Saturday, August 17, 2013

Aadhalal Kaadhal Seiveer (2013)

Aadhalal Kaadhal Seiveer is a superb cautionary tale of sorts with characters so real they could be your friends. It is a keenly observed work which truly captures what it means to fall in love at twenty and what could happen when one is not careful. The characters are extremely relatable and the situations they find themselves in.. scarily genuine. 

For the first time in forever, the romance doesn't feel larger than life. Karthik and Shwetha go to a college where almost everyone appears to be in some stage of a relationship. From one-side love to falling for a close friend to relationships breaking down in a matter of days.. these kids have seen it all. The fear of rejection which keeps them from expressing their deepest desires, the unforgettable sensation of getting tongue-tied around a crush, being disappointed with oneself for letting another day go by without making anything happen.. and the ultimate relief when it all miraculously works out.. Aadhalal gets it right on all counts. 

I swear I did not even know who the male lead was until a few minutes into the movie, when I had to figure it out myself. I look at Karthik and Shwetha and see reflection of people I know. Falling in love is the easy part; making a relationship work requires all the effort. Soon enough, the drug named love consumes her and she starts hiding the truth about her love life from her family.. something which she promises her Father should would never. Suseendran wisely manufactures most of the tension from this very palpable fear of getting caught. One thing leads to another and the lovers find themselves expecting a child.   

This is quite possibly the definitive story about the perils of young love in Indian middle-class context. There's this unshakable feeling that these are real people facing real problems. Once the families gets involved, the film takes an altogether different turn. The disparity does not arise out of difference in monetary status. Both the families are squarely middle-class with a typical white collar breadwinner. They are all good people who think they have their child's best interest at heart. That might be true, for all we know, but as viewers, we cannot but root for the lovers to get together. The need to live up to society's unrealistic expectations from a perfect family, the oorla-thala-nimurnthu-nadaka-mudiyathu feeling and the fear of becoming outcast makes it harder for them to accept their children's choices. 

You can tell a lot about a person based on how they react to this film. Without going on yet another feminist rant, I will just say what I registered from the reaction of audience around me: the sexually active girl was shamed while the equally "guilty" boy was absolved.  Understanding this prevailing attitude, Suseendran tips the moral bias slightly in favor of the girl. Besides that, he lets these dynamics play out and leaves the rest upon us to draw our own judgments.  For most part of the runtime, the film walks a tightrope, carefully balancing out the blame between the lovers. It is in the final five minutes that it blindsides us with a totally unexpected emotional blow. The ripples of people's short-sighted actions continue to affect so many lives, even destroying some, and the film delivers a powerful statement on that. Although that might not have been the film's primary intention, it still becomes very thought provoking on secondary issues like 'abortion'. 

Besides being a very realistic take on young love with some really compelling drama, Suseendran's Aadhalal Kaadhal Seiveer is an important film. Sure, the final minutes could have used more subtlety and less sentimentality, but the impact is undeniable.