As I have stated earlier in the article on Veedu, Balu Mahendra considered Veedu and Sandhya Raagam as the two movies (among the ones he made) with minimal flaws. Unlike Veedu, I had to search for Sandhya Raagam, and I was startled at the ingenuity it threw on me.
Sandhya Raagam (Tune of the Twilight) – 1989
Chokkalingam (played by Chokkalinga Bagavathar) moves to Madras (now Chennai) to live with his nephew Vasu (Oviyar Veera Santhanam) after his wife’s demise. Vasu lives with his wife (Archana) and his daughter in a middle-class household. Archana feels that she would not be able to take care of Chokkalingam due to the financial situation of the family. Chokkalingam slowly realises that he has become a burden to the household and he moves to an elderly home that takes care of senior citizens.
Balu Mahendra wrote, directed and produced the movie and L.Vaidyanathan scored the background music (and it’s listed wrongly as Ilaiyaraaja in some articles).
What is so special about the movie?
- There have been movies about the elderly and neglected parents in Tamil cinema, but all those movies handled the issue in a melodramatic way. Sandhya Raagam was the first movie to take care of it realistically and sensitively.
- The film never takes a blaming tone on the young daughter-in-law because she undergoes so much pressure than the other two men in the family. Archana portrayed the helplessness of a middle-class woman so perfectly.
- It also doesn’t try to force you to take a sympathetic tone on Chokkalingam. For instance, there is a scene where Archana laments that she would not be able to take care of the octogenarian. By Tamil film grammar, Balu Mahendra should have shown the tears of Chokkalingam, but he tends to focus on the realistic lament of a middle-class wife. A master class in filmmaking on how to concentrate on the subject matter that director wants the audience to see.
- Chokkalinga Bagavathar’s restrained portrayal of an old man is a treat to watch. Most old people, after a particular age move on quickly from their disappointments with life. The sketching of the character was realistic, and none could have matched his performance.
- The movie showed why Archana is one of the best actresses that Tamil cinema ever saw. It could have become caricaturish because there were quite many films that dealt with similar storylines at that time. The balance was the key, and Balu Mahendra extracted the best out of his favourite actress.
- The minimalistic score of L Vaidyanathan and Balu Mahendra’s trademark natural lighting cinematography (he chose to shoot the movie in Black and White) were perfect accompaniments to the story.
Why is it on the list?
- Sandhya Raagam is one of the few perfectly crafted movies in Tamil cinema.
- A film that could have been marred by cheap melodrama but Balu Mahendra stays the course to show realism realistically.
- A movie that makes every Tamil movie fan proud.
- Sandhya Raagam didn’t get a release in theatres. Balu Mahendra wrote, directed and produced the movie and sold the rights to Doordarshan that aired the film frequently .
- Balu Mahendra stated that Veedu and Sandhya Raagam are his two best creations because he didn’t make any compromises in filmmaking  .
- Sandhya Raagam won the National Award for Best movie on social welfare in 1990 .
- Oviyar Veera Santhanam (who played Vasu) was born in Uppliyappan Kovil near Kumbakonam, and he studied art in Kumbakonam Arts College. He worked with the Handlooms Department of Central Government. During this stint, he met Arivumathi (Poet and Lyricist), who introduced him to Balu Mahendra. Later, he voluntarily retired from his job to become an activist for Tamil Eelam. He is a strident voice in the Tamil Nationalist movement. He acted in movies like Pizza, Kaththi, Anegan, etc., Still confused about the identity of this person? He is the actor who played the exorcist role in Pizza and asks for Pepperoni Topping 😉
- Trivia on L Vaidyanathan (visit Pesum Padam page)
- Trivia on Balu Mahendra (visit Moondram Pirai and Veedu pages)
YouTube link for Sandhya Raagam
- The Best of Tamil Cinema – Part 2 by G.Dhananjayan
- Interview with Anu Hasan – Coffee with Anu – Vijay TV
- 37th National Film Awards Wikipedia Page
- Dolly…Dolly…Dolly – Vikatan