Forgive me if this does not sound like a movie review and instead reads more like a piece of fan fiction. In my defense, I’d like to begin by stating my difficulty in divorcing sentimentality and weighing this movie on a more just scale.
I first saw ‘Alaipayuthey’ as a boy-man at the age of 14, it tugged at my ‘crush weakened’ heart strings in many little but yet, not fully understood ways. I reaffirmed my love for it when I entered college wishing that hanging by trains (or buses in my case) wearing ray-bans would result in me meeting the love of my life from the medical college next door (for those who’ve seen the movie – no kidding; there was one next to mine). It sunk into my reality when I first fell in love too, complete with all the parental opposition as well as an understanding of how relationships are tested by time.
A movie which has affected, re-affected and continues to affect you thus is quite difficult to review and hence I must plead guilty of a certain level of blindness before I continue.
The movie derives its name from a song “Alaipayuthey Kanna” – a devotional number much sung and enjoyed in many Tamil homes. It’s a timeless classic on the wanderings of the mind in the rapture of the beloved (Lord Krishna in the song), much akin to the ceaseless cascading of the waves of the ocean.
Alaipayuthey too is a story that meanders through a similar cascade of emotions, of love and also of time, with the movie curiously shot (at that time), swaying from the present to flashes from the past.
Alaipayuthey back in 2000, was a mature and a different take on the journey of a couple; in, out and through the travails of love. Of the impish, charming Karthik (Madhavan) and of the gorgeous firebrand Shakti (Shalini).
Like a wave again, the story traces the mischievous frothy start of the relationship, of Karthiks whoops of delight on his bike when Shakti smiles at him for the first time, of a steadier maturing stage when both realize the true depth of their feelings and decide to get married even amidst parental pressure to the running aground and washing ashore of their relationship as the couple find out that marriage is not what they thought it would be, to the wave rising up again at the end with the couple rekindling and renewing their love when they almost end up losing each other.
One of the more simplistically layered of Mani Ratnams movies, Alaipayuthey though could quite possibly be the one with the maximum audience appeal amongst all his other works (Roja being a possible exception). There is a message in the movie for young, old, dating, married couples alike, which I guess is what makes the movie so relatable on so many fronts and many have affirmed how Alaipayuthey is a classic primer on how love marriages pan out.
Madhavan and Shalini blitz through their characters here bringing their hopes and hurt alive on screen. A few of the meagerly worded yet momentously emotion packed dialogues (in typical Mani Ratnam style) are tantalizingly written and exceptionally enacted. The non-central characters do their bits remarkably well too in acts that are quite well etched out – Shaktis mother and Karthiks father in particular are two heavyweights in the movie you can’t afford to miss. The odd exception for me though is probably that of Shaktis family suitor – comedian Vivek in what has to be his most different yet ‘dud’ role yet.
What also works, and works very well for the movie are the songs and the BGM. PC Sreeram sets the bar very very high in all of his works but could a song be more lusciously shot than Pacchai Nirame?? (The lyrics too are painfully beautiful…Non Tamil speakers should refer to this subtitled version on Youtube, a reasonable translation of the same -
Each song (apart from one monstrosity that has Sophiya Haque cavorting about in it), their cinematography and the lyrics played a colossal role in making Alaipayuthe the hit that it was and I do not exaggerate when I say that even after a decade and two years, Alaipayuthey is still an Ipod/ tea stall radio favorite back in TN. Also, the background score (don’t miss the one that plays in the hospital scenes) plays out hauntingly long after the movies over. ARR, PC, Vairamuthu (the lyricist) and Mani Ratnam are as formidable a combo as they come and Alaipayuthey definitely would figure in a list of their personal favorites too am sure.
I’ve watched, re-watched and still watch the movie, with all of my heart in it. It has never failed to leave me oscillating too, between waves of nostalgia, regret, fleeting smiles and a few misty eyed moments.
I’d like to wrap up this winding piece with a few of my personal favorites from the movie, I mention them here for no other purpose other than a personal quirk and a hope that there might be few others who would share the same!
Character – Aravind Swamy who appears in a couple of scenes, mouths a few dialogues and steals all of the hearts with his role.
Song – ‘Evano Oruvan’ – IMHO, the pangs of separation have never been put across more beautifully in verse.
Dialogue – Karthiks house owner talking to Karthik on his balcony with a glass of whisky (in a Kerala style tea glass) after his fight with Shakti. Allow me to paraphrase -“Love before marriage is like a blooming flower, its colors, intoxication, and highs are but ephemeral. Love after Marriage on the other hand is like a tree, with its roots entrenched, able to wither any storm that life throws at it.”
As I feared, a piece of fan fiction this has turned out to be indeed but if this does prompt people to watch / re-watch Alaipayuthey I would consider myself a very very happy man today!
PS: Also, just as a clarification and disclaimer – the absence of any reference to ‘Saathiya’ stems purely from not having watched the movie in question. Quite Honestly!
Read more reviews on MANI RATNAM BLOGATHON:
1. Pallavi Anupallavi (Kannada) 2. Unaroo (Malayalam) 3. Pagal Nilavu (Tamil) 4. Idaya Kovil (Tamil) 5. Mouna Ragam (Tamil) 6. Nayagan Tamil) 7. Agni Natchathiram (Tamil) 8. Geethanjali (Telugu) 9. Anjali (Tamil) 10. Thalapathi (Tamil) Take 2 Thalapathi (Tamil) 11. Roja (Tamil) 12. Thiruda Thiruda (Tamil) 13. Bombay (Tamil) 14. Iruvar (Tamil) Take 2 Iruvar (Tamil) 15. Dil Se…(Hindi) Take 2 Dil Se…(Hindi) 16. Alaipayuthey (Tamil) 17. Kannathil Muthamittal (Tamil) Take 2 Kannathil Muthamittal(Tamil) 18. Yuva (Hindi) 19. Aayutha Ezhuthu (Tamil) 20. Guru (Hindi) 21. Raavanan (Tamil) 22. Raavan (Hindi)