Sivaranjiniyum Innum Sila Pengalum – A fantastic anthology that tells the story of three women from various eras whose lives are ruled by their marriages. A BEAUTIFULLY CREATED AND IMMENSELY EFFECTIVE ANTHOLOGY.
Critic’s Rating: 4.0/5
We witness Sivaranjini (a magnificent Lakshmipriyaa Chandramouli, whose performance is as physical as it is emotional) going about her day in the concluding short of Sivaranjiniyum Innum Sila Pengalum. We see her walk from the kitchen to the bedroom, where she is cooking coffee and breakfast, to wake up her husband Hari (Karthick Krishna) and daughter. She then returns to the kitchen and proceeds to a different room to offer her mother-in-law her coffee. We see her in the kitchen all the time and the way Vasanth films her doing her everyday tasks in that little flat shows how her life has been confined to that one location.
It’s a sharp contrast to the first time we see her. She is competing in a running event (which she wins! ), and she is on a large, open field. Marriage gets in the way of Sivaranjini’s national greatness, and Vasanth brilliantly conveys how Sivaranjini’s life has changed for the worst. He doesn’t condemn the husband or the mother-in-law, who are far from the harsh characters we see on TV. They are simply ordinary people who, as a result of our patriarchal societal structure, have developed a sense of entitlement. This may be seen in how the mother-in-law demands her coffee to be made with cow’s milk rather than powdered milk.
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Hari expects his wife to find or collect his belongings even when she is preoccupied with other things, and he wants her to go to her parent’s house on the weekend to get their kids ready for school. They seem unconcerned with the fact that Sivaranjini is compelled to do everything at once, like a juggler, and how difficult it must be for her (in one image, we show her climbing three levels of stairs to her flat).
Saraswathi’s (Kalieaswari Srinivasan, who does an excellent job of portraying this character’s fragility and steely nerves), whose narrative starts the film, is no exception. Her husband Chandran (a very capable Karunakaran) is content to let her carry their infant as well as two bags and stroll in front of her empty-handed.
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Despite this, she is supposed to sprint and catch a bus. Despite having arrived from a long and exhausting journey, she is expected to unlock their residence and apologize for providing food that hasn’t been freshly cooked. She is required to put a stop to their sobbing youngster so that he does not wake up. She is supposed not to respond and, if she does, to suffer his blows without attempting to stop him. Even when he is cold-shouldering her and giving her the silent treatment, she is supposed to offer him his towel when he takes a bath and serves appalam when he sits down for a meal after much coaxing.
In Devaki, the third film in the anthology, Devaki (Parvathy Thiruvothu, whose stature as an actress adds more to the character than her performance, which is fine) is forced to read from her private diary because her husband, Mani’s (Sunder Ramu) family believes she has written something negative about them in it. Even if she tells them that her works aren’t about them, she is expected to at least let her spouse read it. Her husband tells her family they’re behaving stupid, but when pressed, he suggests Devaki let them read the journal so they know she’s not lying. She is supposed to behave in the best interests of the family, regardless of her own privacy.
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In many aspects, Asokamitran, Jeyamohan, and Aadhavan’s Sivaranjiniyum Innum Sila Pengalum — an adaptation of three short stories by Asokamitran, Jeyamohan, and Aadhavan — is about the expectations placed on women when they marry. This video (which was filmed years before the recent Malayalam film The Great Indian Kitchen) holds up a mirror to the patriarchy that has crept into our daily lives and what it has meant for women. Saraswathi’s story takes place in the 1980s, Devaki’s story takes place in 1995, and Sivaranjini’s story takes place from 2007 forward. Despite this, nothing appears to have changed.
Men continue to expect their wives to act a certain way, and it is only when their husbands are absent that the women fully come into their own. Saraswathi only feels powerful when she begins to conduct her life without Chandran; Devaki, who is financially independent of Mani, is content when she is alone; and Sivaranjini can grin when she chases down her daughter’s school van on her own. It may not be as empowering as what the other two ladies have, but for now, it will be enough for Sivaranjini, who only moments before realizes that her former successes have been wiped. With a shot that appears in all three films, Vasanth creates a fantastic visual theme to depict what lies ahead for these folks.
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All three ladies have to reach for something in the attic at some point in their stories. The photo is positioned such that we see these women rising above their stations, visually emphasizing that they are attempting to break free from their restricted life. While Devaki finds what she’s looking for very easily, Saraswathi succeeds after an unsuccessful try. Sivaranjini, on the other hand, does not! It’s telling that, despite the deluge of anthologies released after the lockdown, this one, created for earlier, stands out – by a long shot — in terms of plot and filmmaking. It’s not only really moving, but it’s also quite well-made.
The moments with Saraswathi have a disturbing simplicity to them. We mostly hear her doing chores (with Doordarshan’s theme wafting by faintly in the background) or her baby’s cries, and the fantastic sound design (by Anand Krishnamoorthi) renders the score (by Ilaiyaraaja, no less!) unnecessary, as the wide frames, which capture the sparseness of the house, seem to convey her isolation (even though they live in a shared lower-middle-class house). In contrast, the views in Sivaranjini’s tale are hectic, and the framing is tighter, giving the impression that the subject is always confined (the grills in the window behind her in the kitchen only add to the prison-like effect). There are a variety of background sounds, too, ranging from cartoons on TV to chorals being performed in the adjacent church.
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And, like the small child through whose eyes we witness the drama unfold, the camera in Devaki is frequently movable and a bit detached from the action. In comparison to the other two, this strategy distances the character and her tale, making it less effective. However, the usage of doors on two sides of Devaki’s room to depict the lack of privacy with two other couples living in the house is a lovely touch.
And it’s because of this perfect cinematography that, despite the severity of the subject, the picture feels like pure joy, as we see a director at the top of his game in this wholesome anthology, blending sights and sound to devastating effect. Vasanth, welcome back!
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