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KUMASTAHVIN MAGAL More than four decades ago when this film was made, my mentor, the late T.G Vaidyanathan, taught me how to respond to films. The plots of popular Indian films, Tamil films in particular, he said, were variants of mythological motifs. Their denouement would follow the dictates of mythological norms. I wish he had seen this film, an interesting mythological puzzle. The plot has the basic Ramayana trio- Ramu an upright youngster, Seetha a virtuous daughter of a poor clerk and a Ravana-like young rich womanizer, who sports the indisputable power of money. Ramu dithers like Hamlet and lets Seetha be married off to an old man. Before long Seetha is back home as a widow of an unconsummated marriage. Creditors are set to seize Seetha's house. Seetha, faced with eviction and destitution, is way laid by the womanizer, who offers money in return for her favors- an offer which it seems she can't refuse. Seetha writes Ramu a long letter conveying her predicament and her resolve to end her life as the only way to save her virtue. She ends by asserting her purity and unequivocal devotion to Ramu. Whomever he might marry, her spirit would reside in that spouse she avers. Her suicide acts as a turning point. It makes the womanizer to recant and become good. It commits Ramu as a caretaker of Seetha's family; he undertakes to arrange the marriage of her innocent younger sister. In her bridal attire he sees Seetha. The bridal party, suspecting foul about the suicide, pulls out of the marriage. Their harsh words against Seetha, spurs Ramu into a moment of reckoning, an Agni Pariksha. A resolute and valiant Ramu espouses the younger sister. The sacrifice of Seetha's life is what transformed a baddie into a virtual philanthropist and an indecisive man into commitment to family. In the Ramayana, it required Seetha to finally 'go back' to earth for Ram to be back in the family, united with his sons. I now see why this film, despite its goody over-simplification of issues, touched me.
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