Why ‘The Lunchbox’ More Than Just a Love Story

Whenever someone inquires about my favourite romantic films, my mind categorises them into ‘pre-The Lunchbox’ and ‘post-The Lunchbox’ eras. Before experiencing The Lunchbox, it was ‘10 Things I Hate About You’ and ‘Kandu Kondein Kandu Kondein,’ but not any more. 

In the Mood for Love and As Good As It Gets are my favourites from the post-Lunchbox era. This transformative journey commenced with a simple, unassuming film from 2013 directed by Ritesh Batra—‘The Lunchbox.’

The Lunchbox: Title Card
The Lunchbox: Title Card

The Lunchbox: A Lens into Realism

This movie is not just for a weekend entertainment; it offered me a fresh lens through which I could explore the nuanced, unspoken dialect of human connections.

The movie is set in the bustling life of Mumbai, home to the renowned dabbawalas and their near-perfect lunch delivery system. However, an unusual mix-up one day led a dabbawala to exchange lunchboxes, it became the link for an unexpected companionship between Saajan Fernandez and Ila.

Irfan Khan as Saajan in The Lunchbox
Irfan Khan as Saajan in The Lunchbox

As an accountant on the brink of retirement, Saajan’s character reflects every scene with an air of melancholy that resonates with anyone who has ever gone through loneliness once.

Saajan’s routine commute to work begins with a Mumbai urban bus ride, accompanied by a stop at his late wife’s grave before heading to his mundane accountant job.

Nimrat kaur as Ila in The Lunchbox
Nimrat kaur as Ila in The Lunchbox

On the other hand, we have Ila. Movie begins with Ila, a housewife who tries to get her husband’s attention by making tasty lunches for him. She thinks the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. Her neighbor, Deshpande aunty, helps her out with recipes, joking that her husband will build her a Taj Mahal after tasting the food. Ila sends a lunchbox to her husband’s office using a dabbawala.

From Salty to Sweet: The Beginning

When fate humorously redirects Ila’s delicious lunchbox to Saajan, Saajan’s response to the first meal is precisely what you’d expect from a lonely accountant uncle – “Dear Ila, the food was very salty today.”

That’s all he has to say about the meal Ila put her heart into. However, this complaint marks the beginning of a unique bond between two lonely souls. Here begins the beautiful tale of ‘The Lunchbox’.

What follows is a series of letters exchanged between Saajan and Ila.

Saajan’s letters give a glimpse into his life and the changing world around him, like when he mentions,

“Life is very busy these days. There are too many people and everyone wants what the other has. Years ago you could find a place to sit on the train every now and then but these days it is difficult…When my wife died she got a horizontal burial plot. I tried to buy a burial plot for myself the other day and what they offered me was a vertical one. I spent my whole life standing in trains and buses and now I will have to stand even when I am dead.”

This newfound mode of communication allows them to open up in ways they hadn’t with anyone else before.

This is where I want to tell you, ‘The Lunchbox’ isn’t merely a story of romantic inklings; it’s just one layer of it.

Why The Lunchbox is More Than a Romantic Film

The Lunchbox is a film that explores a wide range of human emotions and relationships through its simple but powerful storytelling. It’s not just a love story between Ila and Saajan. It’s also a story about several characters who are searching for comfort and connection in their mundane loneliness.

Every character in ‘The Lunchbox’ has a touch of loneliness. Ila is trying hard to bring back the missing spark in her marriage; Saajan, a sad widower stuck in the same office job for over thirty-five years without even a friendly chat with his office neighbor; Aslam, the orphan seeking familial bonds; and the Deshpande couple, each lost in their own realm of silence. Even young Yashvi, Ila’s daughter, seems quiet and serious throughout the movie. Something not common for a child of her age.

Sonakshi Sinha as Pakhi in Lootera
Sonakshi Sinha as Pakhi in Lootera

Maybe this is the same reason, why I am obsessed with the characters of ‘Lootera’ and there Pakhi resonates with the same echo of solitude.

What Lies Beyond Romance in The Lunchbox?

Lens 1

There are multiple instances where The Lunchbox proves that it’s talking about human connections, a deep bond that’s formed between people when they feel seen and valued—not a curious attraction or mere romance.

One line from Saajan beautifully captures the underlying theme of his and Ila’s shared bonding: “I think we forget things if we have no one to tell them to.” This simple line tells us about the deep need we humans have for connection. It also shows how good it feels to find someone to share our everyday moments with, whether they’re boring or happy. Aslam, Deshpande Aunty, Saajan, and Ila are all looking for this kind of connection.

Just like Ila is searching for a new spice to rekindle her husband’s affection, each character is searching for something missing in their lives, and that missing piece is a bond to share!

In addition, look at the vegetable Ila chosen for her delicious dishes. Bitter Guard, Baby pumpkin aka Tinde & even Brinjal —could be a metaphor for their unconventional life choices, or maybe it seems like a gentle reflection of narrative’s core, where bitter experiences pave the path to the sweet essence of companionship, understanding, and perhaps a subtle hint of romance as well.

Lens 2

The Lunchbox is a film that celebrates the unity and diversity of the human connections. The characters in the film come from different shades of life though they are connected beautifully like a string of pearls.

Saajan’s poetic observation is a beautiful example of this. In a scene, Saajan explains his reflections on a painter’s works, “I felt like stopping to look at a painter’s works. All his paintings are exactly the same but when you look close, real close, you can see that they are different, each slightly different from the other…”

After that letter, Ila is sharing her memories with her daughter.

He sees himself in one of those paintings; he compares people to paintings, noting that they may all seem similar at first glance, but when you look closely, you can see the unique differences that make each individual special.

This is exactly what you are seeing in the film. In one angle, they all are same. But if you look close, you will see the differences.

Aslam is a Muslim, Saajan is a Christian, and Ila is a Hindu. Saajan writes in Queen’s English, I never heard someone referring to a ‘Brinjal’ as an ‘Aubergine’ and Ila replies in Hindi.

Deshpande Aunty and Ila share a deep emotional bond, even though they do not have a visual connection. This is because they are both able to sense and understand each other’s feelings.

Here communication goes beyond language, diversities, and limitations; it’s tapping into the essence of human connection.

The Lunchbox and its Painful Romance

In the romantic parts, Saajan’s sadness really hits you when he opens up to Ila, saying that he can only dream through her young hopes. He mentions, “No one buys yesterday’s lottery ticket.” This is a honest way to say that his own dreams are fading away.

But Saajan’s thank you to Ila is really heartwarming. He tells her, “You are young, you can dream. And for some time you let me into your dreams and I want to thank you for that.” You can really feel that he means it.

As the story moves on, Saajan sees that life still has more for him to experience. This part leaves you smiling with hope.

The movie gently encourages us to find the sweetness in the bitter, to look beyond the ordinary, and to appreciate the simple joys that life places in our everyday lives.

In doing so, The Lunchbox is not just a movie; it is a gentle nudge to appreciate the unspoken, the unexpressed, and the unnoticed nuances of human connections around us. In the beginning of the movie, we see Saajan’s neighbour, a young girl, closing the window on him, but by the end, that same little girl is waving at Saajan, and Saajan smiles back.

Reheating The Lunchbox: A Cliched Angle on the Ending

The ending of The Lunchbox really a debatable topic. The internet is full of explanations on climax interpretations. At first, I liked open endings but not recently, since, it confuses us.

Here are my two cents on The Lunchbox ending.

A part of me, maybe the pessimist Akhil, thinks that Ila might have given up and ended her life. When she took off her jewellery, it reminded me of the lady who jumped from the terrace to find peace (news in the movie).

Positive Akhil looks into Deshpande Aunty tells Ila that she was able to clean a running fan. Could this news have given Ila the courage to clear up her own life’s messes? Will the train bring Fernandez to Ila before she leaves? I hope so, deeply.

Window scene from The Lunchbox

The Lunchbox tells the stories of people tied together by thin strings of chance: a dabbawala’s mistake, voices across the old walls of a worn building, a basket dropped from one window to another. A lonely man and his letters, a housewife and her delicacies… Through life’s unsure moments, they all found relief in a unexpected bonds, and in the midst of loneliness, sparks of connection showed up, warming the hearts stuck in life’s endless give and take.

The Lunchbox is an experience about the simple everyday interactions between people that make a difference.  Experience it!

Read more perspectives and movie recommendations here.

Psychology of Baby (2023): What You’re Not Seeing

Since its OTT release, the Telugu movie Baby (2023) directed by Sai rajesh Neelam, has been the talk of the town. Viral reels and memes are flooding social media with taglines such as “it’s a message to the new generation” and “it’s the reality of our present generation.But is this film really a mirror to contemporary relationships, or is it propagating outdated social norms and stereotypes? Let’s try a detailed analysis.

Baby telugu movie poster
Baby Telugu movie poster

If you haven’t seen the movie yet, please watch it here, or read the story here.

Is It Really a Love Story?

On the surface, Baby (2023) appears to be a love story, but is it really? It seems to perpetuate outdated notions from the 80s and 90s, where a woman’s character is judged based on her attire or lifestyle choices.

Remember how Neelambari was portrayed in the movie Padayappa? Or consider the characters of Vani Vishwanath in Malayalam cinema, and similar examples in the Telugu industry with second heroines in movies.

Just like them, Vaishnavi is subjected to a set of unfair expectations and judgements.

Questionable Messages

One of the alarming messages that Baby seems to deliver is that stalking is acceptable behaviour. Vaishnavi finds herself in a situation where she accidentally kisses Viraj. Though she realises her mistake and apologises, Viraj continues to stalk her, disregarding her repeated refusals.

Anand, on the other hand, is portrayed as a possessive lover. While he does make sacrifices for Vaishnavi, such as gifting her a phone, these actions are often more about him than about her. His possessiveness often overshadows other critical aspects of his life, like his relationship with his mother.

Scenes from Baby(2023)
Scenes from Baby(2023)

The film appears to be whitewashing the male characters while darkening Vaishnavi’s character to an extreme extent. But why?

The Psychology Behind Audience Reactions

The mass audience seems to empathise more with Viraj and Anand, while vilifying Vaishnavi. This bias might be rooted in traditional gender roles and social norms that unconsciously influence our judgement. Vaishnavi’s character challenges these norms or mindsets that our typical audience has, thereby eliciting a stronger negative reaction from the audience.

The film’s commercial success and viral scenes beg the question: why are people resonating with it? It’s not necessarily because the film portrays reality, but perhaps because it confirms existing biases and beliefs. This is where I believe directors and script writers should be more responsible and try to make some differences instead of following the masses.

The film taps into the general scepticism around modern relationships & choices, packaging it as the real story of this generation, when, in fact, it might be perpetuating harmful stereotypes and norms.

Why Do Mass Audiences Hate Vaishnavi, not Viraj?

In my opinion, Viraj is the real antagonist of the movie, and he is the real villain. Still, people hate Vaishnavi. Why?

Traditional Gender Roles and Expectations

In our culture, traditional gender roles often portray women as the moral compass in romantic relationships. They want every woman to be like Sita, but men can be Krishna or Rama, depending on the hero. If Pawan Kalyan does the same thing in Badri or Jr. NTR does the same thing in Brindavanam, it is considered to be mass or cute. But when Vaishnavi does it in Baby, it is considered to be cheating.

Narrative Focus

The story primarily revolves around Vaishnavi’s choices and their consequences, making her actions the driving force behind the emotional turmoil. This focus naturally makes her more of a target for audience scrutiny compared to Viraj, who appears more as a reaction to her choices than as an instigator. This is where I felt, the script writer could have done a better job instead of spreading more toxicity.

Moral Ambiguity

Viraj isn’t portrayed as a clear-cut villain. He’s attracted to Vaishnavi and pursues her, but it’s Vaishnavi who hides her relationship status, thereby enabling Viraj’s advances. He does make a problematic move by threatening to release their kissing video, but this comes after he feels deceived.

Social Norms and Masculine Privilege

Viraj’s actions may be viewed less critically due to societal norms that often excuse or overlook male indiscretions in romantic pursuits. As I said before, many superstars have already done this multiple times on reel & real, but people are ready to accept it.

Why is Baby a Blockbuster and Going Viral, irrespective of its theme and toxicity?

The Pull of Confirmation Bias

One reason for the film’s massive success could be attributed to confirmation bias, a psychological tendency to seek, interpret, and remember information that confirms our pre-existing beliefs. Baby (2023) seems to validate certain societal norms and judgements, making it appealing to a large audience that finds their beliefs reinforced. This is alarming, even in 2023, the majority believe in it.

Emotional Highs and Lows

From a cinematic standpoint, the film employs effective storytelling techniques that take the audience on an emotional rollercoaster. High arousal emotions, whether positive or negative, are more likely to be shared; this is known as the emotional contagion theory. Scenes that evoke strong emotions—like anger towards Vaishnavi or sympathy for Anand and Viraj—are more likely to go viral.

The Impact of Social Media Algorithms

Let’s not underestimate the power of algorithms in shaping public opinion. Content that triggers strong emotional responses gets shared and commented on more, which gives it higher visibility on social media platforms. This creates a feedback loop in which the more a scene or character is discussed, the more visibility it gains, leading to a self-perpetuating cycle of virality.

The Bystander Effect in Digital Spaces

The ease with which people can share their opinions online paradoxically creates a digital bystander effect. Many might disagree with the portrayals and messages in the film but assume that someone else will voice these concerns. Meanwhile, those who agree with the film’s messages are more likely to share and propagate its content, thus contributing to its blockbuster status.

Baby (2023) is entertaining for youngsters, but it also reinforces harmful stereotypes about women and men. Its popularity shows that filmmakers need to be responsible rather than merely echoing societal biases.

For more movie analysis and suggestions, click here.

Dark Impulse (2011): A Spanish Thriller

Dark Impulse (2011), a gripping Spanish thriller, stars the captivating Veronica Echegui, Alex García & Juan Pablo Shuk. The original Spanish title is ‘Lo Mejor De Eva’.

Dark Impulse Movie Poster

The Plot: Judicial Ethics Meets Forbidden Passion

Eva (Leonor Watling) is a young, integrous, and relentless judge. Her judicial career, prompted by her father, a former prosecutor, has shaped her in his image. With him now in a coma, she finds herself dealing with the death of a young stripper, Liuba (Polina Kiryanova). This sets the stage for Lo mejor de Eva aka Dark Impulse (2011), directed by Mariano Barroso. It’s his comeback after Hormigas en la boca(2005) and Kasbah (2000).

Leonor Watling as Eva
Leonor Watling as Eva

Dark Impulse starts as a typical courtroom drama, where we get to know the Eva. What initially appears as a straightforward legal proceeding, soon spirals into an unexpected romantic entanglement as Eva falls for Rocco (Miguel Angel Silvestre), the key witness and former boyfriend of the murdered girl. As Eva and Rocco’s relationship tightens, the film morphs into a high-voltage erotic thriller. The scenes showcasing the chemistry between the protagonists are the film’s best parts.

From Courtroom to Bedroom: Eva’s Struggle with Desire

Eva’s life, which has always been deeply entrenched in her legal work, begins to unravel as she succumbs to her intense attraction to Rocco. The judge, initially cold and distant, transforms into a passionate woman driven by impulses she never knew she possessed.

Leonor Watling from Dark Impulse
Leonor Watling from Dark Impulse

These drastic changes not only affect her personal life but also have implications for the ongoing murder case. As the plot progresses, the line between right and wrong becomes increasingly blurred, pulling the viewer into a thrilling whirlpool of suspense and eroticism.

Echoes of Urbizu: A Tale of Two Judges

The film, in some ways, echoes Enrique Urbizu’s No Rest For the Wicked (2011), which also features a judge with many similarities to Eva. However, where Urbizu’s film focused on a cop, Barroso’s centers on Eva’s life. Everything changes when Rocco (Miguel Angel Silvestre), the boyfriend of the murdered girl, becomes the key witness.

From Verdict to Vulnerability: The Dark Impulse of Events

The film grips the viewer’s attention from the get-go. However, due to its unpredictability and sudden shifts in tone and genre, it may lead to some confusion. The transformation of Dark Impulse from a courtroom drama into an erotic thriller could take the viewer by surprise.

Leonor Watling from Dark Impulse
Leonor Watling from Dark Impulse

Despite these abrupt shifts, the film does an impressive job of maintaining the suspense and intrigue throughout, offering a thrilling experience for those who enjoy genre-bending narratives.

The Lighting of the film, particularly in the erotic scenes, is noteworthy. The camera work in these scenes is exceptional, creating an ambiance that accentuates the charged chemistry between Eva and Rocco.

A Final Thought: Dark Impulse

The way Dark Impulse combines elements of a courtroom drama with those of an erotic thriller, echoes the tonal shifts seen in films such as Basic Instinct. It also reflects narrative elements seen in Body Heat, where the lines between law and desire, right and wrong, are obscured, creating a morally grey space that is as intriguing as it is unsettling. The film’s unique blend of genres sets it apart, while also drawing parallels with other classics in the erotic thriller category.

Miguel Angel Silvestre as Rocco
Miguel Angel Silvestre as Rocco

So, if you are a fan of such movies, give it a try. Dark Impulse is an interesting pick for those looking for a film that is not just a thriller but also explores into human psychology and sensuality.

For more international suggestions, click here.

If you are looking for a streaming site to watch this thriller, DM me at Insta/I_filmiholic.

Decoding Mani Ratnam’s Layered Storytelling in Ponniyin Selvan

Mani Ratnam’s films are known for their layered storytelling. Ponniyin Selvan is no different, packed with scenes that become more meaningful with an understanding of Tamil history. Here I will share my interpretations and observations, which may help explain Ponniyin Selvan better.

The Entrance of the Enigma: Aditya Karikalan

Aditya Karikalan (Chiyaan Vikram), the character, is introduced in an intriguing manner, with his first appearance shrouded in fog. The moment he steps onto the battlefield, the fog clears, revealing a warrior prince carrying a heavy heart.

The misty backdrop is Mani Ratnam’s creative method to hint at Aditya’s obscure past. With this single shot, Maniratnam establishes that he is coming from a shady past, and we are not clear about his past.

Aditya Karikalan introduction

We are hearing about his past through his conversations with Parthibendran and Kundavai in multiple instances.

As per the historical narratives and the novel, Aditya is stubborn, sticking to his decisions regardless of the circumstances. But no one really knows, who he really was, or what he was going through.

Shadowed Past and Victorious Present

Now, let’s pick another scene. After winning the Nolamba dynasty, Aditya explains his past and agony to Parthibendran.
It’s all dark, and Aditya’s face is not clear; we are getting only one half, and if you look at the background, it’s misty again. I believe it’s symbolic of the shady past of Aditya Karikalan.

Aditya- Parthibendran

The deliberate symbolism points towards Aditya’s murky past. When the painful past is shared, and Aditya waves the flag, the frame transitions into sunlight.

This change implies the flag wave as a metaphorical act to ward off the clouded past. War, Rage, and Victory are his ways to clear off the painful and obscure past around him.

The choice of costumes for Aditya is noteworthy. He is always seen in black and red, contrasting with Arulmozhi, who wears pristine white. This difference in colour choices signifies the differing characters and histories of the two.

Ponniyin selvan

Parallels with Karnan from Mahabharatha

This is actually a wild theory. Thanks to Sandeep (Nanban 🙂 )

Aditya Karikalan’s portrayal has parallels with Karnan from Mahabharatha.

Sunlight glare behind Aditya

During Aditya’s triumphant moments, a sun glare can be seen in the backdrop. Ravi Varman (the cinematographer) brilliantly incorporated the sun glare as an aura around Aditya. Contrarily, when Aditya is depicted in a state of sadness, the sky appears cloudy, or he is shown in darkness. Even his death happened at night.

Nandini - Aditya Karikalan climax scene

Aditya asks Nandini if it is hard for her to look at him. Then he waves off all the lamps and dies in the darkness.

In the Mahabharata, even Lord Krishna wept at Karna’s death because Karna was kind, loyal, and understood his dharma. However, he was cursed by Bhumi Devi for disrespecting her. It was just his luck or curse spoiled him. He was unlucky as much as Aditya.

Aditya was also cursed. Nandini asked him only one thing, to spare Pandiya’s life, but he ignored her plea. He disrespected her and hurt her. That was the sin he was carrying (metaphorically, Aditya says, “I consumed poison that day”).

A dying Karna asked Krishna to inform his mother Kunti of his death. He could have asked Krishna to give victory to Duryodhana and bring his armies back to life. However, he didn’t. He wanted his mother to proclaim publicly that he was her son and that he was not of low caste. He was looking for acceptance.

Aditya’s last words were a request for Nandhini to tell him that he still lives in her heart. He was looking for acceptance.

Climax scene Ponniyin Selvan

The epic beauty of the scene is the way Vanthiya Thevan carries Aditya’s dead body. The background is filled with smoke, just like when Aditya was first introduced in PS-1. It is a shady mystery, and we could never really understand Aditya, even his death remains a mystery.

The Dance of Victory: Devarattam

Devarattam, a traditional dance form, was performed by kings and warriors to celebrate victory, particularly in the Pandyan and Chola dynasties. During Vanthiyathevan’s visit to Kadambur in the movie, however, the dance depicted appears to align more with “Kecak” than Devarattam.

Actual Devarattam, image credits: twitter/@devarattam

Some argue that Devarattam took inspiration from Kecak, but this theory doesn’t holds historical back. The Chola’s naval invasions in Southeast Asia, a possible channel for cultural exchange, started only in 1025, while Aditya Karikala and the Pandyas were active before 1000 CE. Additionally, Southeast Asian rulers like those from Srivijaya, who had close relations with the Pala Empire in Bengal, did not seem to have left any influence on the dance form.

The real Keckak from Bali

The dance is based on the story of the Ramayana and is traditionally performed in temples and villages across Bali (Indonesia).

The Clash of Titans: Kundavai-Nandini Confrontation Scene

The Kundavai-Nandini faceoff scene is one of the most epic scenes in Ponniyin Selvan part -1. The rivalry between two women is on full display in this scene.

But I feel, many might have misread it. Here is my interpretation.

Background: Nandini has deep resentment towards Kundavai, blaming her for all her miseries. Nandini believes that it was Kundavai who got her expelled from the palace and constantly made her feel inferior due to her lineage. In a bid to gain power, Nandini manipulates Periya Pazhuvettayar and considers Madurantakan’s claim to the throne. She keeps Sundara Chola, Kundavai’s father, under house arrest, cutting him off from others for easy manipulation.

Learning about Nandini’s scheme from Vandiyathevan, Kundavai decides to confront her at the Tanjore palace. As the dramatic background music “Saayam Sanchare” (Evening- where Day and Night meets) fills the air, their coded conversation unfolds:

Nandini: “Upon your visit, Tanjore palace itself has become beautiful.”

Kundavai: “But I heard all the beauty in the world has been kept in the Tanjore palace.” (hinting at Nandini’s beauty)

Nandini: “Yes, beauty is held captive here indeed.” (referring to Sundara Chola being under house arrest, Sundara means ‘beautiful’)

Kundavai: “Captive? Does the golden beauty [Sundara Chola] not adorn the throne?

Nandini: “Yes, it’s gold, old gold.” (referring to the king as old)

Kundavai: “Faded gold is the most precious.”

Nandini: “Even golden shackles are still shackles.” (indicating Sundara Chola is under her control, regardless of his position)

Kundavai: “The key to the shackles are in our hand anyway.” (asserting her ability to free Sundara Chola)

Nandini: “No one can defeat the princess (Kundavai) in an argument.”

Kundavi - Nandini fce off

Following this heated exchange, Kundavai smiles as the background score saayam sanchare intensifies. The combined genius of AR Rahman, Ravi Varman, and Mani Ratnam in this scene is simply beyond words.

Kundavi is envious of Nandini’s beauty; Nandini is jealous of Kundavi’s power; and throughout her life, Nandini feels inferior to Kundavi because of the power she holds. You will get all this from this scene, if you read it well.

Nandini: The Ever’green’ Queen

Instagram post_ I_Filmiholic

Pandiya’s Fish Eyed(Meenakshi) diety is green. Crafted from a single large emerald stone, the goddess is believed to be Vishnu’s sister, just as Nambi(Jayaram), a vaishnavite, is Nandini’s brother.

Echoes from the Past and Authentic Settings

There’s a scene where Vandhiyathevan ingeniously escapes from the Pazhuvettarayar guards, reminiscent of chase sequences from the movie ‘Thiruda Thiruda’. The elements that Vandhiyathevan disturbs in the crowd — from buttermilk to puffed rice — align perfectly with the setting of 10th century Thanjavur, enhancing the authenticity of the scene.

Mani Ratnam also adeptly portrays the flourishing trade relations of the time. The period from 900 to 1300 CE, termed the Early Age of Commerce in Southeast Asian history, saw burgeoning trade ties between China and South India.

Chinese charioteer

In the film, the charioteer is usually depicted as a Chinese man when the scene is set in Lanka. The character’s inability to understand Tamil allows Arulmozhi to converse freely with his companions without worrying about eavesdropping. This detail cleverly illustrates the language and cultural barriers present in the historical trade relations.

Accupuncture chola period

Another historically accurate detail is Sundara Cholan’s acupuncture treatment, highlighting the influence of Chinese medical practices in the region during the time.

Unnoticed Moments: Sembiyan Mahadevi & Sendhan Amudhan

One of the most poignant scenes, overlooked by many in the first viewing, happens in Pazhayaarai. As Sendhan Amudhan reaches Trisha to deliver news about Vandhiya Thevan, he nods at Sembiyan Mahadevi, who responds in acknowledgment. This loaded interaction may go unnoticed if you’re unfamiliar with the book.

Sendhan Amudhan is actually Sembiyan Mahadevi’s son, while Madhurantakan is the son of Oomai Rani. Will explain in detail soon.

Sembiyan Mahadevi’s Pioneering Influence

What’s striking in the movie is Sembiyan Mahadevi sporting a pottu (bindi). A surprising element, considering the times depicted, this choice moves away from the traditional depiction of widows.

Sembiyan Mahadevi

Sembiyan Mahadevi was the queen consort of the Chola Empire from 949 CE – 957 CE, wife of Gandaraditya Chola.

Following Gandaraditya’s death, Sembiyan Mahadevi, rather than committing sati or withdrawing to the Andapuram (the palace’s female quarters), chose a different path. She devoted herself to religious and social activism, becoming not only a revered dowager queen but also the matriarch of the Chola family for the next 50 years.

A 1,000-year-old idol of the Queen was traced recently by the TN Idol Wing.
A 1,000-year-old idol of the Queen was traced recently by the TN Idol Wing.

A pioneer in Kalpani (literally ‘stone-work’), Sembiyan Mahadevi initiated projects that transformed ancient brick and mortar temples into enduring granite structures. Her historical foresight led her to order the copying of ancient inscriptions before the reconstruction work. The temples and icons commissioned under her oversight bore a unique mark, and she donated jewels and bronzes to many temples, some built by her and others by her son, Uttama Chola( Madhurantakan).

Symbolism of Victory and Omen: The Red Lion Flag and the Comet

A symbolic scene depicts the triumph of Chola king Arul Mozhi Varman over Mahindan, the Sri Lankan king, as the waves on the coast of Lanka wash ashore the Lankan King’s red lion flag.

Lankan king's flag

A powerful visual metaphor that conveys the complete and utter defeat of the Sri Lankan forces. The foamy waves that touch the Lankan shore symbolize the Chola army’s arrival on Sri Lankan soil, and their presence is a reminder that the Chola Empire is now the dominant power in the region.

Comet scene
Comet in the background When Nandini order to take captive of Arulmozi

In another instance, the scene where Nandhini and Pazhuvettayir order a convoy to capture Arulmozhi, you can spot a comet in the background. This comet reappears when the Pandiya’s are shown. The comet is a symbol of foreboding, hinting at a threat to the throne or signalling the imminent death of Aditya.

Nandhini and Pazhuvettayir

The Comet Scene in Ponniyin Selvan: A Symbol of Impending Doom

Scientifically, the comet seen in Ponniyin Selvan can’t be Halley’s comet as it passed by in 989 CE, by which time Rajaraja had already ascended the throne and Aditya was dead.

Comet in the background while showing Pandiyan Prince
Comet in the background while showing Pandiyan Prince

Historically, the appearance of a comet has often been interpreted as a sign of the impending death of a great person, usually a king. Notable examples include the comets associated with the deaths of Julius Caesar and King Harold. In 1910, when Halley’s Comet streaked across the sky, King Edward VII passed away. Around this time, Kalki (1899-1954) would have been around 11 years old and may have heard about the event.

In the context of the movie, the comet symbolizes the impending death of Aditya Karikalan. However, given Sundara Chola’s frail health, everyone interprets the comet as a prediction of his demise.

Sangam Poetry and Cinematic Genius: The Tale of Mandakini in Ponniyin Selvan

The meeting of Mandakini (Uma Rani), and Sundara Chola has a song playing in the background, it’s another example of Mani Ratnam’s brilliance. 

It was so painful for me considering Mandakini’s fate. She doesn’t know she has children (will explain more on this soon); she considered Arulmozhi her son (considering it’s from her beloved one), and After years, she meets Sundara Chola again and lays down her life to save his.

Now if you try to understand more about that song, you will realise how painful it is to listen by watching Mandakini’s (Uma Rani’s) death.

This song is ‘Puranaanuru 242,’ one of the 400 songs from the ancient Tamil anthology (Sangam Poetry). AR Rahman adapted this song for the heartbreaking scene of Mandakini’s demise.

The original song was penned by Gudavai Keerathanar (was one of the poets of the Sangam period). Although he belonged to Gudavail, he visited many towns and made many friends. Perunjathan was one such friend from Ollaiyur. He was a chief Satthan (Chieftain) who was famous for his valorous deeds in battlefield. 

The poet comes to the town of Ollaiyur and realises that his friend is no more. The whole town is mourning. There he composed this song out of great sadness. 

In the poem, the poet questions the jasmine flower, asking why it still blooms after his death in Ollaiyur.

The lyrics go like this: “Young men don’t wear them. Women with bangles don’t pluck them. The whole town is sad because Satthan, the warrior, died. So, Jasmine, who are you blooming for? Why are you still blooming in vain?”

Mandakini's death (Uma rani)

Nothing could better represent the tragic love and death of Mandakini. For what she lived for. It’s a painful question.

Love, Loss, and Forgotten Memories: Nandini’s Birth Secret

Sundara Chola and Mandakini were in a romantic relationship, but they were forced apart before Sundara Chola’s coronation. Overcome with heartbreak, Mandakini jumped off a lighthouse. However, Anirudha Bramarayan (was a leading minister in the court of the Sundara Chola) rescued her and sent her to Sri Lanka, while telling Sundara Chola that she had died. Meanwhile, Sundara Chola moved on, got married, and had children. His eldest son, Aditya Karikalan, was older than Nandini.

In Sri Lanka, Mandakini and Veera Pandian, both rescued by the boatman(Karuthiramaran) and with Mandakini having lost all her memories, spent a significant amount of time together. She got pregnant and decided to leave Sri Lanka, while Veera Pandian stayed back and lived with the Sri Lankan king.

On her return to Tanjore, Mandakini and her mute sister Vani encountered Sembian Mahadevi, who was also pregnant. They started living with her in the palace. Both women gave birth around the same time. Sembian Mahadevi’s son was stillborn, while Mandakini gave birth to twins and left them. Sembian Mahadevi adopted the male twin, Madhurantakan, and handed over the female twin, Nandini, to Azhwarkaddiyan’s (Nambi) parents. Vani was instructed to bury the supposedly dead infant, who, in reality, survived. She took the child, Sendhan Amudhan, and left.

Meanwhile, Veerapandiyan sent Karuthiruman (boatman played by Yog Japee) to relay a message to Mandakini, who was back in Kodi Karai under her father’s care. However, upon arrival, he found that Mandakini had suffered another accident, which had restored her memory. 

She could not recognise Karuthiruman, which meant she had no recollection of what had transpired between her fall from the lighthouse and her recent accident.

Was Nandini ever in love with Aditya Karikalan?

Nandini, a creation of Kalki, is one of the most multifaceted characters you will encounter in “Ponniyin Selvan.” She is like a diamond. Not only is she stunningly beautiful, but she’s also incredibly intelligent. Her willpower and ingenuity make her a unique femme fatale in literature.

Nandhini and Pazhuvettayir

She has been described as treacherous, vicious, venomous, lethal, and dangerous. These aren’t misjudgments, as Nandini is truly the most formidable character in the novel.

Understanding Nandini takes some time because, much like a finely cut diamond, she has numerous aspects to her persona. The novel introduces us to her character well before we meet her. Kandan Maran speaks of Periya Pazhuvetarayar’s marriage to a younger woman, and teases him about his obsession with her. Later, Azhwarkadiyan shares a censored version of her life story, painting her as a sisterly figure and stoking our sympathy for her as a young woman forced to marry an older man.

Nandini's introduction

We first meet Nandini through the eyes of Vandiya Devan, entranced by her beauty, as she peeks out from the curtains of a veiled palanquin to investigate the disturbance in her path.

Aditya Karikalan’s frank confession to Parthibendran uncovers more about Nandini’s history. It seems that Nandini mastered her unique brand of seduction with Aditya Karikalan. But was it love, or was it a longing for the power she would gain if she were to marry the Crown Prince? It’s hard to say for sure.

Nandini's childhood

What we do know is that the deep-seated jealousy between Kundavai and Nandini originated from their childhood. Nandini coveted Kundavai’s status and influence as the Princess, while Kundavai envied Nandini’s beauty.

The scene where Nandini imagines her childhood as a queen

Nandini’s obsession with power drove her, I believe, and her confession to Aditya in the end holds some truth, in my opinion

Nandini - Aditya Karikalan climax scene

Nandini v/s Kalpana

Do you remember the first movie that Mani Ratnam made with Aishwarya Rai?
It’s Iruvar (1997).

In Iruvar, Aishwarya played a character similar to Jayalalitha. There are striking similarities in their ruthlessness.

It’s as if Mani Ratnam saw reflections of Nandini in Jayalalitha and vice versa. Like Nandhini in Jayalalitha or a Jayalalitha in Nandhini. But both are versions of Lady Macbeth considering their character shades.

That can be a reason why he picked Aishwarya for this role.

A scene in “Iruvar” where Kalpana (Aishwarya Rai) sows seeds of doubt in Anandan’s (Mohan Lal) mind is particularly reminiscent of Nandini’s manipulations.

She asked Anandan, “Who is bigger? An actor or a CM? Don’t you to wish to be the CM?

Anandan thought about her question. He had never considered himself to be a competent to his friend Tamizhselvan. But Kalpana’s words made him wonder if he could be.

Fast forward 25 years, and the same Aishwarya Rai masterfully brings Nandini to life on screen with the same shades of Kalpana.
Kalpana’s words were similar to what Nandhini had said to Pazhuvettarayar. Nandhini had charmed the elderly Pazhuvettarayar and planted the seeds of desire in him.

Nandhini and Pazhuvettayir  emotional
Nandhini and Pazhuvettayir  emotional

She had told him that Madurantakan should claim the throne, by that the power will always lies in Pazhuvettarayar.

But Nandhini had failed in her attempts unlike Kalpana.

This realisation & the guilt made her commit suicide.

Please share your thoughts in comments.

Read more film analysis here.

Siya(2022): A Journey Through the Dark Corners of Indian Democracy

Before I talk about the movie Siya, let me share some horrible incidents with you.

Case – 1

On September 14, 2020, a case was registered at the Hathras police station in Uttar Pradesh, India, under number 194/2020. The victim was a 19-year-old Dalit woman who was gang-raped and brutally assaulted by four men from an influential family.

The four accused men dragged the victim into a field and gang-raped her. They also tried to strangle her to death. The victim was found lying unconscious in the field by some villagers. She was rushed to a hospital in Hathras.

A scene from Siya
A Scene from Siya

The police were able to record the victim’s statement on September 22(After the protest). She died on September 29, 2020.

On the night of September 29, at around 2:30 am, the victim was cremated by the Uttar Pradesh Police without the consent or knowledge of the victim’s family. Petrol was used for the cremation.

When the news initially broke through social media, the Agra Police, Hathras District Magistrate, and UP’s Information & Public Relations department dismissed it as “fake news.”

A video surfaced in which the Hathras District Magistrate can be seen pressuring the family to alter their statement. He was heard saying, “Don’t ruin your credibility. These media people will leave in a couple of days. Half have already left, the rest will leave in 2-3 days. We are the ones standing with you. Now it depends on you if you want to keep changing your testimony…”

Inhumane Actions For Defence

On October 2, the head of BJP’s IT cell, Amit Malviya, tweeted a video of the 19-year-old victim, revealing her face, allegedly violating Section 228A of the Indian Penal Code.

On October 4, Rajveer Singh Pehelwan, a former MLA of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), organized a rally in support of the accused. The rally garnered hundreds of attendees, including family members of the four accused.

A BJP leader, Ranjeet Srivastava, claimed the accused were not guilty of the crime. He further questioned, “Such girls are found dead only in specific places. They are discovered in sugarcane, corn, and millet fields, or in bushes, gutters, or forests. Why are they never found dead in paddy or wheat fields?

Another statement that drew fierce criticism came from BJP MLA Surendra Nath Singh, who suggested that “Sanskar should be instilled in girls to prevent incidents of rape.

Reports from The Wire and other sources indicated that the Uttar Pradesh government engaged Concept PR, a Mumbai-based public relations firm. Allegedly, the PR firm released press statements on behalf of the government, asserting that the Hathras teenager was not raped.

Some Actions

The Hathras police arrested the four accused—Sandeep, Ramu, Lavkush, and Ravi—on charges of attempted murder and gang rape.

On March 2, 2023, the Hathras district court acquitted three of the four accused—Ramu, Luvkush, and Ravi. The fourth accused, Sandeep, was convicted of culpable homicide not amounting to murder (IPC Section 304) and offenses under the SC/ST Act. However, he was not found guilty of rape and murder, receiving a life imprisonment sentence along with a fine of ₹50,000.

The State government, led by Yogi Adityanath, and the district administration announced a compensation of ₹2.5 million (US$31,000) for the victim’s family. Additionally, they offered a junior assistant job to a family member. Furthermore, the family will be allocated a house in Hathras under the State Urban Development Agency (SUDA) scheme.

Case – 2

This is infamous 2017 Unnao Rape Case.

The 2017 Unnao rape case involved the gang rape and assault of a 17-year-old girl in Unnao, Uttar Pradesh, India. The incident occurred on June 4, 2017.

According to the victim’s statement, she was enticed by a woman named Shashi Singh, along with her son, Shubham Singh, and daughter, Nidhi Singh, to relocate to Kanpur with promises of securing a job.

On the night of June 11, 2017, she accompanied Shubham Singh and allegedly endured multiple instances of rape by him and his driver, Awdhesh Tiwari.

A scene from Siya
A scene from Siya

On June 21, 2017, 17 days later, the victim was found in a village in Auraiya district, Uttar Pradesh. She received medical treatment for her injuries at a hospital in Lucknow.

The police recorded her statement on June 22, but prevented her from identifying one of her assailants BJP MLA Kuldeep Singh Sengar.

Apr 3, 2018: Rape survivor’s father is beaten up by MLA’s brother and his goons.

Though both sides lodge complaints against each other, the police choose to arrest only her father and he is sent to judicial custody. Her father dies in police custody. The post-mortem report lists the cause of death to be “blood poisoning due to perforation of colon”. It also lists multiple injuries on his body.

Prior to his death, he accused Atul, the brother of Sengar, of leading the assault. However, no action was taken in response to this complaint at the time.

On April 8, 2018, the victim attempted self-immolation at the residence of Yogi Adityanath, the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh.

April 11, 2018:  The victim and her family are confined to a hotel room on the pretext of protection, without water or electricity.

Getting Worse

April 12, 2018:  Sengar, Atul Singh and their accomplices are arrested by the CBI.

April 14, 2018:  The CBI makes a second arrest in the Unnao rape case . It takes into custody the woman who allegedly took the girl to Sengar on the day of the crime.

July 2, 2018:  The uncle of the victim is convicted in a 19-year-old case of attempt to murder that had been filed by Atul Singh. He is sentenced to 10 years in prison by a district court.

July 28, 2018:  A Rae Bareli truck-car collision leaves the girl and her lawyer critically injured. Two of the victim’s aunts are killed in the accident. The victim, who is battling for her life in a hospital in Lucknow with multiple fractures, head and chest injuries, and her lawyer are on ventilator support.

"Our MLA is innocent" on the wall & the victim is passing
“Our MLA is innocent” on the wall & the victim is passing

On December 16, 2019, Sengar was found guilty of rape and sentenced to life imprisonment. His associates were also convicted and received varying prison terms.

Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav

As we celebrate Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav, marking 75 years of our independence, we find ourselves questioning the very essence of our freedom. Has it truly manifested? Can we truly call ourselves free when there is an evident shift of power from one oppressive regime to another? Britishers may have left us, but did they leave a vacuum only to be filled by illiterate criminals?

Who should we blame for this?

The responsibility, I believe, falls upon each one of us. We, the citizens of India, who possess the right to vote, have the right to choose who shall represent us and who shall guide us.

There’s a saying, “Politicians are like diapers; we should change them frequently, otherwise it stinks.” Well, power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. A truth that most of us have learned through life experiences, but do we act upon it?

Politics in our country seems to have become a playground for the criminals and oligarchs. Once an individual assumes a political position, they cling to power like a leech for their entire life.

South-North-West all same

States like Tamil Nadu, Telangana, West Bengal, Bihar and Karnataka all reflect the same issue:

Look at Tamil Nadu; one family has been ruling the state for years. Go to Telangana; one person is ruling the state like there is no alternative. Look at Karnataka; it’s either Siddharamaiyya or Yedyurappa. On the national level, we have dynasty politics, or ultra-right-wing politics.

Our collectivist culture, our admiration of heroism—it’s not wrong! But when it transforms into blind admiration and political slavery, we must recognise and correct it.

If you are a communist, no matter what, you try to defend the party. You want that party to be in power, no matter how corrupt or fascist they are.

If you are a BJP supporter, you don’t care who your CM is or what they do. You just want to see the saffron flag waving.

It’s not about the party we support or the colour of the flag we want to see waving. It’s about who represents us and shapes our future.

Remember the atrocities that have been committed under these ultimatums of power? The VYAPAM scandal (Over 40 deaths, still a mystery) or the Balrampur gang rape—the list goes on.

Just like in our Telugu movies, where the common man bows down to the hero, the “devudu”, we too find ourselves bowing to these politicians and bureaucrats, suffering their injustices.

Pooja Pandey as Siya
Pooja Pandey as Siya

Siya – Untold story of 1000s of girls

Siya is Manish Mundra’s directorial debut, starring Pooja Pandey and Vineet Kumar Singh. 

I am happy that I choose Siya over Adipurush today.

I believe Adhipurush is the past, and Siya is about my present and future. 

Siya, a 17-year-old rape survivor, is being held captive and repeatedly abused by a group of powerful men. 
She had two options: “endure in silence” or “fight injustice bravely.” 
She chose the second option.

Siya decides to go against all odds and fight for justice. The film talks about how the police and politicians using their power to suppress the truth and oppress the oppressed.

Pooja Pandey, the lead character, beautifully plays her part as a simple, obedient, yet courageous woman. She doesn’t transform into a fiery fighter instantly; the character’s progression is remarkable.

Vineet Kumar Singh stands out as a modest lawyer who handles notary work and refuses to be intimidated by the police, providing strong support to Siya.

Siya is available at Zee5 with subtitles.

Siya & Her Question

We need more directors like Manish Mundra. Here, don’t expect the usual one woman, one man spectacle heroism. It’s a mirror, not a screen.

You are about to witness the experiences of past victims that we discussed. How you and I let them suffer. How cruel our society is. Watch it and feel our shared guilt.

People in power often escape consequences, and yes, sometimes they do get caught, but by then, the victim may have lost everything.

Siya asks us a question:

What good is justice when neither the victim nor her family will live to see it served?

This 1 hour and 50-minute movie serves as a reminder. If a politician or bureaucrat could abuse your sister or kill your brother tomorrow, how would you fight?

A drunk IAS officer killed a journalist in Kerala, yet the police saved him with dialysis, and he remains in power. Where is justice for the victim and his family?

Change your diapers before the smell becomes unbearable.

Read more about unpopular movies here.

Michael Mann’s Thief(1981): A Detailed Script Analysis

Have you ever wondered how scriptwriters create characters? Do they start from scratch? What lenses do scriptwriters use when they watch movies? Here, we will do a mini-script analysis to understand this better. To do this, we will look at the theme (events), characters, and the plot. I will focus on the characters and events more.

A Scene from Thief (1981)

For the purpose, we are choosing Thief, a 1981 American neo-noir heist action thriller film directed and written by Michael Mann. The film is loosely based on The Home Invaders by Frank Hohimer.

Thief (1981) A Brief Summary

In this 1981 film, Thief, Frank is a jewel thief of unparalleled skill. He manages to keep his past hidden behind the façade of a successful businessman. He has two thriving businesses and a seemingly peaceful life, but is it all as serene as it appears?

A scene from Thief (1981)
A scene from Thief (1981)

Frank thinks he has everything figured out. But there is one thing missing from his life: a family. When he starts dating Jessie, a cashier, the missing piece seems to be falling into place.

But then, everything changes. Frank is double-crossed during one last job, a diamond heist. His fencer, Joe Gags, is brutally killed, and his share of the loot is stolen. He is betrayed by Leo, a mob boss who has been watching his every move.

From a thrilling diamond heist gone wrong, to a dangerous game of cat-and-mouse with vengeance, and an unexpected twist in his personal life, Frank’s world spirals into chaos. His trusted friend is murdered, his family is threatened, and everything he’s worked for is on the brink of ruin.

But Frank is not going down without a fight. A man with nothing to lose is the most dangerous kind. Armed with determination, a burning desire for revenge, and a whole lot of explosives, Frank is ready to burn his past to the ground and settle the score. He’s done playing by the rules. It’s time for the master thief to step out of the shadows.

A Perfect Script & A Well Written Character

Let’s analyse the script and try to understand how the screenwriter Michael Mann might have developed it. What might have been his thought process when he started developing the script about Frank?

Character Sketch

Frank is a complex character. He is a skilled thief with a hardened exterior, but he also has a desire for a simple, “normal” life. This desire for normalcy comes from his need for stability, which is likely a reaction to his tumultuous past and ongoing criminal activities.

A scene from Thief (1981)
A scene from Thief (1981)

He shows signs of trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) due to his past experiences in prison. He is hyper-vigilant, has recurring bouts of anger, and struggles with emotional intimacy. These experiences have also made him resilient and resourceful, but they have also made it difficult for him to trust others and let go of control.

Frank is an introverted individual who has adapted to survive in a world that demands extroversion. He is guarded, self-reliant, and meticulous in his work. He prefers solitude or the company of a select few. This could be a coping mechanism to manage his PTSD symptoms and control his environment.

Throughout the story, Frank goes on a journey of self-discovery and self-reconciliation. He is forced to confront his “shadow” (the hidden, darker aspects of his personality) and integrate it with his “persona” (the mask he presents to the world). This is a key part of his character arc.

Three Acts & Three Psychological Approaches

ACT ONE: Dissonance and Identity Crisis

In the first act, Frank aspires to live a normal life, indicating a clear cognitive dissonance between his personal identity and his occupational identity as a thief. This internal conflict plays a crucial role in driving the narrative and establishing the emotional tension in the film. This dissonance is a key driving force for the narrative and sets up the emotional tension.

Tuesday Weld as Jessie & James Caan as Frank from Thief (1981)
Tuesday Weld as Jessie & James Caan as Frank from Thief (1981)

ACT TWO: Confrontation and Growth

In the second act of Thief, Frank’s inner conflict becomes too much to bear. After Leo betrays him, Frank’s dreams of a normal life are shattered. He is forced to face the reality of his criminal lifestyle.

A scene from Thief (1981)
A scene from Thief (1981)

Frank realises that he can’t have both. He can’t be a thief and have a normal life. This realisation is a turning point for Frank. It leads him to change his behaviour and attitude.

This confrontation can be related to the psychoanalytic concept of ‘insight’. Frank’s confrontation with reality is a powerful moment of self-awareness. It propels him into the third act of the story.

Act Three: Resolution and Reconciliation

In the third act, Frank undergoes a transformation. He wants to escape his criminal past, so he embraces his “shadow” – the part of his personality that he had previously tried to suppress or deny. In Jungian psychology, confronting and accepting one’s shadow is a crucial step in achieving self-integration. Frank’s decision to quit his life of crime marks his journey towards reconciling his conflicting identities.

Frank’s narrative, from conflict through confrontation to resolution, mirrors a psychological journey that many individuals undertake when they confront uncomfortable truths about themselves.

Title Card of the movie Thief
Title Card

In Thief, this journey is not only an exploration of Frank’s character but also a wider commentary on identity, morality, and the potential for personal change.

Why A Must Watch?

Thief is one of the best “One Last Job” or “Double Life Rom-Com” movies I have ever seen. The scriptwriter did an excellent job of developing the characters, and I highly recommend this movie to anyone who loves to write.

For more film analysis & studies, click here.

Decoding South Cinema: Ideologies and Hinduism

How South Film Industries are different in their ideologies?
Are they Promoting Anti-Hindu elements? Why are Brahmins often targeted in Tamil films? Why is Tamil Movies are anti-Hindu or anti-God 😀 ? Is it a threat for Hinduism?

In recent times, there has been a prevailing notion among certain fanatic cyber warriors that Tamil and Malayalam movies are anti-Hindu, while Telugu movies are considered more pro-Hindu.

However, if you look closer, you will get a different narrative altogether. In this article, we will try to see a different shade of Tamil cinema (Kollywood) and explore how it is different from other industries.

If you don’t have much time, this is a short and sweet answer.

Neo Wave Tamil Cinema: Breaking the Shackles of Casteism & Oppression.

Tamil Movie Posters
Movie Posters

The Neo Wave Tamil cinema movement, led by directors like Vetri Maaran, Ram, and Mari Selvaraj, directly addresses the issue of casteism. These films aim to break down caste barriers and raise awareness about the oppressive nature of the power.

Dravidian Identity: A Counterbalance to Hindu Nationalism

Tamil cinema has a strong connection with promoting the Dravidian identity. Filmmakers like Karunanidhi and Pa. Ranjith have used their films to support the Dravidian movement, which challenges the dominance of Hindu nationalism promoted by right-wing ideologies. Regional parties in Tamil Nadu actively support and endorse this expression as it is closely tied to their existence.

Now, let’s see other industries, in south, and let’s understand, how they are diversified in their core.

Kannada Cinema: Celebrating Linguistic Pride and Ethnic Minorities

In Kannada cinema, there is a strong emphasis on celebrating the language and Kannadiga pride, especially in popular mainstream films featuring superstars.

Furthermore, the emerging neo-wave Kannada films (Shetty gang) embrace and highlight the cultural heritage of the region, including its ethnic minorities.

These films explore the conservative perspectives from the past, emphasising the significance of preserving one’s roots and heritage.

Malayalam Cinema: A Diversified Motives in Narratives

The Malayalam film industry can be categorized into three distinct genres.

Firstly, there are films that promote communism and align with left-liberal ideologies. These movies often reflect progressive and socially conscious narratives but heavily biased with communism.

Secondly, there are films that explore stories related to the Islamic faith, particularly centered around the Malabar region. These movies shed light on the unique cultural aspects and experiences of the Muslim community.

Lastly, there is a group of creators who address a range of social issues, including casteism, oppression, bureaucratic atrocities, conservative mindsets and body shaming.

They challenge prevailing neo-wave thoughts and contribute to a diverse cinematic landscape in Malayalam. Notable creators in this realm include Jithin Issac Thomas, Krishaand, Ratheesh Balakrishnan Poduval, Don Palathara, Lijo Jose Pellissery, Shyama Prasad and Arun Kumar Aravind.

One distinct feature of Mollywood compared to all other industries is, Mollywood won’t promote linguistic pride, rather it talks against regionalism.

Telugu Cinema: Multiple Shades of Saviours, United by a Common Goal: Profit

Telugu cinema presents a diverse range of narratives and ideologies but with a common root: Conservatism.

Tollywood’s inclination towards conservatism can be attributed to a significant diaspora audience residing abroad. Telugu movies often evoke a sense of nostalgia and cultural pride among this diaspora community, creating a strong connection and a feeling of pride in their heritage.

The Sukumar school of filmmaking strongly promotes native culture and conservative values rooted in the past. In contrast, the Balakrishna and NTR schools perpetuate the aura of royal lineage and uphold brahmanical racial purity.

Another significant aspect of Telugu cinema is its dedication to portraying Hindu mythology and its symbols. Directors like Trivikram, Rajamouli, Koratala Siva, and Boyapati Srinu lead the way in bringing these mythological narratives or symbols to life on the big screen.

Additionally, emerging talents in Telugu cinema are increasingly busy with promoting Telangana dialect and celebrating linguistic pride.

However, it is worth noting that Telugu films often do not explicitly address the social issues mentioned in other industries. Films like Viduthalai, Taramani, Kadaisi Vivasayi may be rare in the Telugu film industry.

Why Tollywood Is Not Getting A Renaissance

The Telugu film industry is largely governed by a few influential figures, and all of them belong to any of the 2-3 castes, either Kamma (NTR Family, ANR Family, Nani & Mahesh Babu) or Kapu (Mega Family) or Kshatriyas (Prabhas, Ravi Teja & Sunil).

Even the writers or lyricists belong to the same group, be it great lyricists or writers, like Aathreya, Aarudra, Sri Sri, Veturi, Sirivennela, Ramajogayya Sastry, Jonnavithula, Tanikella Bharani, Avasarala Srinivas, K Viswanath, or Trivikram (all are Brahmins, if I am not wrong, but that’s not the point; the point is representation and diversities of identities)…

Secondly, neo-producers often characterized as oligarchs, whose primary focus is on business profitability. Consequently, aspects beyond commercial considerations are often given secondary importance.

This can be observed in recent examples like Dasara, where initial expectations were high, but the final outcome turned out to be a mediocre mass film.

Where is Anti-Hinduism in South Films?

It is crucial to understand that Tamil cinema, alongside other regional film industries, is not anti-Hindu. On the contrary, it actively promotes social equality, addresses casteism, and incorporates Hindu philosophy in its unique way.

Do you remember the film “Arangetram” where a purohit’s daughter turns to prostitution to uplift her family’s fortunes?

picture of K Balachander, Kamal Hassan in Arangetram
K Balachander, Kamal Hassan in Arangetram

It’s been exactly fifty years since its release in 1973, directed by K. Balachander, a Tamil Iyer filmmaker often seen with holy ash on his forehead.

Being pro-Hindu or pro-any religion goes beyond blindly following orders or ideologies. It also entails the ability to criticize and refine, which is what makes Hinduism a liberal religion.

From Shankaracharya to K. Balachander, they all engaged in critiquing and fixing the system instead of blindly adhering to ancient manuscripts and commandments.

“Anti-Hindu” is a lens, if one holds extremely pro – Hindutva views, you will find any critic as a threat.

Now let me tell you a secret, that rarely people understands: It’s not only Telugu Films, Tamil Films are also great at promoting Hinduism. But both are not same.

How does Tamil cinema incorporate and promote Hindu philosophy?

For those interested in delving deeper, it’s worth noting that Tamil cinema is actually at the forefront of promoting Hinduism.

To learn more about how Tamil cinema promotes Hinduism, you can explore further details here.

Anti-Hindu or Pro-Hindu? Decoding Tamil Films’ Portrayal of Hinduism

This post is the continuation of “South Films & Hinduism”, if you haven’t read the first part, please read it here.

Understanding Ambiguity

The term “anti-Hindu” is an ambiguous word, leaving us wondering what truly constitutes a film as anti-Hindu. Does it require explicit portrayal of Hinduism or Hindutva or its symbols to be considered pro-Hindu?

And who has the authority to determine these categorizations?

Before answering these questions and understanding the anti-Hindu or pro-Hindu elements in the Tamil film industry, let’s talk about Hinduism and its nuances.

Exploring the Nuances

Through conversations with a diverse range of individuals, including liberals and ultra right-wing fanatics, I’ve discovered that the true depth and adaptability of Hinduism often go unnoticed.

When compared to Abrahamic religions, Hinduism stands out with its tolerance and flexibility, offering a unique perspective. Hindusim doesn’t believe in Supremacy of one god and it help the followers to be tolerant to other religions & beliefs.

Now, let us see the essence of Hindusim, through the lens of a liberalist.

Hinduism: Beyond Religion

Hinduism transcends conventional religious boundaries and encompasses a way of life and a rich cultural framework. It move into profound existential questions, explores the purpose of life, and intricately examines the relationship between humanity and the divine.

At its core, Hinduism is way of life (just like Democracy), shaping a holistic worldview (Loka samstha sukhino bhavanathu).

Fundamental Philosphies

To understand how South movies, especially Tamil films, promote Hinduism, it is essential to explore some of the unique philosophies within the religion.

These philosophies form the very foundation of many Tamil films, resonating with audiences and communicating profound messages.

The Cycle of Rebirth

Reincarnation, a central belief in Hinduism, explores the concept of the soul’s successive rebirth in new bodies after death.This aligns with the idea of a cyclic theory of time, where the divine takes multiple incarnations to restore cosmic harmony.

Sambhavami Yuge Yuge.. He incarnates again and again.

Yada yada hi dharmasya glanir bhavati Bharata, abhyutthanam adharmasya tadatmanam srjamyaham.” (Chapter 4, Verse 7, Bhagavat Gita)

Translation: “Whenever there is a decline in righteousness and an increase in unrighteousness, O Arjuna, I manifest Myself on earth.”

Awe, Nenjam Marapathilley, Maanadu, 24 Movie posters
Awe, Nenjam Marapathilley, Maanadu, 24 Movie posters

From 1963 film “Nenjam Marappathillai” to Films like “Maanaadu,” or the bilingual film “Awe” directed by Prashanth Varma, or Suriya’s “24,” and Vishnu Vishal’s “Indru Netru Naalai” beautifully showcase this philosophy of reincarnation or cyclic theory of time.

Atman and Brahman

Hinduism introduces the concept of Atman, which refers to the individual self or soul. Hinduism believes that Atman is eternal and intricately connected to the god or divine power known as Brahman. Unlike the Abrahamic religions that view the soul as a distinct, separate entity created by God, Hinduism emphasizes the inseparability of the individual self (soul) from the divine.

The self is never born nor does it ever die; nor having come to be will it ever cease to be. The self is unborn, eternal, ever-existing, undying, and primeval.” (Chapter 2, Verse 20)

“Ayamatma Brahma” or “Aham Brahmasmi” are some vedic texts which supports this.

This fundamental philosphy is different from the idea of resurrection.

While Abrahamic religions such as Christianity, Islam, and Judaism believe in the resurrection of the physical body in a transformed state, Hinduism presents a different perspective.

Tamil Films Promoting this Core Philosophies are many. Let’s explore a few remarkable examples:

Image credits: Amazon prime, anbe sivam quotes
Image credits: Amazon prime

Kamal Hassan’s “Anbe Sivam” (2003)

This thought-provoking film revolves around the concept of “Ayam Atma Brahma,” highlighting the belief that the divine essence resides within each of us. It celebrates the profound connection between individuals and the divine, fostering empathy, compassion, and spiritual growth.

Image credits: Amazon prime, Anbe sivam quotes
Image credits: Amazon prime

Bala’s “Naan Kadavul” (2009)

Directed by Bala, “Naan Kadavul” embodies the essence of Hindu philosophies with its exploration of divine intervention, the paths of karma, and the transformative power of devotion. It delves into the complexities of human existence, while emphasizing the cosmic interconnectedness between mortals and the divine.

Naan Kadavul Poster with "Aham Brahmasmi" tagline.
Naan Kadavul Poster with “Aham Brahmasmi” tagline.

“Karnan” by Mari Selvaraj

“Karnan” weaves a powerful narrative rooted in social justice and equality, drawing inspiration from ancient Hindu epics. It highlights the struggles of the marginalized and champions the notion of dharma (righteousness) against oppression, the hero is supported by the soul of his sister.

This list won’t ends here, it’s long.

Diverse Paths to Salvation

In Hinduism, individuals have the freedom to choose from multiple paths to attain spiritual liberation.This is in contrast to Abrahamic religions, which often advocate a more singular path to salvation

Karma Yoga

Karma Yoga advocates selfless service as a means to spiritual growth. It emphasizes performing actions with a sense of duty, without seeking personal gain. Tamil heroes often deliver dialogues that reflect this philosophy, inspiring audiences with the importance of altruistic heroism.

Karmanye vadhikaraste Ma Phaleshu Kadachana, Ma Karma Phala Hetur Bhurmatey Sangostva Akarmani.” (Chapter 2, Verse 47)

Krishna advises Arjuna to focus on his duty without being attached to the outcomes or being driven by personal desires. He emphasizes the importance of selfless action.

Bhakti Yoga

Bhakti Yoga focuses on devotion and love for the divine. It involves cultivating a deep and personal relationship with a chosen deity or form of the divine. While this philosophy was more prominent in the 80s and 90s, its representation has become relatively rare in contemporary Tamil cinema.

Jnana Yoga

Jnana Yoga centers around knowledge and wisdom. It emphasizes the pursuit of self-realization and understanding the true nature of oneself and the universe. Modern Tamil heroes and heroines often embody this philosophy, celebrating personal freedom and intellectual introspections.

Tamil Films Showcasing Diverse Paths & Moksha

Films like “Oh My Kadavule” (2020), Thiagaraja Kumaraja’s “Super Deluxe,” Vikram’s “Anniyan,” Manikandan’s “Kadaisi Vivasayi” and Suriya’s “7 am Arivu” serve as noteworthy examples that showcase the philosophy of diverse paths to salvation and talks about Moksha. These films explore different aspects of the paths to liberation, offering audiences thought-provoking narratives that inspire introspection and self-discovery.

A quote from the movie Kadaisi Vyavasai
A quote from the movie Kadaisi Vivasayi

Karma vs. Divine Judgment

Hinduism introduces the profound concept of Karma, where the consequences of one’s actions and intentions shape their future experiences and circumstances. Even God can’t escape Karma.

In contrast, Abrahamic religions emphasize the concept of divine judgment, where individuals are held accountable for their actions and face rewards or punishments in an afterlife.

In simpler terms, irrespective of prayers, good deeds, or repentance, Karma remains as a nasty b**ch which follows individuals throughout their lives. Tamil cinema frequently explores these themes, offering thought-provoking narratives that showcase this nasty face of Karma.

Prominent Examples which explore Karma in Tamil Cinema

Tamil films have explored the depths of Karma, presenting captivating stories that reflect the consequences of one’s actions.

Let’s explore some noteworthy examples:

Nalan Kumarasamy’s “Andavan Kattalai” examines the struggles of two individuals as they face the repercussions of their choices, illustrating the complex workings of Karma.

Kamal Hassan’s iconic film “Nayagan” portrays the journey of a gangster grappling with the Karmic consequences of his actions, ultimately seeking redemption.

Manikandan’s “Kutrame Thandanai” delves into the life of a man caught in a web of events driven by Karma, highlighting the impact of past actions on the present.

Two scenes from Thiagaraja Kumaraja’s Super Deluxe

Films like “Dashavatharam,” “Super Deluxe,” and “Katradhu Tamizh” also explore the themes of Karma, inviting audiences to contemplate the interconnectedness of actions and their consequences.

Dharma: Morality and Ethical Duties

Hinduism embraces the concept of Dharma, encompassing moral and ethical duties. It recognizes that moral standards can vary based on circumstances, life stages, and social roles.

Abrahamic religions often adhere to a divine commandments and sins, where moral standards are considered fixed and rooted in the commands of God. In Hinduism it’s not black and white, rather it’s grey.

The conversation between Arjuna and Krishna during at Kuruskhetra is the proof for this.

Better is one’s own dharma, though imperfectly performed, than the dharma of another well-performed. Better is death in one’s own dharma; the dharma of another is fraught with fear.” (Chapter 3, Verse 35)

Filmmaker Thiagaraja Kumaraja aptly captures this philosophy in his own words, “Yethu Thevaio Athu Dharamam” (What we need is Dharma).

Films like “Aaranya Kaandam” and “Super Deluxe” illustrate this philosophy, where the concepts of right and wrong become blurred. These works challenge viewers to navigate through the shades of gray, exploring the complexities of morality and the multifaceted nature of human actions.

A Scene from Super Deluxe

There is nothing absolute right or wrong; it’s all depending upon the lenses and the needs. Essentially, It’s about you and your survival.

Maya: The Illusion of the Material World:

Hinduism introduces the concept of Maya, acknowledging that the phenomenal world is an illusion, and true reality lies beyond the perceptions of the senses.

In contrast, Abrahamic religions generally consider the physical world as real, created by god and not inherently illusory.

The wise mourn neither for the living nor for the dead.” (Chapter 2, Verse 11)

Once again, director Thiagaraja Kumaraja delves into the concept of maya in his recent film “Ninaivo Oru Paravai,” questioning the boundaries between reality and imagination.

To read more about Ninaivo Oru Paravai click here.

Even Thiagaraja Kumaraja’s “Super Deluxe” talks about the same in the end with the characters alien and Gajji.

Vijay Sethupathi's disappearing scene from Kadaisi Vivasayi
Vijay Sethupathi’s disappearing scene from Kadaisi Vivasayi

Films like “Bogan” by Lakshman, “Awe” by Prashanth Verma, “Kadaisi Vivasayi” (Vijay Sethupathi track) by Manikandan, “Diary” by Arulnithi, “Eeram” by Arivazhagan, “Karnan” by Mari Selvaraj, and “Deja Vu” by Arvind Srinivasan also touch upon the theme of Maya. One personal favorite is Nalan Kumarasami’s “Soodhu Kavvum.

These films challenge our perception of reality, inviting us to contemplate the illusory nature of the material world and the deeper truths that lie beyond.

Panentheism: Divine Presence in Nature

One striking aspect of Hinduism is its belief in panentheism, acknowledging the divine presence within all aspects of the natural world.

This one is my personal favourite philosophy considering Hinduism as a way of life. All the ancient civilisations followed this.

This sets it apart from the monotheistic beliefs of Abrahamic religions, which emphasize the existence of a singular God or Supreme God.

Hinduism perceives the divine as immanent within nature and all living beings.

I remember when I was a child, I was scared of a centipede and tried to kill it. Then my grandma shouted at me, “Lakshmi Devi” will curse me if I kill a centipede. Because the centipede is Lakshmi Devi’s chariot. This might sound ridiculous, but there is a strong impact on nature. After that incident I never intentionally hurt any animals or reptiles, be they a snake, a spider, a lizard, or a dog. It’s a fear, for a good cause.

Everything in nature is related to God. From Ganges, Himalayas, Rats, Snakes to even Ashes.

This pantheistic approach fosters a deep sense of interconnectedness, reverence, and responsibility towards the nature..

Environmental Conservation and Sustainability

Hinduism’s panentheistic perspective aligns harmoniously with efforts towards environmental conservation and sustainability. By recognizing the divinity in nature, Hinduism instills a profound respect for and protection of the environment. It promotes the idea that humans have a sacred duty (dharma) to preserve and care for the natural world, perceiving it as an integral part of their spiritual journey.

The film “Kadaisi Vivasayi” directed by Manikandan, serves as a remarkable example that exemplifies these themes.

Kadaisi Vivasayi’s title card is shown with a shot of a peakcock on the rock and a song in the background, which translates to “Whether you are a figment of imaginations or an idol made by humans, Muruga, you have a boundless devotion.”

In the movie, later, the farmer asks the court, “How can I kill Murugan’s peacocks?” Will write another post on this soon.

Through the portrayal of peacocks, paddy fields, trees, and stones as divine entities, the movie beautifully captures the interconnectedness between humans and the natural world.

Farmer talking about his paddy fields

It emphasizes the significance of living in harmony with nature, showcasing the traditional practices of elderly farmers who deeply respect and protect the environment.

Personal Freedom and Fanaticism

It is essential to note that the philosophies discussed here aim to empower individuals rather than impose religious dogmas or the authority of a godman.

That is why I said, Hinduism is a way of life.

Unfortunately, some fanatics distort these philosophies in the name of culture and heritage, thereby disrupting the true essence of this “way of life” nature of Hinduism.

I have heard stories from my friends about the challenges they face when it comes to inter-religious marriages. They often share the consequences they encounter from church communities and religious dogmas.

In many cases, if they marry someone from another religion, the expectation is that the non-islamic partner must convert, or else the community may resort to ostracizing the family.

It’s disheartening to witness the impact of such rigid beliefs on personal choices and the potential for social exclusion.

Thankfully, as a Hindu, I have the freedom to marry a girl from any community without interference from temples or pandits. However, I am concerned that these fanatics may soon infringe upon this freedom of choice in the name of religion and culture.

In my opinion, those who attempt to confine this vast philosophy within rigid structures and commandments are the ones who are anti-Hindu.

On the other hand, those who promote the philosophy and question or criticise the evils in beliefs can be considered pro-Hindu.

Comment your thoughts.