“Scenes from a marriage selection”
I do not remember when was the first time I saw Manal Kayiru, but it must have been a very long time ago and with some certainty I can say that it was an afternoon movie; I have since watched it multiple times at multiple points of time; classic is a word that has been tossed around as tags for many movies and is a word that should be used only after much deliberation, but Manal Kayiru has the word classic written all over it.
No one has made films relentlessly on the problems of the middle class woman like Visu, can only be compared to the nothingness and existentialism in the films of Woody Allen.(Unmeasured comparison)
And in the core of the problems of the fairer sex was marriage.
Oh but wait, weren’t Visu’s films stagey? Thoroughly dipped in the sentimentality of the time and mostly adapted from stage plays and really looked like a televised one, that they may be but, they are not without their own inventiveness.
To continue with the Woody Allen analogy, Manal Kayiru can be called the ‘Annie Hall’ of Visu’s career which began from the stage, the film in which he found the balance and his own space within Tamil film making.
It is the world of 1982, unknown and seemingly distant to the now world of shaadi and bharat matrimony; a middle class man has aspirations, not two but eight(including bizarre ones like failing in college). If you had been a daughter’s father in eighties and before, conditions is not a word that you would have wanted to hear.
That is the thing with comedy, it takes away that tears that go behind the thought of these jokes; and this is where Visu stands tall as a maker of socio-comedy films, he never cuts down on the seriousness of the issue; yes the eight rules seem ridiculous but by the time we reach the end, these rules represent the stupidity of ourselves and how big a deal it was to get a girl married. An achievement worth putting into your CV types.(Again now, everyone will put anything on the CV, I was talking about the eighties)
To thank God for how things have changed is being childishly optimistic, marriage selection has remained a sort of gruelling job interview, the only things that have changed has been the medium and now that both sides can do this ticking of checkboxes exercise, before thanking God reflect on Darwin and this quite unnatural selection.
Enter Naradar Naidu, who completely randomises this process; with Manal Kayiru, my formative thoughts about marriage has been about co-existence rather than the one of selection, and this is primarily because of Manal Kayiru, selection in this case so seems like a recruitment for a slave, but what about expectations?
Is it possible to live with someone who does not meet even one of your expectations?
Pardon my middle class movie loving brain, but the act of marriage is really much higher than fulfilling individual’s expectations and that is what the world is moving towards, bespoke dating.
Visu is like that teacher who comes back to the starting point of the lecture at the end of one, most teachers don’t. He knows his subject in depth, the lesson here is: let not your expectations bring tears to the other party.
Like the job of the ‘marriage broker’ whose occupation has been quietly replaced by the match making sites, Visu’s family dramas have been replaced by television soaps starring murderous mother in laws and wailing working women, but more so it has the generation that has been replaced, a generation that looks at marriage and family in the long run, as this India Today article puts it ‘obliquely’.
Maybe the events that happen in Manal Kayiru are exaggerated, and the days of conditions are long gone; but as number of divorce applications and new family courts suggest that there are more broken marriages than broken hearts and the saddest part is that there will be no Naradar Naidu to liven things up for you this time.
Dowry Kalyanam can be seen as a companion piece to Manal Kayiru, while the former deals with the struggles that happen during the course of marriage, the latter covers the pre-marriage irritations
Sve Sekar plays the fool of a groom in both these films and is tremendously effective.
While lovers of good old drama might not have anything to complain, cineastes might be pleasantly surprised by Visu’s handling of a deaf character. Gimmicky and stagey yes, but the film is not without substance and the characters hold up well even after years have piled over the film. Class apart, Manal Kayiru is an extremely easy film to love, proving again the best way to approach serious stuff is by making comedy.
PS: The title of this column was originally called “we cannot be friends if you do not like this movie”, but changed to the more boring but just-about-doing the job “essential viewing” because the previous title was considered antagonistic to our already dwindling audience.
PS2: None on the staff of the Lowly Laureate is married, except the 86 year old printing press operator. His Facebook relationship status as of today is: I won’t tell you, go.
Xbox: Naradar Naidu is the first in a long list of typical Visu characters, a wily outsider who sets up the film’s flow and provides the solution as well, but here he faces a saddening end, not unlike the one Kamal faces during the climax of Panchatantiram(well, almost)