing can be lazy at times; like when an accident gets resolved too easily; SP Jananathan would not have liked that one bit.
Lack of subtlety aside, the film is a faithful adaptation of Andrrews’s Malayalam original. And these are minor quibbles; because this is a movie that is entirely novel to Tamil. The protagonist is over 30 and not male; and there is nary a hint of the obscene. Which makes us wonder why the movie was not certified A by the censors.
The events that lead to Vasanthi’s transformation are too facile; they are inspiring, but superficial. I’d have loved to know more about the woman that went through this transformation; about why she says that her life has been nothing but pain so far. It would made her character more relatable; added more drama to the film, and made the payoff more worthwhile.
I’d have also loved to see Vasanthi be something other than the soul of forgiveness when it came to her husband. Tamilselvan is an insensitive brute who ridicules her dreams and doesn’t respect her. Here is an abused woman who goes on to change the country, but finds it difficult to change her personal life.
Oh well, some things really don’t change, I guess.
The 36 Vayadhinile 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 an advertising relationship with movies that are reviewed on the site.