On a slow afternoon, I switched on Sun TV . "Engeyo Ketta Kural" starring Rajini, Ambika & Radha had just started playing. Sun TV is famous for "good-for-nothing" movies during day times. I'd never heard of such a Rajini starrer and I was wondering if this was another god forsaken movie from the 80s. Tamil movies from the 80s tend to broad caricatures rather than intricate character portrayals. The villain is usually a comic-book definition of evil. The hero, a by-the-book version of goodness. There are standard plots, turning points, endings. Not that they are any less entertaining but they don't evoke a "hmmm" reaction from the audience.
To my pleasant surprise, this one turned out to be a pretty riveting, well-made movie! It tackles the prickly subject of a troubled marriage very maturely without overt typecasting of anyone as "bad" or "good". Ambika and Radha are sisters with very different temperaments. Ambika is a well-read, educated girl who aspires to things other than tending to cows and fields. She's betrothed to her "Murai maama" Rajini at birth. Rajini is head over heels in love with Ambika but she's indifferent. Radha in love with Rajini completes the triangle. However, due to familial constraints and an inability to make up her mind, Ambika ends up marrying Rajini. The couple have lots of skirmishes and fights because of their differing ambitions and goals in life. Ambika, unable to bear this unhappy marriage, leaves town with her early love -- the village zamindar's son -- who is more suited to her temperament. The consequences of this action are explored in the second half of the movie.
Rajini has given a very sensible, balanced portrayal. He forgives Ambika her desertion of him and their daughter. In fact, he tries to reconcile Ambika with her family toward the end. For a change, it was refreshing to see a cinema husband act "normal" instead of throwing fits and temper tantrums. Director S.P. Muthuraman has explored a lot of grey areas in complex relationships between sister-sister, mom-sister, husband-wife etc... Some scenes are a commentary on how people react because that's how they're "expected" to react. For instance, Ambika's parents' reactions when they learn their daughter has run away. There are some scenes which are brilliant in their highlighting of some issues with marriages. The scene where Ambika tries to make up her mind whether to marry Rajini is perfect -- "I neither like him or hate him. I am indifferent. It is difficult for me to make up my mind because of this!I guess I have to marry him for family reasons because I don't dislike him."
There are some obviously masala things that could've been avoided at the end but all-in-all, a very feministic, forward-looking movie for its era. Definitely worth watching for its novel value..:)