Love has always been a popular theme in Tamil movies. Be it an action film or a comedy, a bit of romance is always part of the script. We love our moonlight duets too much for it to be any different. However, with changing times, love too, has moved on. At one point, it was fashionable for lovers who could not unite to kill themselves. Or at least, walk barefoot on shards of glass (remember Kushboo in Chinna Thambi?). In Punnagai Mannan (1986), one of the most famous films that feature star-crossed lovers, Kamal denounces this tendency to glorify romantic suicides. Though the film ends with the hero and heroine dying, their death is not of their own hands.
These days, it’s becoming more and more acceptable to show couples breaking up and moving on with their lives, especially in urban contexts. Kadhalil Sodhappuvadhu Yeppadi (2012) pretty much captured the way in which hook-ups and break-ups take place in our world today. Though the lead pair does get together again in the end, the period following their break up is shown quite realistically without much melodrama. Even if the hero occasionally descends to Devdas-dom for a while (like Suriya in Vaaranam Aayiram), he manages to pick himself up and get on with life. Films like Ullam Ketkume (2002), Lesa Lesa (2003), Autograph (2004), Vinnaithaandi Varuvaayaa (2010) etc show that it is possible for a character to survive a break up and even find new love after that. In Kaadhal (2004), though the love between the couple ends tragically with the hero going insane and the heroine being married off to someone else, the director, Balaji Shaktivel, does not choose the trite suicide ending that would have been inevitable in earlier days. Instead, surprisingly, we find that the heroine and her husband decide to take care of her ex. It is true that the film is based on a real life incident but it is laudable that the story wasn’t rewritten to satisfy presumed viewer expectations when it was adapted for the big screen.
Aadhalal Kadhal Seiveer (2013) goes one step ahead and shows a heroine who has had a child out of wedlock getting engaged to another man, quite willingly and happily. Her ex, too, meets another girl. Their child, who is brought up in an orphanage, is shown playing and smiling like any other two-year-old. It might have been tempting to end the film with a neglected, hungry child or something more tragic to reinforce a ‘message’ but the film grows in stature precisely because it doesn’t choose to do so. There is a moment in the film when the girl tells her mother firmly that even if the boy decides to marry her, she doesn’t want him anymore. This, despite all the shame and stigma that a pregnancy outside of the institution of marriage brings to a girl in our society. And yet, she chooses to move on from this point and succeeds in doing so.
Moving on is sometimes the best solution when nothing else seems possible in a relationship. And it’s refreshing to see more and more love stories emerge from our directors that carry this understanding.
Sowmya Rajendran is a children's writer who occasionally offers her words of wisdom to adults. She lives in Pune.