The first movie I watched this year happens to be Maalai Nerathu Mayakkam. If I wanted to be clever, I would quote my cousin, “You said it was going to be a romantic drama. But this is romantic horror!” That probably belongs on Twitter, not this blog, so I will be writing approximately 1000 words about this movie.
Maalai Nerathu Mayakkam begins with Manoja, a twenty-something woman who lives with her mother. (Quick aside #1: I think she is an architect, though we are never told this explicitly. Still, good to see she is a normal person, even if she does speak in that dead way unique to heroes in Selvaraghavan’s movies.) It is her birthday and some guy is trying to serenade her. He holds a cake in his hand, and sends up a large teddy bear. (Quick aside #2: Do women really like these gifts? I won’t bite if you tell me you do, I am only curious.) We learn that Manoja’s mother feels sorry for the guy, he’s been trying hard to woo Manoja and hasn’t been experiencing much success. Manoja wonders why he doesn’t stop, and her mother tells her, “Sila figure-a full-a paakalai na aasai pogadhu.” I know we are in Selvaraghavan universe, so you walk in expecting dialogue that makes you squirm, but I don’t think even a Selvaraghavan mother needs a dialogue like that.
Manoja is suffering from insomnia, and in her restless state, she opens an album and looks through pictures of all the birthdays that have gone by. She stops at a picture of herself with a man, whom we come to realize is not in her life anymore.
Manoja is depressed because her boyfriend (the one she thinks she truly loved) has broken up with her. Since Manoja will not have sex with him (she wants to be truly-madly-deeply in love before she decides to have sex with someone), he finds the relationship to be a waste of time. Manoja cannot get over him, and her mother advises her to move on (yes, the kind of mother who is aware of her daughter’s boyfriends). Unable to bear Manoja sinking in self-pity, her parents perform some expert emotional manipulation (mother suffering from cancer/ parents want to see their daughter married/ you understand how this goes), and get her married to Prabhu.
Now Prabhu is your typical Selvaraghavan male protagonist. He has hang-ups about his appearance, his inability to converse casually in English, his lack of social skills, his repeated failure in approaching members of the opposite sex, his hatred of men who are more good looking and sophisticated than him, his daddy issues. Prabhu works in a call center and lives with two of his colleagues. Considering he cannot find a girl who will like him back, he agrees to marry whoever his father chooses for him. He can hardly believe his luck when he finds out this person is Manoja (who is the typical Selvaraghavan female lead, the one who is out of the hero’s league, who is fair, pretty, successful).
Manoja agrees to the marriage (without so much as glancing at Prabhu), decides to despise him, and lives up to her decision. On their first night, she walks into the bathroom after Prabhu and almost vomits (we almost do too) – he has left the bathroom in a most terrible state. If I’m not wrong, I think there was even shaving cream on the ceiling (how?). (Quick aside #3: We are shown another bathroom earlier, in the apartment cohabited by Prabhu and his colleagues, but that bathroom seemed normal. Did Prabhu suddenly want to be a dirty room mate?) Manoja is understandably disgusted, she goes to sleep in the living room, and Prabhu’s dreams of having sex with this beautiful girl on his wedding night are shattered. Only she can’t sleep, because he snores loud enough for eardrums to burst.
Prabhu takes her to an Italian restaurant for dinner (following his friend’s advice), where they run into not one, but two of her ex-boyfriends (who look at Prabhu and probably feel sorry for Manoja). Prabhu cannot control his rage. He also proceeds to make a complete fool of himself by demanding sambar sadam in an Italian restaurant; his reason being – how can you set up a restaurant in India and not serve Indian food? (REALLY? OKAY!) In another instance, he follows her to a party only to find her slow-dancing with an ex-boyfriend, and goes crazy. In this way, he continues to disgust and alienate her. But in his own way, he loves her, in the way these men love their women (according to movies). They worship the ground the woman walks on, they wear the woman down with their persistence and not charm, they prove to her that any of the other men she may have liked do not come close to loving her the way they do (which is obsessive, to say the least). She falls sick and he takes care of her, which causes her to soften a little towards him (but her face still looks like she smells poop all the time).
It is their third anniversary, she has organized a small dinner party for friends and family (she wants her parents to think she has a happy marriage). Following his friend’s advice again, he asks his guests to not come, and decides to ply her with wine until she agrees to sleep with him.
He rapes her.
She cuts herself all over her arm.
She divorces him, moves in with her mother (who still doesn’t know why her daughter doesn’t want to live with Prabhu anymore).
Manoja discovers that she is able to fall asleep if she plays a recording of Prabhu’s snores. (Hmm….what could this mean?)
We learn that Manoja is unhappy, she does not like anyone else enough, she is unable to forget what Prabhu did to her. A realtor brings Prabhu to her house (unknowingly) and she loses her composure. She asks him to leave. She is disturbed by the sight of him. He still loves her though. He regrets raping her, but he still loves her.
Manoja (on rebound?) asks one of her exes to propose to her. The Ex is skeptical, he says he is wary of proposing to her after all the times she said no to him. Manoja assures him it’s different this time. He then proposes a one week trial period in a resort in Munnar (I couldn’t make this up even if I wanted to), during which she will accept everything he says or does, and if he is satisfied at the end of this trial period, he will ask her to marry him. Manoja agrees, but on the way to Munnar, she starts hyperventilating. She informs her MOTHER (yes, apparently you can tell your mother everything, including the fact that you are going to spend a week with your ex-boyfriend in a resort in Munnar), who immediately informs Prabhu. Prabhu not one to be outdone, sets off to Munnar as well. He invites his friends and a girl who has been crushing on him on Facebook forever (she apparently hopes to land a life partner by stalking people this way on social media).
Manoja refuses to have sex with the Ex. Remember her principle, right? She lies saying she has her period (or maybe she really does), so the Ex throws her out of the room (he feels cheated). She finds Prabhu singing by the fire, and the rest of the group makes them embrace each other (even the girl whom Prabhu brought along wants them to get together – in fact, it is her life’s aim to find someone like Prabhu). Though when they are by themselves, Manoja runs away screaming.
Finally, the confession.
Manoja says she cannot get over what he did to her, but she loves him, and these conflicting emotions are driving her over the edge. (Not-so-quick aside #4: WHAT? Since when does she love him? This was the most unsatisfactory part of the movie for me. I understand the point was to put forth unconventional situations and contradicting feelings. But I still cannot believe Manoja loves Prabhu!) He says the only way to end this trauma/drama is to kill him, and makes her stab him with a knife (that he always carries with him).
Anyway, Prabhu doesn’t die. They live happily ever after. And yes, they have consensual sex.