grateful there is a director like Karu in Tamil cinema
for the way he comes back again and again to a heroine
centric story. (I wish director Priya would do this
instead of making generic romantic comedies). However,
the choice that he forces on his women characters are
really what most men might want for or from them –
not what these heroine characters themselves might desire.
Let me illustrate: At the end of Parthiban Kanavu, Srikanth
is persuaded that the traditional, conservative Sneha
is even a better wife than the modern, independent Sneha.
For the women in the audience the message is: to be
a traditional housewife who cooks and pleases her husband
is as librating a choice as the independent woman with
a career. For the men in the audience, the message is:
urge your wives, daughters in law and sisters to be
more like the conservative, traditional Sneha.
In Pirivom Santhipom, the housewife Sneha plays becomes
lonely at the hill station where her husband (Cheran)
is transferred, and longs to return to the large join
family she left behind in Chennai. Earlier we see that
she comes from a small family; an only child who misses
sisters and brothers. So she longs for a large family.
Fair enough. However, is the solution to her loneliness
a return to family or does it lie elsewhere- in areas
the film does not explore? She could perhaps have found
fulfillment in work (she’s educated and smart)
or found something that interests her deeply and immerse
herself in it. More significantly, if she is to do none
of these things and stay a housewife, the most creative
and constructive thing she could do is reflect on her
solitude, on her loneliness and see that it is a gift
of time with her husband, to deepen the marriage instead
of running away from it.
Poo, I am pleased to report, is respectful of its heroine’s
desires – and indeed the desires of women. It
is not only entertaining but it is also responsible
filmmaking. Sasi is an enlightened director. Poo is
a triumph in so many ways, doing so many new things
in Tamil cinema that I can hardly count them. Though
I had my heart in my mouth as I watched it, thinking-
‘I only hope it doesn’t get regressive all
of a sudden’-, I did begin to feel some nervousness
at the end. Mari realizes she can never return, even
in her mind, to her one great love – Thangarasa.
It will only lead to unhappiness for everyone. She is
waiting at the bus stop for her husband, weeping. He
arrives, we see him walk to her from a distance. What
is going to happen? I surely thought: she will run to
him and embrace him and cry tears of gratitude. Thus
telling us that a woman should never hope to follow
her heart but return to the security of marriage. Mari
continues to weep anguished tears. I thought: ‘Okay,
this is it: he will embrace her and she will cling to
him and cry’. But it didn’t happen. Amazingly
enough, and gratifying enough, she simply sits there
weeping. Her husband looks on bewildered. He is clueless.
She cries as the camera pulls away and up and fades
out. As the credits roll, the only sound you hear is
It’s possibly the first Tamil film –may
be even the first Indian film –where the end credits
are accompanied solely by a heroine crying. This is
only one first among many firsts that writer-director
Sasi should take credit for in Poo. Many stereotypical
scenes are subverted by reversing them or not turning
them melodramatic. All the stock figures of a village
themed movie are there, and yet none of them behave
in predictable ways. None of them say the usually traditional,
conservative things villagers say. They all sound sensible
and level headed. A potential rape scene is averted,
the hero does not beat up the offender -but Mari does
with a broomstick. To not have item songs is something
the newer directors are doing, but it is brave of Sasi
to chuck out fight scenes along with item songs.
When Mari and Thangarasa’s father meet at the
end, he says something startling: “You had a dream.
I had a dream. Now both are shattered. But I never thought
that that rich, educated city girl would have her dreams
too.” It is remarkable for a character in a mainstream
Tamil movie to recognize this – that the rich
city girl is not the villain but another person trapped
by and made unhappy by tradition, patriarchal values
and what others – namely men – want for
I also admired how Sasi stayed away from prettifying
the interiors of the huts, and instead made them contemporaneously
accurate. There are no earthen jars of water inside
the huts, for instance, but green and pink plastic buckets.
His homework on location and setting is impeccable.
Above all, I am happy that Sasi does not betray his
heroine but takes us deeper into her desires. It ends
in sadness, and this is the strongest criticism Poo
makes against patriarchy: that the desires and dreams
of women are often dashed by what men want for them.
And with that, the happiness of both men and women.
Poo is full of poetry, wit, passion, and inventiveness.
It is genuinely heroine-centric, and is a must see.
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