Readers Write In #126: Exploring love through vulnerability in ‘Sillu Karupatti’

Posted on January 6, 2020

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(by Adhithya K R)

What I was watching on screen was a reserved old man getting to know a lady he had met only once before. So I wasn’t expecting it when Navaneethan said, “If we kiss right now, we won’t really be visible to that couple right now, would we?” A different director might have made the lady blush and turn her face away, but Yashoda is as unprepared as the audience and slaps the man with her words before leaving abruptly. Navaneethan pauses for a second to consider what he has done before jogging back to try and repair the situation.

This scene could have been handled in any number of ways, but this structure of messing up and repairing it is something that keeps turning up throughout Sillu Karupatti. Characters goof up, they expose a part of themselves to judgment and accept the consequences. This willingness to make mistakes and the trust that builds as a result, makes Sillu Karupatti a refreshing experience. The love stories I have seen in Tamil cinema mostly ask you to accept the lead pair because they are well, the lead pair. They instantly know when they lay their eyes on each other (or within a couple of scenes) that their big-budget co-star is their life partner on screen. Though I’m a huge fan of Gautam Menon, this is one of the problems I’ve had with his movies, that the hero always knows the right words to charm the heroine. There is no scope for mistakes.

Sillu Karupatti thrives on mistakes and misunderstandings on the other hand. In “Hey Ammu,” Dhanapal asks Ammu about the TV remote mere seconds after she tells him that he needs to get battery cells for it. His lack of attention creates the pressure that causes Ammu to eventually blow up in frustration and push the story forward. Yes, his attempts to pacify her are unsuccessful and he doesn’t gain superhuman EQ overnight. But by the end, he is willing to make a fool of himself in the supermarket for her and he doesn’t mind. This space where Dhanapal breaks his office-goer image and tries to let loose is where they begin to find love.

When I watched the sequence from Dhool years back where Vivek laments “Unakku Cancer irukkura vishayatha yen en kitte sollala Sopna?” mistaking the Zodiac sign for the disease, I wondered what would happen if somebody made the opposite mistake. In “Kaaka Kadi,” we get this scene and it’s the first in a series of hilarious exchanges where the characters are constantly pushing each other’s boundaries. Mukilan’s matter-of-fact replies on his porn favourites and his inability to find the right words to admire Madhu are what make him an endearing character. He’s got heart even if he’s not too eloquent. He’s a meme creator after all, and he’s able to make the girl laugh, even if it’s by being self-effacing. Isn’t being that honest a much more difficult job than being Prince Charming and wooing a girl with choice words?

Even though each segment is only about thirty minutes long, it feels like the characters get time to know each other well, with their relationship developing organically with complete awareness of their virtues and flaws. It’s as if the relationship is a character in itself, following an arc that takes it from nascency to completion. Human connection is the focal point and it’s never taken for granted – Nurturing and care are constantly required.

Whether it’s a ragpicker who risks the tag of ‘criminal’ by following a wealthy girl around, a father of three who is unable to get across to his wife or an old man trying his luck with a spinster his age, the stakes are not on a social level. They are not trying to raise awareness about political issues or play saviour, but their problems are equally important. Its a question of identity, of world-view, of facing themselves in the mirror and asking what defines them. Is there a chance that they might be mistaken about their beliefs? Can they try something slightly out of character? Could this be a mistake in itself? They let themselves get a little vulnerable. They mess up, they try again.

They fall in love because they trust that someone. Then again, maybe they’re the same thing.