Out Of Theatre

36 Vayadhinile

Out Of Theatre
15 May, 2015 1 hr 55 mins U
Jyothika, Rahman, Abhirami
Jyothika, Rahman, Abhirami
Rosshan Andrrews
3.5
3.9
Synopsis
The film talks about middle-age empowerment and is a compelling drama despite minor glitches
3.5
3.9
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  • Critic's Review
  • Times of India
Synopsis: A married woman, who has set aside her dreams for the sake of her husband and daughter, rediscovers her true self and becomes an achiever.

Movie Review: In many ways, 36 Vayadhinile is closer in spirit to Gauri Shinde's English Vinglish . Both are feel-good films that mark the comeback of a beloved actress (Sridevi there, Jyotika here). Both the films talk about empowerment, especially of middle-aged women. If Shashi of English Vinglish is a housewife who supports her family by being an entrepreneur (who makes laddoos), Vasanthi (Jyotika) goes to a job to share the financial burden of running a family. Both these characters become an embarrassment of sorts for their teenaged daughters. Both are forced to look inward only when they become truly alone — if Shashi has to go to the US on her own, here, Vasanthi is left behind by her husband and daughter. Both gain confidence when someone from the past comes into their life; if it was a niece for Shashi, it is a friend for Vasanthi. And both earn the trust of their family by succeeding on their own terms.

But Vasanthi is also different from Shashi. For one, she isn't demure like the latter and can be wily — even if it is only to get a seat in the bus. Sure, the life of this 36-year-old, mega serial-loving, working woman revolves around her husband Tamizhselvan (Rahman) and teenaged daughter Mithula (Amritha), but at work, she is every bit the typical paper-pusher one might find in government offices. She is a clerk in the revenue department who goes late to office; doesn't mind delaying files; rags her junior colleague; and, indulges in boasting contests with another colleague; in short, she is an everywoman.

Her husband has been trying to move to Ireland for a better quality of life and her daughter, too, is excited about studying abroad. But Vasanthi is rejected in the job interview because she is old for the job (that she yawns during the interview doesn't help).

And, one day, she learns that the president of the country, who is on a visit to the city, wants to meet her, after learning that she is the inspiration behind the impressive question posed by her daughter. But on D-Day, Vasanthi faints before the president, resulting in public humiliation — the people she encounters in her daily life crack jokes at her expense, she becomes a meme on social media, but worse, she falls in the eyes of her daughter and her husband, who are embarrassed by her. Such insults — and the encouragement of her college friend Susan (Abirami), now a person prominent enough to be featured on the cover of a magazine, — force her to look inward, rediscover herself and become the achiever that she promised to be during her college days.

36 Vayadhinile is a remake of the Malayalam hit How Old Are You and the director, Rosshan Andrrews, who helmed the original as well, is pretty faithful in transposing the plot to Tamil audiences. He has managed to iron out some of the wrinkles of the original — the Tamil version is crisper (115 minutes compared to 140 minutes), a major character (played by Jayaprakash) is brought in early into Vasanthi's life, some scenes are made more believable (sample: in the Malayalam version, the heroine goes all alone to spend a night in the hotel before meeting the president but here, we see her mother-in-law accompanying her), the dialogues are sharper (though this is hardly Viji's best work) and the score (Santhosh Narayanan) is more evocative.

But some of the problems remain. In some key scenes, the lines are read — and not spoken — making the scene feel staged. Like the one with the president and the one in which Susan inspires Vasanthi. Even a brief flashback in the latter scene to underscore Vasanthi's resolve feels unnecessary.

But what is most disappointing is the portrayal of the husband as a jerk to make us sympathize even more with the female protagonist. Tamizhselvan doesn't come across as a husband who is just not sensitive of his wife's desires. Instead, the film portrays him as a spiteful person who takes out his frustrations on his wife and is completely OK with exploiting her. We first see him talk his way around and cunningly make her confess to the police that it was she — and not him — behind the wheel in an accident enquiry. We then see him accusing her of willfully sabotaging his plans to go to Ireland. In another scene, he takes her out under the pretext of dinner only to tell her that he is embarrassed by her and is taking their daughter away from her despite knowing that she is at a low point. Finally, he blatantly hints that he sees her mostly as a housemaid who doesn't need to be paid. At least if there had been a scene showing how this mean-spirited person finally begins to understand and appreciate his wife, we would have felt satisfied. But all we get is a shot of him holding his wife's hand during the climax, which appears false and even insulting to the character of Vasanthi.

36 Vayadhinile might be a familiar tale of women empowerment, but the issues that it deals with — women setting aside their dreams after getting married, age being a hurdle to one's success and the necessity for organic farming — are very valid. The film, despite the problems, is compelling drama. Andrrews also manages to inject humour into many of the scenes so that the plot doesn't feel burdened by melodrama. And in Jyotika, who makes an impressive comeback (there is a welcome mellowing down of her usual exaggerated acting style), the film has an actress who can command the screen and make us care and root for the protagonist and feel elated when she manages to conquer.
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