One of the criticisms that are levied against Tamil cinema, in general, is that they don’t reflect the reality of the society. Although Tamil cinema in the 60 and 70s dealt with family issues, those movies were masculine and melodramatic (of course, there were rare blips). The realism in the problems was missing, and Visu bridged the gap between realism and melodrama with his feminine based scripts and savvy direction. Samsaram Adhu Minsaram is the pinnacle of Visu’s creations.
Samsaram Adhu Minsaram (Family is like electricity) (1986)
The story starts with the customary bride seeing (Ponnu Parkum) function of Sarojini (Ilavarasi), the only daughter of Ammaiyappa Mudaliar (Visu). In fact, the scene serves as the introduction of characters too. Ammaiyappa Mudaliar is a clerk in a central government office lives with his wife, Godavari (Kamala Kamesh) in a joint family. His first son, Chidambaram (Raghuvaran) works as a cashier in Indian Oil and significant financial support to the family. His second son, Siva (Vaagai Chandrasekhar) works as a fitter in a private company and a son who doesn’t even talk back against the words of his father. His last son, Bharathi (Haja Sharif) is on the pursuit of passing his SSLC (high school exam). Chidambaram is married to Uma (Lakshmi), who binds the family together and everyone in the family loves and respects her. Kannamma (Manorama) is not just the maid of the family but also part of it.
Sarojini rejects the groom after the bride seeing function and also insults the groom’s family. Ammaiyappan feels terrible and visits the groom’s house. Jagannathan (Delhi Ganesh) impressed by Ammaiyappan and his family offers his daughter Vasantha’s (Madhuri) hand to Siva. Ammaiyappan accepts it but says that they have to wait until Sarojini’s wedding. Sarojini reveals that she is in love with Peter Fernandes (Dilip). Although they are against the marriage, they accept it for various reasons (Chidambaram is happy that he need not spend for his sister anymore). Both weddings take place on the same day, and they start their marital life.
Siva and Vasantha’s privacy is adversely affected by Bharathi, who is always in Siva’s room to study while Sarojini is enjoying her newfound independence and disrespects her father-in-law, Albert Fernandes (Kishmoo). Uma leaves to her brother’s house in Bombay (now Mumbai) for childbirth. While she is away, on the same day, Vasantha moves to her father’s house after discord with Siva while Sarojini comes back to her home after a fight with Peter. Although Vasantha comes back after strong advice from her father, Sarojini stays back claiming that her husband will come back like Siva went to fetch Vasantha.
Chidambaram, who is usually money conscious reduces his financial part for the family as his wife’s away. This gives rise to an argument with his father, and Ammaiyappan loses his cool and asks Chidambaram to leave the house. Chidambaram, on the other hand, urges Ammaiyappan to give back the Rs.18,000 that he paid for Sarojini’s wedding. Ammaiyappan divides the house into two and asks Chidambaram to live separately until he pays back the money. He restricts the family from crossing the line on any account. Uma arrives to see the family in disarray and feels terrible that her husband has created the rift. The rest of the movie about is how she reunites the family with the help of Kannamma and Godavari. The film concludes with an unexpected climax through the decision of Uma.
What is so special about the movie?
1. The film takes everyday issues that happen in a family, and Visu spins a web around the characters that are real, relatable and forces you to question roles in the family. Visu’s movies have always been like that. Although he did write screenplays before (more on it in the trivia section), since Kudumbam Oru Kadambam, his play that also became a movie, he handled family and societal issues in the majority of his films.
2. The brilliant writing of Visu. The screenplay is crisp, and the dialogues are punchy even when they are lengthy exchanges. While Uma’s (Lakshmi) dialogues are short and punchy, Ammaiyappan (Visu) and Chidambaram (Raghuvaran) have more interminable rants. This dichotomy is to show the callowness of men and the prudence of Uma’s character.
3. The fantastic composition of scenes especially the fight between Chidambaram and Ammayappan, Kannamma’s scene with Albert Fernandes and the climax sequence.
4. The negativity of the Chidambaram’s personality comes from the situations that he is in. Visu’s movies have this knack of showing the point of view rather than allowing you to judge them.
5. The excellent acting of each character (sometimes you might feel that it’s like a play, but the origins of most of Visu’s movies are from his stage plays – can’t be blamed for that). Lakshmi, Raguvaran and Visu act as the three pillars of the film and the supporting cast make the movie perfect. However, without Manorama, this movie would have been incomplete. Even though, everyone like that one scene in which she taunts Kishmoo (Kannama, Gammunu Kada), my favourite is the climax where she tears apart Ammaiyappan’s stubbornness and hypocrisy.
6. Last but not the least, Shankar Ganesh’s music. They always provided adequate music for the movies they scored. Janaki Devi Ramanai Thedi is a fantastic melody while the pathos of Samsaram Adhu Minsaram is still fresh and Katti Karumbe Kanna is an emotional lullaby. The background score during the pivotal scenes is worth a mention.
Why should it be on the list?
1. For giving Tamil cinema much-needed realism concerning middle-class families and their issues. The physical privacy issue between Siva and Vasantha was dealt sensibly without a hint of vulgarity.
2. A trend-setter concerning family based movies and it created a separate slew of directors who made films in this genre (most of them were Visu’s assistant directors)
3. For Visu.
1. Samsaram Adhu Minsaram was a remake. Surprised? In 1975, KS Gopalakrishnan produced Uravukku Kai Koduppom based on Visu’s play directed by YG Mahendran with Gemini Ganesan, Sowcar Janaki, Muthuraman and Sujatha in lead. The film bombed at the box office. Visu was an official screenplay writer for AVM. He used to correct the screenplays for AVM’s movies and he was asking AVM Saravanan to produce a movie for him. AVM Saravanan was impressed by the original stage play. Visu suggested that it had already been made as a movie. AVM bought the rights for the original and asked Visu to rewrite the screenplay. Saravanan felt that there was a lack of comedy and Visu rewrote the script with Kannamma’s character. And that’s how Manorama came in to the picture.1
2. Visu (originally MR Viswanathan)3 started his life as a stage actor during his school days and started his own theatre group, Vishwashanthi that created family based plays. He assisted K.Balachander and wrote dialogues for some of his movies (Thillu Mullu). Kudumbam Oru Kadambam was a breakthrough in his career but it was directed by SP Muthuraman although Visu wrote the screenplay. Manal Kayiru was his first hit movie that had a wonderful run at the box office although some of the reviewers panned it for lengthy dialogues and sequences.
3. Visu did try his hand at different genres. Chidambara Ragasiyam was a comic thriller, Puthiya Sagaptham and Rajathanthiram were revenge dramas but nothing worked like his emotional family dramas. Notable ones are, Dowri Kalyanam (1983), Thirumathi Oru Vegumathi (1987), Penmani Aval Kanmani (1988), Sakalakala Sammanthi (1989) and Varavu Nalla Uravu (1990). My personal favourite is Urimai Oonjaladigrathu (1992) that dealt with inter-religious love story.
4. His movies didn’t do well in the 1990s and he moved towards television with his Arattai Arangam (Sun TV) and Makkal Arangam (Jaya TV)3. His assistants made movies in the same genre and the most notable one was TP Gajendran, who made Budget Padmanabhan and Middle Class Madhavan.
5. The movie won the National Award for Best Popular Film Providing Wholesome Entertainment (1987) becoming the first Tamil movie to do so and also the first movie to receive a National award even though it was remade in the same language.
6. The movie had a remix (or retune or rehashed – I don’t know how to call it), of Oorai Therinjikitten (Padikathavan) with different lyrics as Visu laments about his family life.
7. The movie was remade in Hindi as Sansar with Anupam Kher, Raj Babbar and Rekha in the lead. The Telugu version, Samsaram Oda Chadarangam had Gollapudi Maruthi Rao, Sarath Babu and Suhasini in the lead with Sowcar Janaki playing Manorama’s role. The Malayalam version, Kudumbapuranam, was directed by Sathiyan Anthikad with Thilakan, Balachandra Menon and Ambika in the lead. The Kannada version, Onde Goodina Hakkigalu had Tiger Prabhakar and Lakshmi in the lead.
8. Vishwa Shanthi is back to theatre as they staged ‘Konjam Yosinga Boss’ in 2014.
9. Kamala Kamesh acted in more than 400 films in Tamil, Kannada, Malayalam and Telugu. I couldn’t plot her debut movie but she became famous for her mother roles after the success of Kudumbam Oru Kadambam (1981) and Alaigal Oivathillai (1981). She never graduated to other roles and she was repeatedly cast in similar roles. Her daughter Uma acted in few movies but never shined in the silver screen and she is married to Riyas Khan. Interestingly, Kamala Kamesh suffers from a rare blurred vision problem and she still acted in movies with the disability.6
Producer: AVM Saravanan for AVM Productions; Story, screenplay, dialogues and direction: Visu; Music: Shankar Ganesh; Cinematography:N.Balakrishnan; Editing: A.Paul Durai Singam; Art direction: B.Nagarajan; Lyrics for songs: Vairamuthu.2
- AVM 60 by M.Saravanan
- The Best of Tamil Cinema – Volume 2 by G. Dhananjayan
- A passionate Journey by Rani Devalla for The Hindu
- ‘I never left the stage” Interview of Visu with V.Balasubramaniam for The Hindu
- Wikipedia article on Visu
- Grill Mill with Kamala Kamesh by SR Ashok Kumar for The Hindu
- Image credit: Rediff.com
YouTube link for the movie
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