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

Episode 6: The discordant phase

by Mani Prabhu

How could you describe Divya? An exuberant, free-spirited girl in her early twenties, unable to share many of the ideals of her bourgeois parents, yet attempting her best to coexist with them? In essence, she is kind of a misfit in her conservative home, her fiercely independent attitude not auguring well with the general tone of her immediate family, while her playful, happy-go-lucky perspective towards life camouflaging the agony of a lost love, though, may be, much of the cheerfulness could be just a nod to her folk’s affection and concern. She appears to have moved on from a fleeting romantic reverie, but is the pain seething within? We are not quite sure, at least at the moment. Beyond all these disconcerted emotions, there is something ‘likeable’ about her, which makes us all the more curious.

So, when she learns about a family meet with a possible suitor being arranged, she is totally aghast. How would she make her parents, soaked in orthodoxy, see that she is not yet ready for marriage? How could she tell them that the concept of putting two unknown people under a single roof in the name of wedlock, forcing them into a pseudo-relationship, revolts her? How could she tell them that she can’t start loving a complete stranger, after moving in with him? Well, seeing the lost cause in her own questions, she decides to take the easy way out – stay away from the meet! But alas, destiny isn’t very friendly either, she learns the hard way at nine in the night as she finds the groom waiting with his family back home for almost five hours.

Divya has had enough. Before the groom could even introduce himself, she makes her feelings crystal clear. She loathes at the very idea of arranging a marriage, she tells him. And she doesn’t believe she is marriage material either as she is selfish, lazy, ill-tempered, careless and egoistic. She goes on to stress on some more… whatever words her parents might have to used to describe her, she is the exact antonyms of all those, she proclaims. “I can never be a good wife. Hope you make an informed choice”, Divya concludes. If you are the guy sitting before her, hearing this unanticipated striking thought, how would you have reacted? What would be running in your mind? The soft-spoken, calm and composed Chandra Kumar doesn’t speak a word for some time, letting the arguments sink in. After moments of quietude cloaking an atmosphere of tense unease, he speaks up. “I would like to marry you. The final decision is yours, anyway!” he looks deep into her eyes for a couple of seconds before walking away.

Your knee-jerk reaction would be something in the lines of “Crazy”! Why would he? After all, wasn’t the girl candid enough? You would have the answers soon enough. But right now, something else was bothering me. Why didn’t Divya come out clean with her heart-break and her absolute hate towards arranged marriages, right at the time of meeting CK, instead of branding her using negative adjectives? Why didn’t she just tell him that she was not interested the least in marrying him, and not generalising it? Was she afraid of the consequences? Did she believe that her feelings wouldn’t count, and fear about her character would? Did she want the rejection to come from the groom, in a desperate attempt at appeasing her parents again? Given her rebellious nature, what really was she scared of? Was it her inherent nature not to open up, right upfront? We would never know, but what we do know now that her attempt at avoiding a thrust relationship backfired big time.

So, what next? Nothing in sight other than explaining her stance to her parents. If only, had it been that easy! “What’s wrong with the guy?” the question with no answers unmercifully taunts her, echoing all around the house. “Is the groom the real issue? Or your marital blues? Why don’t you attempt to see the logic? The man is well-settled and responsible, with a heart of gold? Why decline with no actual reason” the questions keep mounting. Her reasoning of not being ready for marriage yet, is dismissed with immediate scorn. “Don’t be foolish” gradually changes to “Why are you so selfish? Why don’t you consider the bigger picture?” May be its time Divya asked herself, “Is she afraid of commitment? Or she afraid of being emotionally trampled, when she is already aching? What would be a reasonable solution?” If only there were entities called ‘reasonable solutions’ in real life!

And thus, the ‘marriage’ is rammed through, much to Divya’s chagrin, since the collective family thinks she is truly being insane with her excuses. Of course, the emotional baggage of her father’s myocardial infarction clinches the choice, leaving her distraught. It’s easy for a majority of us to jump and critique the household’s indifference towards the feeling of a young girl, who is in fact going to live her life with him. But right now, we are torn between two viewpoints, that of the girl about two unknown persons being pushed into a home in the name of marriage and another of the dilemma, parents face in ensuring a secure future for their loving children while coping with the limited means available to them, not sure of which side to lean to. Time has to tell. Or Chandra Kumar has to.

How absurd is it for two total strangers to share a bed one night, suddenly after a ritual called wedding. Isn’t emotional closeness needed for even a minuscule amount of physical closeness? How could people decide as to when a couple should make love? As ridiculous as it sounds, most couples tend to take it easy for the first few months. So, the reluctant bride Divya finds herself in the same room as the expectant Chandra Kumar one night. Heights of ridiculousness. Or is it? CK, as a personality, is still kept in wraps. How would he approach the newlywed girl? Does he believe in knowing and respect the partner first? The moment CK hold Divya’s hands, she winces in discomfort, her body language conveying her angst and fears with ease. He instantly retreats, asking her to have a good night’s sleep. The sun rises the next day, leaving us more confused on whose side to take! The guy does sound totally mature and sensitive. May be, Divya should give it some time. Shouldn’t she?

Soon after, CK takes Divya with him to Delhi to his posh residence. As he shows her around the classy apartment, Divya’s doesn’t believe in sugar coating her feelings. Her curt and frigid mannerisms make her aversions as conspicuous as it can get. CK is obviously feeling the hostility of her vibes, but the kind of personality that he is, we can see him attempting to be as welcoming and pleasant as possible. This awkwardness – the mismatch of frequencies – is what we would expect when two unknown people of different sensibilities and different backgrounds come to share the same roof. Despite CK turning out be more understanding than our distant dreams, and Divya’s comforts and freedom being eons better than what she had experienced back at home, she is unhappy, to say the least.

As days pass by, CK’s hurt and disappointment are easily palpable while Divya comes across as no more than a surly school girl trying to be as ‘annoying’ as possible. But quite obviously, as a sign of rejection her tactics work well, and when she follows it up with more harsh remarks, we can’t help but start questioning her motives now. Is she even ready give the relationship the ‘working’ it needs? Why is she displaying such outright abhorrence? In fact, other than not asking for Divya’s approval clearly and assuming her parents’ as hers, what wrong did CK do? Well, clearly, that’s an unpardonable blunder. But his maturity and emotional mellowness when dealing with Divya’s outburst clearly sets him apart from the caricatured rich guy. His interactions at work show him in a totally different perspective, projecting his intensity and bold demeanour when it’s needed. CK as a whole seems to be considerate, loving, and understanding particularly as opposed to Divya’s juvenile sneers. Why is she not giving him a chance? Why is she not giving herself a chance? Whatever be her past wounds and scars, we are slightly tilting towards CK at this juncture.

This is when Chandra Kumar, after much pleading, takes her out for dinner in a fashionable restaurant. We want to hear it from both of them now. Let them talk and get it even with. What’s the real problem that’s bothering her, other than being forced into an arranged marriage? An atmosphere of emotional strain lingers even as the sitar in the background plays awkwardly, indicating the discordance in the young couple’s feelings. “Why did you marry me, even after I told you I might not fulfil your expectations of a life partner? Why didn’t you reject me?” Divya voices out for the first time after her nuptial relocation. “As faithless as I was in marriage and commitment, I came to your house on my brother’s compulsion. I was waiting to convey my disinterest to you, but when you started speaking, voicing my thoughts and emotions, I decided that moment that I should give it a try with you. I thought you were worried too much about marital bliss. Isn’t it all what we build it to be, I guess?” CK reasons out. Now getting to hear it from CK, we see the other side of the wedding. As CK continues, “It’s just premarital jitters right? Or do you hate me to the core?” we are left praying that Divya doesn’t hurt him again. But when Divya tells her that she didn’t want the wedding in the first place, and his good hearted nature wouldn’t change things even if she tries, we again swing by her. Maybe she has a point. Yes, she has but why can’t she try?

Chandra Kumar asks her to relax and take all the breathing space and time in the world to come to terms with an unknown husband, an alien language, unfamiliar town and strange habits. He would be his best friend till then, he promises. Even with all his faults, this man is a charm. If only, Divya would realise it!

Well, eventually she would, after applying for a divorce and sharing the residence with him for a year, as the formalities force her to. Through a 365 day long emotional roller coaster ride, the couple would discover each other, celebrating their strengths and forgiving their faults. Divya would find out that she can actually fall in love with a man, she had been forced by circumstances to marry. CK would realise that tons of consideration in dealing with pain and emotional turbulence, would surely pay off. What would unfold is proof again that no matter how a couple meet, a marriage can last if its borne out of mutual respect, love, and understanding for each other.

The master had just deconstructed the discordant phase that all couples pass through.

Film: Mouna Ragam

Year: 1986

Cinematographer: PC Sreeram

Music: Ilaiyaraja

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)