“En vazhi, thani vazhi”
How much have we clapped and swooned for this line? Uttered in repetition by our own Thalaiva, Padayappa is a movie that we would watch time and again, to just enjoy. My earliest memory of this movie is going to the theatre with Appa and Amma and watching the movie unfold in the big screen, in all its glory. I was all of 6 or 7 years of age then. This was infact the first and last movie that I watched with family in theatre.
Padayappa is a typical Rajinikanth+ K.S Ravikumar movie. A “Good wins over the Evil” type of storyline with a nothing less than God Hero, a coy and shy heroine, the usual masala sentiments and motions running high amidst family feud over wealth. Now what this post isn’t is a movie review or a technical analysis. No. That is not my thing to do. This post is something else.
After watching the movie a couple of times after I grew up, I understood that more than the style of Thalaivar and the usual jingoisms and cliches of the Director, the thing that makes me want to go back is the quality of the female characters in the story. Who could forget the oomph of our own Neelambari or the typical ideal coy bride that was Vasundhara?
Let me try and give what those characters in the story meant to me.
Anitha- Padayappa’s daughter
This woman is born out of a wedlock that was filled with nothing but love and moral values. She is sent out of town for her studies and comes back, educationally qualified and in love with a young las, who typically hails from a forbidden family ( Movies guys!!). Now she hides the affair from her parents obeying somebody else who claims to be her well-wisher and causes insult to her father in front of a whole lot of people. Now, after all the ususal drama that goes on for this, when Padayappa asks her about the affair, she stands her ground and affirms that she loves the guy and she is not going to be betrayed into falsities in the name of love.
This, I think, was such a moment when the confidence of Anitha comes out. She stands for her love and is confident about her decision. Power to her!
Padayappa’s Sister- Played by Sithara
She is cheated by her fiance who runs of to marry another girl, from her own extended family, because of wealth and fame. She stews in her misery and is speechless as to her future. Gradually in the gap of one song, she finds her ground and comes back stronger to become a teacher and also marry another man, who is a better human being. She loves her groom to bits and is unapologetic in having done so. She has not one bit of regret and she doesn’t get wasted in the name of love, like many other contemporary women who have been portrayed to do. Setting aside the stupidity of the song, I admired the way she gathered herself up. That is what we call guts and courage.
Padayappa’s mother- Played by Lakshmi
Losing her husband might have shook her world , but she was not the one to be pushed over. She stood by her children till the end and made sure that they remain happy. She had many, many opportunities to succumb to the pressure of being a single parent and dance to the tune of others around, but she chose to live by the legacy of her family that she has raised and by the principles that she had set for herself. Women who put their devastating past behind and look forward are the ones who end up ruling the world and the hearts of many out there!
Ah! Where do I even begin? A woman who is born into a rich family, pampered to bits by the family, comes back into town and falls for the most eligible bachelor there. The bachelor, like anybody who watched Rajinikanth movies would expect, shuns her saying all the possible misogynistic reasons ( Remember? “Nan oru pombalaya kalyanam panniknum nu aasa padren” and the various criteria that he doles out for a woman ranging from “nidhaanam” to “not being a bajaari”). She tries to get to the guy by hook or crook only to be outwitted by him at every juncture. All is fair in Love and War, you see? The guy goes on to marry his “ideal” woman and lives happily ever after. She ends up becoming the most loser version of a psycho and locks herself up in a room. Story ends. Or does it?
Nope. This is where it actually begins.
She comes out after a self imposed exile of 18 years, in a more ravishing appearance and style. (She steals the thunder totally after this and Whattey friggin screen presence man!) She schemes and plots the downfall of the guy whom she had the hots for and still ends up being outwitted. She refuses to succumb. She shoots herself in the end, thus dying a death that boosts up her ego bigtime and gives her the eternal satisfaction of having won over the guy.
What I observed meanwhile was that she ended up alone. She didn’t marry anybody else because she wanted him and only him. In an era of “Beep songs” and “Pombalainga kaadhala thaan nambi vidadhey” this was refreshing for me. She totally ruled the space and I am sure that nobody else could have done this any better! Total surender to the woman who lived as Neelambari.
The equality of women was also mentioned here and there in the movie. Those mild gestures interspersed with the storyline are such a treat to watch and I have no regrets at all in being a complete fan of this movie. Gives me a fresh perspective, every single time.