A series of posts celebrating the various moods of love, the magician has managed to bring to celluloid screen over the three decades.

Episode 3: Purpose

by Mani Prabhu


The setting is the coastal town of Rameshwaram in the early nineties. Thiruselvan, a civil engineer in his mid-twenties, incidentally lives with his elder sister who is married, pregnant and mother of a toddler, as his brother-in-law is forced to stay in Madras for employment. If I have to describe Thiru using four words, I would probably probably go with: thoughtful, polite, firm and straightforward. Working on a factory construction project in a nearby village, he commutes by scooter every day from home to the building site. But that’s only the uneventful facet of Thiru’s life. He is also an upcoming author who writes under the pen name of Indira, sincerely trying to follow his passion of writing.

Thiru is in the habit of visiting the Srilankan refugee camp and the associated orphanage on a regular basis, helping them out in small ways that count. Interestingly he also finds loglines, which become the core of many of his short stories, in the camp, inspired by the variety of people and their emotions. On one such destined occasion, Thiru sees a newborn baby girl, who was born in Rameshwaram’s refugee camp and subsequently abandoned by a Srilankan Tamil woman. The infant’s intriguing, yet tragic tale affects him instantaneously, refusing to cease tormenting his thoughts. Few days and quite some reflections later, he writes a poignant short story based on the baby girl titled ‘Kudai’ for a leading weekly, which fetches him a lot of accolades.

Indira, the daughter of the local Tahsildar and Thiru’s neighbour for a few years now, is a chirpy sociology student who cycles to college everyday in the same route Thiru takes to work. If I have to describe Indira using four words, I would probably say: lively, sensitive, responsible and a tad short- tempered. She likes Thiru and his attitude towards life for quite some time, but is not sure of his feelings towards her. On one of her trips back from college, she spots Thiru riding his scooter back home and attempts to make some small-talk with him. Complimenting him on his new short story about the Srilankan baby, she demands royalty for using her name as his nom de plume. She also rants that he uses her name intentionally as a good omen. Thiru doesn’t talk much, replying in short sentences, but he is trying his best to conceal his smile. Oh my God, what a lovable chatterbox she is! Her liking for Thiru and her conscious attempts at striking conversation with him is quite evident. We instantly connect with her fondness.

They both reach their homes simultaneously. Once inside her house, Indira goes through the back- side to Thiru’s house and asks his sister if engineer sir is back from work. The sarcasm leaves us grinning. When she meets Thiru again, she asks him if the story is really inspired or it’s just a marketing trick! Again, her attempts at developing a rapport are conspicuous. Thiru responds saying that the newborn is in Red Rose orphanage. When Indira requests him to take her to the orphanage to see the baby, Thiru says he would never do it with a smug smile and walks away. We get the tease. The guy likes her too, but is it just a casual affection?

The next morning, we find them travelling to the orphanage, Thiru riding silently in his old scooter and Indira scurrying behind in her bicycle. We see them from above, loving them for their contrasting characters, impressed with the frame’s freshness and magic. When Indira is in top of her buoyant spirits, Thiru tastefully challenges her to be silent till they reach the orphanage. We smile along with Thiru. Once inside the orphanage, Indira rushes in anticipation to see the little bundle of antithesis, which had incited so many emotions in the man she liked. The moment, she sees the girl baby, she could comprehend an instant connect. She fondles and pampers the cute dark infant, naming her ‘Amudha’ and asking the baby girl in a sarcastic tone whether the engineer would stop at writing about her or would he adopt her, being the change?! Thiru, who is staring at the infant’s cuteness, is caught off guard with this unexpected question that takes him by surprise, but made a lot of sense.

Indira seems to have made Thiru think a lot. Back at home with Indira, Thiru informs about his idea of adopting the baby girl to his sister, who responds coldly emphasising the harsh realities of raising an unknown child, loving her as his own till the very end. When Thiru asks his sister to just come and sign the papers for him, she vehemently declines, totally disinterested in what she feels is a drastic impractical decision.

A few days later, when Thiru goes to Indira’s home, he is shocked to see her in the middle of a function, where a prospective groom’s family are in talks with the Tahsildar for an alliance for Indira. He senses the sudden upsetting feel deep in his heart, but he doesn’t show it on the outside much. Well, that’s pretty much what he is; someone who feels a lot but expresses only a fraction of it. He walks away swiftly trying to hide his doubts and regret, but is soon stopped by the groom who comes out to enquire about Indira’s character to Thiru. For the first instance in quite some time, we see Thiru actually reacting and expressing his annoyance, as he asks the guy to mind his own business and go away.

Thiru is in the backyard of his house, his sister singing praises about Indira’s prospective groom’s status and wealth, when Indira arrives at the scene. She can’t hide her displeasure and her disappointment over Thiru not asking her out, in her facial expressions. As Thiru’s sister leaves, she tells him in a sardonic tone that she is not happy with the wedding arrangements, and she has decided to end her life. When we expect Thiru to react in an emotional way, he underlines his character again by suggesting her with a smug smile, a few methods of committing suicide. Indira is confused. Doesn’t this man give signs of liking her occasionally? Will he ever speak out? Just then, as Thiru’s sister comes, Indira hurriedly leaves. Thiru’s sister tells him that she is in doubt about Indira’s feelings for him! What if she loves him a lot, she suggests. Thiru replies, still maintaining his composure, that if Indira is brave enough and her feelings strong enough, she would stop the wedding and propose her love. Thiru’s sister rants that there is a chance that she is waiting for him to open up first. The game is on; both expecting the one, to come out with their feelings.

In course of time, Thiru somehow convinces his sister and the Tahsildar to accompany him to the orphanage to talk about the procedural formalities for the Amudha’s adoption. The Tahsildar is proud of Thiru’s intentions, but doubts his pragmatism in the real world. But the caretaker of the orphanage makes it clear that according to social committee rules, it’s imperative that Thiru is married if he wanted to adopt the girl baby. As his sister and the Tahsildar leave, Thiru is left dejected, unable to make a difference that he thought he could.

Suddenly he gets up and with a new found intent in his eyes, he rides back home. He proceeds to enter the Tahsildar’s house and searches for her, calling her by name. Indira, who comes out after a bath, asks him in an annoying tone if he had brought some poison or a rope for her suicide. The irritation in her voice is clear. Thiru approaches her, standing facing Indira’s back and asks her directly without warning if she would marry him and be his wife and a mother to Amudha! The honesty in his voice and straightforwardness in his expressions hit us like a bullet. Indira stands frozen, not in a position to turn and face him. She just stares on, probably in deep thoughts. Sensing Indira’s confusion, Thiru asks her to take her time and decide, while he waits for her.

A few hours pass. Indira goes to Thiru’s backyard where he is sitting with his sister, and announces that she wants to talk with Thiru, much to the sister’s surprise. When Thiru gives a nod, his sister leaves mumbling in jest something about the gall youngsters these days have! Indira comes and sits before Thiru, not really trying to hide the anger and emotional trauma in her face. We could see through her thinking. She asks Thiru with quite some intensity why he had not expressed his feelings for two long years? Why suddenly now? Has the little girl made him understand her true love, which had been the same for ages? Does he treat her like a free package? Thiru pulls her towards him and tells her that tears are not the appropriate response to a sincere proposal. Indira still not able to control the gushing tears looks into Thiru’s eyes and asks the ultimate question “Was she the reason? Or the excuse?” Thiru responds intelligently yet touchingly saying he wants both the eyes; both the cheeks!” Indira having realised Thiru’s sincerity goes to mention some conditions for the wedding, but that moment, it happens. Thiru goes for the most powerful emotional weapon ever known to man, and hugs her passionately, embracing her in a loving cuddle. They remain in bliss, not moving from the position, for quite some moments.

Now, Thiru’s sister enters the scene and taken by surprise, she stands stunned for a moment. She recovers and asks Indira to leave immediately. As Indira scurries away with a naughty smile, she asks Thiru what has happened to him suddenly! She understands his love and is happy, but behaves like his elder sister asking him to be patient for some time. When we are smiling at the scene’s romantic unconventionality, much to our amusement, Indira returns back and asks Thiru if he is really serious or considers her just like another character in his story. Thiru is expressionless, but his actions speak. Without a word, Thiru embraces her tightly again, even as Thiru’s sister separates them in a hurry. A few seconds pass. Even as Thiru’s sister fears about the Tahsildar coming any time, they both huddle again. We can’t stop grinning. Neither can Indira! Somehow Thiru’s sister convinces her to leave the home.

Thiru then asks the Tahsildar permission to marry Indira and informs him of their decision to adopt Amudha. They get married in a register office, with Amudha gracing the occasion. They would go on to have two more children. But the truth is that they didn’t find Amudha. Amudha found them.

The master had just deconstructed purpose in love.

Film: Kannathil Muthamittal

Year: 2002

Cinematography: Ravi.K. Chandran

Music: A.R.Rahman

Other Episodes:

Maniratnam and Romance – Episode 1

Maniratnam and Romance – Episode 2

Maniratnam and Romance – Episode 3

Maniratnam and Romance – Episode 4

Maniratnam and Romance – Episode 5

Maniratnam and Romance – Episode 6

Maniratnam and Romance – Episode 7

Maniratnam and Romance – Episode 8 (Final)