A good friend who is now touching 70 but still leads an active working life was talking about his assistant ; the kind of person who says ‘I will take care of it ‘. The kind of person we want around as we get older. The assistant has a brother in America who is asking him to come join him. My friend said “I told him, L…….., if you are going, take me with you because I cannot manage here without you “
When our children leave home, the people immediately around us who serve and help us become our family. We become dependent on them to remove the burrs of daily life. We share more than food and money – day to day happenings, jokes, sad stories. It becomes more than a paid employer – employee relationship. There is mutual concern and a sense of wellbeing when they are around.
We see such beautiful relationships in the life of the Pannaiyaar and his wife in debut director –writer Arun Kumar’s movie, Pannaiyarum Padminium . The panniyaar is not the tough macho man of movie style, but a benevolent, easy going patriarch. He and his wife Chellama treat the whole village as their extended family. The pannaiyaar introduces the village to each modern instrument as a proud father. A radio. A TV . A toilet. Everyone gathers around to watch in awe, even as he enters the toilet! One day, the Pannaiyaar sees this wonderful thing at the house of a relative – an automobile. A blue Fiat Padmini. And he cannot get over it. Seeing his obsession, the relative kindly leaves the car with him when he goes away to visit his daughter. The pannaiyaar gets transformed into a younger man in love. Watching him as he wipes and cleans and pats and saunters over jauntily to look at the car with love is a treat. But he cannot drive the car. Murugesan, the tractor driver is taken into service. Murugesan too becomes obsessed with the car and regards himself as part owner. The car becomes part of the life of the village, pressed into service for deliveries and functions and sickness and death. The panniyaar’s wife won’t travel in it unless he drives it himself. Will he learn? How will they cope when the rightful owner turns up to take the car away? If the pannaiyaar learns to drive, will he send away Murugesan? These are the questions that engage in this gentle, sentimental bit of life in a small, far away village.
Vijay Sethupathi is superb as driver Murugesan, expressing emotions with his eyes and face. Jayaprakash is the genial landlord and Tulasi, looking comely and sweet in slightly oversized blouses and cotton sarees is perfect as the loving, feisty wife . Comedy is light and flows through the movie. There are moments when we laugh out loud like when the boys cover the car in hay so that the rightful owner won’t see it.
The story too flows on peacefully in no hurry. This is a story that has been expanded from a short film. To fulfill expectations, a romance between Murugesan and village belle Iyshwarya Rajesh has been woven in. He is asked to help with a funeral in her family and he falls in love with the sobbing girl right though a song. Better is the warm love that is outlined between the pannaiyaar and his wife Chellamma, given shape through the popular song, unnakaga poranthen. There are other characters – the mini bus driver and conductor with whom Murugesan races. The scruffy odd job man, Pidai alias Peruchaali who bestows ill luck on anyone he wishes well, is very comfortable in his role. Sneha, looking more beautiful than ever makes a guest appearance. The daughter who is mean and avaricious provides the necessary tension.
An unusual story, fine actors who live their roles, the rural background, understatement – all keep us in our seats to the end. The close-ups of the old women crying loudly in dirges, the children of the village, bare-chested and brown, running behind the car, all fit in perfectly. Nowhere does the background or music jar. At times, the story does seem to drag slightly but after the interval, the pace steps up. The feel good feeling keeps you remembering the characters and situations with a smile.