It’s February and posts on romantic movies in Tamil are inevitable. Be it the mainstream media or bloggers, romance in Tamil movies starts with Mani Ratnam and ends with Gautam Menon. It’s not that I don’t love their movies, but it is too tiresome to see the same set of movies as the films that define romance in Tamil cinema. Although I liked Mouna Ragam and gave a glowing review to Vinnai Thandi Varuvaya, on the hindsight, both movies glorified stalking. Think about Mouna Ragam, how can you justify Mohan forcing Revathi to marry even though she isn’t interested in the marriage. I sometimes used to think that the movie is a perfect example of Stockholm syndrome.
Keeping away those discussions, I believe that it’s time for mainstream journalists and bloggers to move beyond the usual romantic movies in Tamil during – in fact, they don’t even write about Varusham 16 or Kadhal Kottai in their articles. The idea for this post stemmed from seeing multiple posts on the same old movies. I have gone beyond the non-obvious ones (like Kadhal Kottai) and dug deep to identify nine underrated love stories in Tamil cinema.
1. All these movies have done well at the box office or have been critically acclaimed (or both).
2. The majority of the films were released after 1990 except for one.
1. Nenjathai Killathe (1980)
Few years before Mouna Ragam made it to the silver screen, Mahendran made a brilliant movie about a young, fun-loving woman falling in love with her husband after leaving her boyfriend. Mahendran wrote the story after watching a woman running alone at the Marine Drive. The treatment of love in Nenjathai Killathe is realistic – she leaves her lover because he breaks her trust but she finds it difficult to shrug off her past. Excellently portrayed by Suhasini (in her debut), Mohan and Prathap Pothen, no other movie has handled this issue so deftly. In fact, Mahendran also gives a counterpoint through the characters of Sarath Babu (Suhasini’s brother) and Vanitha.
And one more thing, the airport climax started with this movie.
Trivia: The movie won three national awards and three Tamil Nadu state awards.Nenjathai Killathe was the first Mahendran movie that was sent to award considerations and that too by the producer. Mahendran never cared about awards, and that’s the reason why Uthiripookal and Mullum Malarum didn’t win any.
2. Gokulathil Seethai (1996)
There can’t be an apt title for this movie than this one. An honest, intelligent and confident woman ends up in a playboy’s house due to unforeseen circumstances. The film tells how these two people fall in love. Gokulathil Seethai is one of the most dignified romantic movies you will see in Tamil cinema. On the plain sight, it could have been just another woman saving a man from the clutches of bad habits ( a staple love story in Tamil cinema), but Agathiyan chose to explore the complexities of those two characters. The love between the leads evolve gradually, and at the end you want them to be together.
Suvalakshmi and Karthik were apt in their roles. Their acting prowess shows up, especially in the climax sequence. And don’t miss the unique portrayal of Karan as IC Mohan.
3. Bharathi Kannamma (1997)
Cheran chose to start his directing career with a bold movie that depicted how caste systems kill human relationships. A wealthy zamindar’s daughter (Meena) falls in love with a low-caste worker (Parthiepan) from her farm. There have been many other movies that have the same storyline, but none have been so hard hitting as Bharathi Kannamma.
Bharathi played by Parthiepan never reciprocates the undying love of his Zamindar’s daughter due to his devotion to the Zamindar. He also fears for his sister’s life because of the caste system. Parthipan portrayed the dilemma, elegantly and Cheran never shied away from showing the caste issues and acts of untouchability.
There was a huge debate about the reverse-sati style climax, but for this movie it was essential. If I am not wrong, Bharathi utters Kannamma’s name only in the climax, but until then he calls her Chinnamma. One thing is for sure; nothing has changed concerning caste and honour killings even after 20 years.
4. Kadhal Mannan (1998)
The hero (played by Ajith) meets the heroine (played by Manu) at her engagement ceremony. Although he wants to meet to deliver a package from her estranged sister, he falls in love with her. Kadhal Mannan had the usual cliches of every Tamil romantic movie – a strict father, irritating villain and supportive friends but the difference was the impeccable screenplay and interesting characterizations. The tug of war between the leads makes you root for them, and Charan portrayed the dilemma of the woman eloquently.
It’s a pity that we don’t get to see such playful romantic movies anymore.
Trivia: Vivek was listed as a co-director in the movie. He convinced MS Viswanathan to take a full-fledged role in the film.
5. Dumm Dumm Dumm (2001)
How about a couple running away from their engagement and wedding? When they decide to give up and get married, havoc strikes and they part. It’s one of the most beautiful scenes when the two fathers take them away during the chaos and their eyes meet with million questions in their minds.
The premise itself was so engaging, and Azhagan Perumal’s treatment of the story was even better. The movie portrayed the blooming romance between the lead pair beautifully. I am pretty sure that a lot of men and women would want such a romantic arranged marriage, sans the drama of course.
6. Nala Damayanti (2003)
Although ‘Green Card’ inspired the premise, Nala Damayanti had its charm because of the excellent characterisations. A Palakkad Malayali Brahmin cook ends up in a marriage of convenience with a Sri Lankan Tamil girl (played by Geethu Mohandas) but more than that it’s the story of how conservatism meets modernity. At the start, Ramji (played by Madhavan) is unable to fathom the fact that he has to be married to someone for immigration reasons.
But slowly they fall for each other as they live as husband and wife to cheat the police and authorities. It’s the story of how fake becomes real and how Damayanti realises the difference between both. Directed by Mouli, Nala Damayanti will stay as one of the sweetest romantic movies in Tamil cinema.
7. Kanda Naal Mudhal (2005)
Karthik Kumar who plays Prasanna’s friend and Laila’s fiancé in the movie keeps on yapping about chemistry. The film shows why chemistry is important in love. Although the friendship between the lead pair starts with a fight, they realise how great they are together and fall for each other.
The movie came at the fag end of Laila’s career, and you will curse all those directors who cast her in stereotypical bubbly innocent girl roles (in short, Genelia was the new Laila). It was a treat watching Prasanna maturing into a good actor, and this was one of those movies that showed friendship graduating into love without any fuss.
Kanda Naal Mudhal can be summed up by this one scene.
8. Poo (2008)
Poo is the epitome of immortal love. Maari (played by Parvathy), since her young age, is in love with her cousin Thangarasu (played by Srikanth). Although Srikanth wants to marry her, because of her father’s compulsion, marries a wealthy woman. Maari also marries and stays happy in her marriage thinking that her Thangarasu will be happy too. Later she finds that Thangarasu is living in hell and an unhappy, abusive marriage and she is unable to fathom it.
Based on a short story by Thamizh Selvan, Poo directed by Sasi showed the undying love of a woman. It’s said that women will never forget their one true love. Parvathy was a revelation in the movie, and the climax sequence will crush your heart into pieces.
Poo will remain as one of my favourite movies of unrequited love because it showed the woman’s side (along with Azhagi) more than any other film in Tamil cinema
9. Maalai Pozhuthin Mayakathiley (2012)
All it takes to fall in love is a two-hour conversation. If it is going to be a conversation like Maalai Pozhuthin Mayakathiley, I will fall in love too (or did I?). The entire movie happens inside a Cafe Coffee Day shop when a struggling director meets a girl who will be leaving to Australia in few days.
A casual conversation slowly progresses into relationships, love, life and career. They share each other’s life ambitions, aspirations and slowly start fall for each other. Wonderfully portrayed by Aari and the late Shubha Putela, this movie showed why conversations maketh a relationship.
These are just a list of underrated love stories in Tamil cinema that don’t make it to any list because these weren’t directed by the so-called popular ‘romance’ directors of Tamil cinema. It’s time to look beyond them.