Wednesday, 4 July 2012


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Tamil film with a difference in the 1960s

In the early Tamil cinema the name Sridhar was a household word among cinegoers. They might remember films like Kalyanap Patisu, Kaathalika Netamillai, Theane Nilavu, Sumai Thaangi and a few others.

One of his remarkable films then was Nenjil ore Aalayam (A Shrine in the Heart. It deviated on from the run of the mill ‘masalas’ (a cocktail of hackneyed ingredients). It was shot in one set in 28 days. This was a redeeming feature because it was tightly edited to create an atmosphere and a kind of realism in the film that moved away from some idiosyncrasies. The film portrays cinematically the emotional anguish of three characters. The story itself takes place within 14 days. The theme itself was novel at that time spun within the eternal triangle formula. But the presentation was appreciable.

The storyline could be summed up as follows:

A scene from Nenjil ore Aalayam

The story revolves around a cancer specialist who dies prematurely, a patient with acute cancer in the lungs, a woman torn between the love for one and the duty consciousness for the other. We observe that the doctor suffers from conflicting emotional turbulence. The fact was that the doctor’s former girl friend happened to be the patient’s wife. The wife inevitably has occasions to interact with her former lover. What the scriptwriter Sridhar was trying to show in his meticulously directed film maybe understood like this---

The heart is like a shrine and in it only one God could remain and for a Tamil woman her husband is the only God, even though her husband is not her lover. This is a hackneyed theme and no more is this idea of a Tamil woman’s chastity is considered a virtue judging by the stupid teledramas (they call it serials in Tamilnadu) aired from Chennai and beamed in local Tamil TV channels. The film also suggests that once married to another man she should remove her memories of him entirely and avoid relationship whatsoever with her former lover. I wonder whether this is possible now. The world has changed a lot since the 1960s.

The patient coming to know that he may die soon and is also aware of his wife’s earlier relationship with the doctor asks his wife to remarry the doctor once he dies. This is straightaway declined by the wife. She says that once married her husband is her God. The doctor in the meantime insists that the married couple should live happily and soon dies of his acute cancer disease. So the film ends in a tragic-comedy.

Even if the film sounds implausible, it was a story with a twist considering the values believed to be true half a century ago. What helps to give artistic touch to the film is not merely the acting which was good; the other features were also contributory.

The camera, the acting, the dialogue which was crisp and coherent, but one snag: too many words and less moving images. One had to follow the nuances in the dialogue than watching the dramatic movements in the film.

Devika as the helpless woman played the role with restraint. Kalyan Kumar as the Doctor was convincing His mannerisms especially were true to the behaviour of a doctor, although his facial expressions were a little artificial. Mutthuraman, a fine actor on the Tamil screen, was at ease as the woman’s husband and a patient. He easily scores better than the other players. The cinematography of Vincent was functional and befitting to the scenes pictured.

Music had a touch western touch in a dish of oriental tunes by Visvanathan-Ramamurthi duo to the meaningful lyrics of Kannadasan. The songs were rendered by P.B. Srinivas and P.Suhila. I liked the film then, but I am not sure whether I would like to see it again.

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