May 27, 2010

Alaipayuthey – Waves of Feel-Good Romance (My first PFC Post)


“Originally published on”

This was a post published on Passion For Cinema (Broken Link), one of the websites which aims aimed at spreading awareness about good cinema.
In 1984, a genius director Mani Ratnam made his debut in a Kannada movie called Pallavi Anu Pallavi. In that movie, he embarked on a new journey with an entirely different genre of filmmaking. He ventured into the waters of Tamil cinema and made everyone turn around with his simple and subtle Mouna Raagam. As the name suggests, it is a ‘silent melody’, and this sure holds good as an adjective for Mr. Ratnam too! A brilliant post on the movie was posted on PFC recently. A short but effective romance segment in Mouna Raagam (a few bits borrowed from Pallavi Anu Pallavi) showed this man’s taste for romance. Without going overboard, he handled the romance in all of his films really well. Here’s mentioning a few more of his movies that had a very different and memorable approach romance segments: Roja, Kannathil Muthamittal, Nayagan, Bombay, Dalapathi, Geethanjali, Aayitha Ezhuthu/Yuva. Though, romance was not the main premise of most of these movies, these segments can be regarded as a few of the best-handled romance segments in Indian films.

In 2000, the ace director came up with an out and out romantic movie called Alaipayuthey (remade as Saathiya by Shaad Ali in 2002). With movies with heavy subjects such as Bombay, Dil Se and Iruvar being his past outings, this movie came as a surprise to everyone. I first saw this movie as a 15 year old, and I repeatedly watch it, and each time I watch it, this movie gives me a different perspective, even ten years after its release. A tribute to this evergreen movie follows, with the disclaimer that no amount of applauding will suffice for this brilliant effort by Mani Ratnam.

Alaipayuthey is initially the simple story of Karthik (Madhavan) and Shakthi (Shalini), who meet, fall in love, get married without informing parents and live separately with their parents. This is probably where a regular Tamil/Hindi cinema would end with the couple uniting. But, Alaipayuthey goes on to discover what happens when the couple moves in together, how the romance changes post marriage and times get strained too, and finally how the couple re-discovers the love that is lost between them.
The Mani Ratnam in this movie is definitely the hardcore romantic, and as always pays attention to the simple detail in day-to-day life. A movie based on war/politics maybe difficult to make, since it is really hard to imagine on that large scale and portray the same effect on screen. But what is more difficult is to compile casual happenings of everyday life, and present it in a way that the audience is not bored, but instead remark saying ‘Hey that happened to me too!’, ‘Why did the girl behave this way?’, ‘We faced similar troubles too when we ran away from home and got married!’ etc.

The romance segment, creative as it could ever be, took place with mostly the Chennai electric train stations and trains as the background. Karthik’s character is almost carved out of the same mould as that of Mouna Raagam (Karthik) in Mouna Raagam. His playful attitude when Shakthi first spoke to her, screaming ‘Yay, Ava Enna paatthu pesita’ (Yay, She talked to me), is probably the reaction of every guy in his late teens or early twenties. The responsibility he showed (within that childish nature) was well demonstrated by the fact that he introduced her to his parents in a house ceremony, with some comical moments. Waiting for his wife for two hours immediately after marriage was bliss to him, but eventually that changed, probably thanks to the boredom setting in after wedding. The final moments of the movie where Karthik talks to Shakthi while on her hospital bed are probably the cutest and the most romantic segments in the entire movie. Karthik appears as the caring husband just waiting for his wife to talk them. Madhavan scores a hundred percent in that scene.

Shakthi on the other hand is this simple homely girl, who definitely longs for Madhavan, yet hides it within herself due to familial pressures, but later succumbs to the love with Madhavan, asking him to marry her. A similar character portrayal was seen in Bombay, Saira Banu (Manisha Koirala), but it is definitely not right to compare the two characters in entirety. The transition from the pampered and playful girl to the girl-in-love and then to the ‘almost’ neglected wife is so very well very ‘lived’ by Shalini. The scene were Shakthi hands over a burning newspaper to Karthik saying, ‘Indha chuda chuda news’ (here’s your burning hot news) was one among the many interesting post-marriage scenes. She should definitely be proud of her performance in this movie, which was her swan song too.

Every form of relationship along with the relationship between the lead pair was very well developed and portrayed realistically. Whether it was Karthik’s father pointing at his carefree and careless attitude, Shakthi’s mother talking to her and sister Poorni during breakfast, or the girly talk between Shakthi and Poorni at bedtime, each of these seemed so natural and unforced into the movie. A few memorable scenes also include, the marriage registrar asking one of Karthik’s friends if this is a marriage without elder taking part and saying there is a different thrill in that too, the lady in the bus that conversing to Madhavan and Shalini saying she is married for 15 years, or Shalini’s potential suitor ‘Evam’ Karthik voicing out his reaction after his father decided to ask for Shalini’s hand in marriage for his son. In addition, the interactions between Madhavan’s friends were something we would have definitely seen at some point of time in our lives.

A few characters might have got very little screen time, but each one of them definitely captured our attention. Each of the supporting characters SwarnaMallya, Vivek, Ravi Prakash, Jayasudha, Sukumari, Pyramid Natarajan, KPAC Lalitha alongside the other characters including Madhavan’s group of friends, all of these people have contributed in their might to this legendary movie.

The tribute to this movie will be incomplete without the mention of the contribution of the off screen technicians. A.R.Rahman had one of his best soundtracks in this movie, and the songs are a favorite even to this day. These included the soulful Evano Oruvan, where Shakthi yearns for Karthik’s presence, Snehidhane where Shakthi meets her ‘secret friend’ Karthik, the chirpy wedding song Yaaro Yaarodi, the colorful Pachai Nirame, and the mischievous Kadhal Sadugudu. The background score was effective, and contributed to the theme of the movie so very well. The cinematography by P.C. Sreeram was out of the world, especially in the song ‘Pachai Nirame’, where he brought colors alive on screen. This cinematography has been adapted by a lot of movies, even 10 years later. Crisp editing by A. Sreekar Prasad ensured that the segments were all short and effective. The movie had a non-linear screenplay, with flashbacks interspersed between current happenings, and this surely was one among the first Indian movies to adapt such a technique.

All in all, no amount of writing would do justice to this magical masterpiece of Mani Ratnam. Such romantic movies are not made everyday. Even if they are made, they do not cause an impact, like Alaipayuthey! Not even its remake Saathiya!

Cast/Crew of Alaipayuthey:

On screen:
Madhavan, Shalini, Jayasudha, SwarnaMallya, with special appearances by Arvind Swamy and Khushboo.

Off screen:
Mani Ratnam  (Direction), Mani Ratnam and R. Selvaraj (Writing), A.R.Rahman (Music), P. C. Sreeram (Cinematography), A. Sreekar Prasad (Editing).


  1. I love this movie :) For all the reasons mentioned in this review - the growth of the love between Karthik and Shalini, the side characters that felt real instead of looking like props, the WONDERFUL music by Rahman.. I can't believ it's been 11 years since its release. It never gets old :)

  2. Sure. Every side character, including Karthik's niece (who helps Karthik get Shakthi on the line) and the provision store owner (where Shaktki received Karthik's phone call), is really believable.
    This evergreen movie grew older by another year :-)

  3. Nicely done. What is interesting about this film is, Mani Ratnam seems to have carried over from where he left off in Mouna Ragam. Mohan and Revathi get together inside a train and the tracks converge. Madhavan starts pursuing his lady love from the railway tracks and wins her in this story. And if he explored the post marital problems of a couple arranged into marriage who sort it out and come to love each other and give the message, hey you can find love in an arranged marriage without either of the sexes compromising, we saw two lovers wed and enter into problems despite knowing each other well here. Two sides of the same coin, I am tempted to call both films.


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