An ode to Muththazhagu, the girl who nailed Ameer’s unapologetic visualization of a lovelorn and headstrong village-belle (two tricky traits that could go either ways in an atmosphere reeking of chauvinism), exactly a decade after the film’s release…
Muththazhagu, the female lead of Ameer’s second film, is so disturbingly real that she keeps unsettling you on many levels. And that unsettling gnaw is one of the reasons, Paruthiveeran continues to fascinate, after almost a decade.
Over the course of the film, you could see her childhood fascination for her cousin (Veeran) eventually metamorphose into mad love.
And into this one hell of an impetuous ride, Priyamani breathes so much mood and texture that many a time, it’s easy to forget that she is a mere work of fiction.
This particular sequence, where she challenges her casteist father, face-to-face, over her decision to live with Veeran, is one for the ages.
It is late evening. Muththazhagu returns home after a tryst with her lover to see things a little ruffled at home. She guesses the obvious. Her dad, who had always nurtured a deep-seated hatred for Veeran and his family, must have seen them together.
As she walks past the man leaning back on his chair, making sure not to let her eyes linger anywhere near him, she instantly knows what to expect. The silence, that shatters the house, seems strangely familiar.
Feigning all the obliviousness that she could muster, she struts inside with a smug indifference. The clearly-seething man immediately summons her, and confronts her with the truth.
Muththazhagu, having known her father and his sensibilities long enough to realize the futility of any sort of reasoning, instinctively retaliates with a “Yes, so what?”
A prompt queasiness fills the moment. We gulp, half puzzled and half terrified. Why not a measly excuse, escaping the wrath of the moment?
But Muththazhagu has other ideas. She stands her ground, staring into her father’s eyes.
Acting out our worst fears, the man pours out all his pent-up anger, every blow landing on her with brutal force. “How dare you?” He literally stomps on her in a fit of rage. It’s savage, to say the least.
Between the pain in her gut and her ribs, and the sudden onslaught of unimaginable slurs, the sight of her father going insane, isn’t something she had definitely wanted to see. But before she could even manage to defend, the blows keep descending on her.
“Leave me alone!” Somehow Muththazhagu manages to scurry back on her feet. Inhuman and almost murderous by now, the man pushes her back to the ground. As she attempts to sit up, a verbal blame game between the father and the mother ensues.
We expect a squeal for mercy. At least, a heart-breaking imploration. We get none. Not even a half whimper.
She looks ahead, unfazed. Her face burns of an inexplicable grit. Of a deafening determination. Of an inscrutable lucidity. It’s terrifying. You could almost make a horror movie out of it.
“What the hell!” The man, exasperated with the girl’s silent defiance, slams her against a wall, and starts attacking her with an umbrella. The ‘father’ almost disappears. All you could see is a wild brute that gets more barbaric by the minute.
“For Christ’s sake, just say it aloud. Just say something, girl! What would you lose?”
She doesn’t budge an inch. Can such skanky unruliness be met with such clear resilience? It would take a Muthu to know. “I am going to kill you now!” Its gets almost impossible to keep watching. Nothing from her side other than piercing looks and deepening breaths! At some moment, absorbing all the trauma, she manages to get a hold on the umbrella and throws it away.
He spits at her face. Wiping it away, she gives him that cold stare. It’s shuddering.
Unable to take in the speechless resistance any more, the man walks away with a irate slap. It speaks a thousand more abuses.
Simultaneously she gets up, walks up to the dining mat, sits on the floor and serves herself the dinner vociferously. “Why are all you staring at me like that? I am still alive, and I am hungry!” Her helplessness resonates around the room. One look at Priya Mani – badly bruised but resolutely holding on to scattered bits of self-respect – even as she hysterically makes her grandma serve the whole of the meat, and you would know why she took home the National Award that year!