Thirumanam Review: A well-intentioned message lost in translation
Unimpressive performances and inconsistent writing do not help in carrying across an important message
Marriage is not uncharted territory for Cheran. Raman Thediya Seethai (2008), which he starred in, traced the journey of a man finding his bride, and the other acting venture of his that came out that same year, Pirivom Santhippom, was about a newlywed couple’s struggles. So Thirumanam, directed by Cheran, can, in a way, be considered the last instalment of his marriage trilogy. The film is based on the flaws inherent in the big fat Indian wedding. While most Tamil films end at the point where the hero gets a nod from the girl’s parents, Thirumanam begins there.
Starting from the mangalagara manjal title credits, where every member of the crew (including women) is addressed Thiru/Thirumathi, to the mangala isai (nadhaswaram and thavil) which replaces guitars and flutes in the background music, Cheran succeeds in setting the right mood for the audience. He tries to address the flaws in the Indian wedding system and probes into the reasons behind the failure of modern-day marriages. The dialogues are quite powerful, and yet, the film falls short, as in focussing on the details, it forgets the basics.
Cast: Umapathy Ramaiah, Kavya Suresh, Cheran, Sukanya, MS Bhaskar, Thambi Ramaiah
It feels odd to witness the filmmaker who gave us Bharathi Kannamma, conveniently evade the biggest barrier for most love marriages: caste. This is especially jarring when the two families are shown to be from different classes of society and we are not enlightened on the families’ sensitivity towards such an important undercurrent. The lead pair — Mahesh (Umapathy) and Aadhira (Kavya) — are hardly involved in their own wedding preparations and seemingly get no say in the decisions made by their families. Normalising this with dialogues like, “Enaku enga anna/akka edhu senjalum okay dhaan,” feels unsettling in the film that seems to be catered to the younger generation.
Talking of catering to the new generation, I’d be remiss not to mention a particularly low point in the film. A person runs away from home out of extreme depression, but in the very next scene, he is spotted singing karaoke songs in a mobile app. Random emojis pop up on-screen and this uncomfortable use of technology evokes unintentional laughter.
Thirumanam revolves around six main characters, and it needed more convincing performances. MS Bhaskar is the lone exception, delivering a superlative performance as usual.
Aadhira is stopped from going to gym and asked to dance at home instead. The reason? “Anga laam pona kanda pasanga varuvanga.” Despite preaching about the cons of spending on wedding throughout the film, Arivudainambi (Cheran) leases a land for his sister’s groom in the name of ‘support’. The messaging is inconsistent.
Thirumanam, carries the tagline, ‘Sila Thiruthangaludan’ (With some changes). The film needed a ‘pala thiruthangaludan’ tagline.