During Pongal 1994, the Kamal Haasan-starrer ‘Mahanadhi’ tackled a number of philosophical questions

Posted on January 16, 2020


Read the full article on Film Companion, here: https://www.filmcompanion.in/mahanadhi-revisiting-philosophy-kamal-haasan-sukanya-poornam-vishwanathan/

In a revenge drama, you would expect a morally disillusioned Krishna to embark on a killing spree to avenge his fate. But that’s precisely where Krishna’s transformation from an incipient sociopath to a rational humanist begins, writes reader Jeeva Pitchaimani.

When released in 1994, Mahanadhi was considered a Sivaji Ganesan-type tearjerker, and it met with a very mild reception. After close to 25 years of the film’s release, I decided to revisit it, owing to a very intense epiphany I experienced during a morning commute to office.

Continued at the link above.

The portion below was edited out of the story, and it extends the argument above by focusing on the protagonist’s masculinity.

Another beautiful thing about the film is the way Krishna’s masculinity has been handled and how central this quality is, to his ability to arrive at big decisions. Krishna being a widower is shown to be unconsciously drawn to Manju, the attractive assistant to Dhanush who exploits his sexual impoverishment to make him fall into the financial trap.

In a later scene, Dhanush leaves Krishna and Manju together in a closed room and just when they move on towards the edge of consummation, he brings the cheque book and authorisation documents for Krishna to sign. A strongly aroused Krishna is forced to sign them under the influence of alcohol. He soon finds out that his stillborn affair with Manju is nothing but a honey trap. He feels terribly guilty for stepping over the boundaries of morality and apologises to his ever cautious mother-in law. This incident is something that one might be able to identify himself with quite easily. A similar incident can be spotted in the modern day classic Kuttram Kadidhal.

Krishna’s masculinity issues continue into his prison stint as well. The first time he meets Yamuna accidentally, he remains twice shy for having been bitten once by Manju. He barely meets her eyes while they walk slowly along in parallel to each other separated only by the prison wall. In a few days, he confronts Thulukanam, the ruthless jail warden who has a habit of harassing the prison inmates quite often. He gathers courage to challenge him and the next time he meets Yamuna, Krishna appears more confident as they walk in a similar manner as before when they part. After he emerges victorious in his struggle against Thulukanam, in their third encounter you see an even bolder Krishna who stands near the doorway to stare at Yamuna glowing with supreme confidence.

After his release from jail, Krishna gets chances to meet Yamuna quite often in private but is constantly being interrupted by her father. Krishna too accepts the reality and stays within his boundaries each and every time. Only when he discovers later that he is being framed for murder and that there is no other alternative than to kill Dhanush that he feels man enough to kiss Yamuna on her lips, just before he leaves for the mission. It is only here that Krishna for the first time in a while breaks out of the limits of morality set by elders and shows his middle finger to them by kissing Yamuna vehemently.

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