One day while Bhagyanathan (Murali) is lying in a cot in the verandah of his hut, his two daughters Karunya (Navya Nair) and Sowmya (Neeraja) come in the morning to say bye while they are going out and his eyes swell with tears. This is because Sowmya is going to school while Karunya, who was the rank holder in her class is going to work in a small weaving company owned by a relative.
Bhagyanathan and his wife Vishalam (Shobha Mohan) are quarry workers toiling under the sun doing hard labor. With their meager income they want to give excellent education and make life comfortable for their children. One day Bhagyanathan’s legs are hurt in an accident and the doctor tells him that he can no longer work. The relative then offers a job for Karunya in his company and when Karunya had to go to work because of him, it became unbearable to Bhagyanathan.
Karunya works hard and pays her sister’s fees regularly. One day the relative comes with another offer. They want to send few girls to gulf to work in a garment company. The pay would be excellent and the accommodation would be arranged by the company. Bhagyanathan does not think for a moment and says no. Vishalam meanwhile influenced by other women convince him to send her. From Gulf, Karunya starts sending money regularly and gifts for her parents. The first gift is a wheel chair for her father. With rest of the money they remodel the house and buy good dresses. The gifts and letter are delivered by the relative who had send her to work.
It seemed like life was good when one day people of the village spot a story about a girl arrested in a mobile prostitution ring in Nargecoil. The girl has a resemblance to Karunya. Bhagyanathan abuses the person who bought him the news and throws out the newspaper. Vishalam meanwhile is not convinced. She goes to the police station in Nagercoil to meet the girl called Swetha. It turns out she is Karunya. She refuses to identify her mother and speaks to her in Tamil, but when the mother turns back, she cries and the movie ends.
When it comes to novels and movies, there is this concept which says “show, but don’t tell”. What this means is that instead of saying Karunya’s parents have to struggle to educate her, show it through various scenes so that the viewer gets the idea. This movie follows this principle to the dot. The struggle of her parents and her realization of that fact is portrayed very well.
Once when Sowmya wants to go for a school tour, she is afraid to tell her father. Karunya does it for her. Bhagyanathan knows that he will have to work harder for that money, so he thinks for a moment and agrees. He also asks Karunya to go on the tour. Knowing that it will be a struggle for her parents, she lies that she has lot to study. Once when the lighting is not enough in the room, Bhagyanathan gets a table lamp. Once when a boy writes a love letter to Karunya, he meets the boy and tells him not to do it again. He does everything in his power to ensure a trouble free education for his daughters.
The biggest impact of the movie comes from not showing what happens to Karunya after she leaves for Gulf. In fact we don’t get to see her till the final scene. Shown from the family perspective they see letters and gifts arriving at regular intervals. How does she become a prostitute? Who is responsible? We don’t know and it does not matter. This movie does not blame anyone explicitly, nor does it offer any solutions. It also does not try to hammer the message into your head artificially. All it does is put a human face to tragic stories we read in papers.
The movie is not preachy also. It is not arty and the story moves at a good pace. There is no explicit villain in the movie. The relative who send her to Gulf says it was through his friends whom he trusts. Did he know what was going to happen? Even that is not made clear. At the end what becomes clear is that due to some circumstance this girl from a poor family who had to take up responsibility turns a prostitute and that message hits hard.
All this is convincing not just due to the straightforward narration, but also due to the exceptional performance by the cast. Navya Nair won the state award for her portrayal of Karunya which was well deserved. From a simple school girl with just studies in her mind, she turns to a wage earner and the changes in her character are very well done. Neeraja who played Sowmya also won the state award. A person who should have also got the award was Murali for his brilliant performance as Bhagyanathan. As usual he becomes the character.
In most of the scenes natural background sounds are used, still this movie falls into the manipulative background music trap and sometimes irritates us with some loud music. The portrayal of the artistes was so natural and powerful that no music was required. We hope Director Albert restrains his music director next time and uses it only when absolutely necessary.
Director Albert, who also wrote the film has done an excellent job in extracting controlled performance from all his artistes. The narration and individual scenes are not boring for one moment. In the house the actors talk and behave as if they live there, not as if they have been transplanted there for that scene. For such a serious movie, there are even some funny scenes. Made on a shoe string budget of Rs. 30 lakhs, this film proves that it is not money, but sincerity in the making movies that matter. It is sad that such movies do not get widespread publicity.
This movie is highly recommended.