Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Moondram Pirai

Director: Balu Mahendra
Language : Tamizh
At a brothel in Chennai, Cheenu (Kamal Haasan) finds a young woman called Viji (Sridevi) with regressive amnesia. Moved by her child-like state, he sneaks her out of there and takes her away to pristine Ooty where he is the headmaster at a local school.
Cheenu becomes part-parent, part-friend to Viji's six year old self. The caretaking of this child-woman becomes his life's purpose. Also existing in this uncorrupted microcosm are the helpful grandmother next door and a puppy that goes by the unwieldy name of Subramani.
Cheenu struggles to keep intact this near-perfect life with Viji, but the world begins to intrude. Juxtaposed to Viji's naiivety is the ripe sensuality of the aged school owner's young wife (Smitha) whose advances Cheenu finally spurns. When a woodcutter attempts to rape Viji, Cheenu becomes alert to her vulnerability and seeks the help of a local medicine man to cure her. When Cheenu is away, Viji's parents arrive at the doorstep of the medicine man looking for their missing daughter, whose real name is Bhagyalakshmi. The cured Viji/Bhagyalakshmi recognises her parents but has no recollection of how she turned up at Ooty.
A distraught Cheenu arrives at the railway station just as Viji's train is about to depart. He tries to remind her about their life together, but Viji does not recognize him. The train moves on and Cheenu is left with only memories of a period that sadly, Viji has no recollection of. 
Made by Balu Mahendra whose visual rendering of scenes is legendary in Tamizh cinema, Moondram Pirai was also dubbed in Telugu (Vasantha Kokila) and remade in Hindi (Sadma). Kamal Haasan won the Silver Lotus award among the National Awards that year for his performance in the movie. 

An edited version appeared in Culturama's February 2011 Issue

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