Thanks to all those who continue to read me even though I am very erratic in posting. On the revival of the series, I have made a separate page where the whole set of movies is listed. You can have a look at it here. Now for the 14th movie – Sila Nerangalil Sila Manithargal
Sila Nerangalil Sila Manithargal (1976)
One of the toughest jobs in film-making is to adapt a novel into a screenplay. Somehow readers will find a flaw to say that the book was better than the movie and many have failed miserably in this regard. There have been worst instances when Sujatha’s novels have become extremely forgettable movies. Sila Nerangalil Sila Manithargal is the first movie in our list which is a direct adaptation of a Sahitya Akademi award-winning novel – Sila Nerangalil Sila Manithargal by Jayakanthan. Jayakanthan is one of the widely misunderstood authors of this era and writing about him will need a separate post. So let’s keep it aside for some time.
Sila Nerangalil Sila Manithargal is a novel adaptation by A.Bhimsingh with Lakshmi, Srikanth, Nagesh, YG Parthasarathy, Sundarabai and Jayageetha. MS Viswanathan scored the music with Kannadasan’s meaningful lyrics. Ganga (Lakshmi) is a young college student takes a lift in a car on a rainy day, and she has a violent (debated later in the movie) sexual encounter with the guy who drives the vehicle. Although her mother (Sundarabai) tries to salvage the situation, her brother throws her out of the house citing disgrace to the family. She then moves to Madras with her maternal uncle (YGP) who also takes care of her education. He also makes sexual advances towards her citing the incident she went through and claims that she can never become someone’s wife but only a concubine.
After graduation, she gets employed in a private firm and accidentally bumps into Prabu (Srikanth), with whom she had the sexual encounter initially. She slowly introduces herself to him, and they both become friends, even discuss that evening. She debates to herself about the sexual encounter and realises that she willfully accepted that intercourse. The friendship gradually blossoms into a lovely relationship, but Prabu tries to convince her to marry someone else. Due to societal pressures, Prabu leaves her at last, but Ganga disguises herself as a widow and film end up with an open-ended question of what’s her future will be.
Why is it so special?
1. The film is unique because it gave that poetic start to those directors who wanted to tread into bolder themes which read taboo in Tamil cinema. ‘Sila Nerangalil Sila Manithargal’ was a bold film and ahead of its time. It spoke sexual issues, created virginity debate and even slammed the orthodoxy attitude on chastity.
2. The beautiful performances of the lead actors and the supporting cast. Lakshmi was brilliant, and she bagged a National award for her role. She would have romped with an Oscar if this movie had been made in Hollywood. Srikanth with his restrained acting and emotional outbursts showed why needs to be rated with other better actors in town. Sundarabai as Ganga’s mother showed naivety and at the same time, her practical approach when she finds her child has been sexually assaulted is simply superb. Nagesh’s character is interesting. He acts as the writer, who watches Ganga in her different times. He even writes his observations and makes social commentary on it. In fact, I never understood the character nor he gives a self-explanation to his acts (like the writer himself).
3. The brilliant musical original score and songs by MS Viswanathan. The song “Veru Idam Thedi Povalo” at the end is so meaningful and heart-wrenching. The minimalistic BGM accentuates the impact of the movie
Why is it on the list?
1. Sila Nerangalil Sila Manithargal is a path breaker in the Tamil filmdom and encouraged a lot of directors to tread into different storylines.
2. One of the best novel to movie adaptations. In fact, the best of the lot. Bhimsingh was even careful as he didn’t change the open-ended climax of the novel to change. There should have been huge oppositions to make it “politically’ and “socially” correct.
3. For the brilliance of Lakshmi – should I say anything more?
1. Sila Nerangalil Sila Manithargal was not Jayakanthan’s first novel to be adapted to a movie. The first one was his directorial venture “Unnai Pol Oruvan” which was released in 1965. Kamal Hassan borrowed the title of the movie for his 2009 remake of “A Wednesday”. The other two works of Jayakanthan that had been adapted were “Oru Nadigai Nadagam Parkiral” and “Yarukkaga Azhuthan”. Interestingly, “Oru Nadigal Nadagam Paarkiral” was made by A.Bhimsingh with Lakshmi in the lead.
2. Music composer Ilaiyaraaja’s most favourite author is Jayakanthan, and he produced a documentary on Jayakanthan titled “Yellaikalaigalai Vistharitha Yezhuthukalaignan” (“The writer who expanded the boundaries”)
3. Jayakanthan remains as one of the two Tamil authors to have won the prestigious Jnanpith Award for Literature. The other being Akilan for his Chitrapavai.
4. Due to her acting skills Lakshmi was fondly called “Pombala Sivaji” (Lady Sivaji) referring to Sivaji Ganesan, arguably the best actor that Tamil Cinema has ever produced.
5. In 1977, Lakshmi became the First actress to win a National Award for a Tamil movie – She won it for Sila Nerangalil Sila Manithargal.
YouTube link to Sila Nerangalil Sila Manithargal