Reviwed by Gurusmaran:
Punnagai Mannan is undoubtedly one of the best love stories of Tamil cinema. Directed by K. Balachander, one of the best directors of Tamil cinema, this is one movie that will not fade over time.
The story goes thus:
Sethu and Ranjini are in love. Her parents are socially superior and oppose their marriage since Sethu is a cook`s son. Despite being rebellious, they are no match for her father who is a very influential person. They decide to commit suicide.
April 14. Tamil New Year. They spend the whole day together at a scenic waterfall and
it`s beautiful surroundings. They secretly wed at a temple there. After enjoying a few hours of married life, they walk to the waterfall with the hope of letting death bring them together. They jump off the waterfall. Ranjini hits the rocks and dies on the spot whereas Sethu gets entangled in a few tree branches and survives the fall.
Ranjini`s father tries to get Sethu a death penalty using his influence but fails. Sethu is sentenced to one year of imprisonment for attempted sucide.
He comes out of jail after a year, guilty of his past, rude and with no hope in life. Padmini brings him straight to Natyanjali , an east-west dance school run by her, where he was one of their best students. She hires him as a dance instructor to help him out and start life afresh. He also gets moral support from his uncle, Chaplin Chellappa, a bachelor who apes Charlie Chaplin and has dedicated his life to make people laugh.
One day, when he goes to place flowers at the waterfall where Ranjini died, he spots a girl standing at the edge, about to jump off. The girl is Malini, a girl of Sinhalese descent, who contemplates suicide because she hasn`t fared well in her exams. He dissuades her from committing suicide.
Malini tries following Sethu to show her gratitude but he`s rude to her each time. She joins Natyanjali as a student, obviously interested in him. Malini gets to know about Sethu`s past and starts liking him even more. He is rude to her in the beginning but in time, begins liking her. They both get together. Malini and Sethu often meet at the waterfall to offer flowers and to be with Ranjini . Both of them are comfortable with Sethu`s past.
Her father is an important man and when Sethu tells him that he loves Malini, he prevents them from meeting by placing guards outside their house. Sethu and Malini prove too smart for her father`s plans. Malini`s father even tries packing her off to Sri Lanka but she runs away from there, back to India and straight to Sethu. Her father is worried, her mom`s sick from all the crying. They think she`s dead. When Sethu finally brings Malini home, they consent to the marriage. Sethu and Malini are thrilled.
On the day of their engagement, after the ceremony is over, Malini and Sethu decide to visit the waterfall to seek Ranjini`s blessings . They drive to the spot, clearly on top of the world. They look forward to a very happy life together. Everything seems perfect.
The screenplay and direction are absolutely fantastic. The story has been handled with much maturity. A less seasoned director would have ruined it.
The performance by the entire cast is realistic. Kamal Haasan gives a mature performance as Sethu. Kamal Haasan as Chaplin Chellappa was ok. I thought Chaplin Chellappa`s antics were a little too loud. Kids, however, would be delighted, I guess. Revathy, who plays Malini, is chirpy and full of life. Sri Vidya handles the role of Padmini with finesse. ?Delhi? Ganesh as Sethu`s cook-cum-gambler-cum-drunkard-cum-polygamist father has done a commendable job.
The songs and background music in this movie are undoubtedly one of Ilayaraja`s best works. All the songs are melodious and linger around for a long time in your head. The theme music, in particular, is simply beautiful. It is best experienced than expressed.
The only minus point of this movie, in my opinion, would be the English dialogues. Malini`s dad talks only Sinhalese/English and so the verbal exchanges between Malini`s dad and Sethu/Malini are in English. I thought these dialogues sounded very immature and amateurish. They remind me of the shoddy plays we used to put up in school where everyone over-emoted and gesticulated wildly while delivering a comparatively lame piece of dialogue.
To sum it up, Punnagai Mannan is a classic that is not to be missed. It is an evergreen love story that has stood the test of time. It is? umm? why don`t you just go watch it?