Director Sasi grows from strength to strength. Sollamale was your typical Tamil movie with a ludicrous climax, Roja Kootam, a decent film but with the usual exaggerations, the characters still seem like a bit like caricatures and you have a separate comedy track which is a distraction, though it features Vivek and Dishyum – an amazingly well-packaged love story with realistic characters, penned with sensitivity and thought. Apart from the heroine’s slightly screechy voice, and the occasional comedy distractions which were more tastefully done [no stupid girl jokes !], it was a winner through and through. But Poo takes the cake.

The film is simple, but what depth to each character, right from Penakaarar (the hero’s father) who carries around a pen and writes down what menial tasks he has to do to show people that he can read and write to the foreman of the company where Maari (the heroine) works!

The film opens with Maari and her husband living happily, the song beautifully shows the power Maari has over her husband who melts each time she looks at him appealingly. Maari wants to go to her hometown to see the Thiruvizha and goes off in haste not minding her swollen foot, or the appalling heat. With childish eagerness and a heart brimming with happiness she sits down to wait for her cousin Thangaraasu. What a beautiful essay by Parvati Menon. To bring out that innocent admiration, that reverence for a man whilst being married to another.

The film weaves in and out of the past. Two scenes astound us in their brilliance. One is when the teacher asks Maari’s class what each one wants to become in the future. The boys want to become poultry owners, or tea shop owners, whereas the girls stare abstractly into space [a poignant moment, when the teacher remarks to himself about how the girl children are growing up without a thought for their future], all except Maari, who very confidently and sprightly answers that she will become Thangaraasu’s wife. The second one is when Maari’s brother teases her about wetting her bed. Maari fights with him and mocks him for failing his tests and seems least bothered by his telling his friends, but when he runs towards Thangaraasu to break the news, she pleads, and sobs without ceasing as if her heart would break.

Time flies, Thangaraasu is studying engineering in the city, Maari works in the fire-factory with her best friend Cheeni (played by Inbanilla without a flaw) who persuades her to confess her feelings to Thangaraasu, but somehow the time never comes. One poetic scene is Maari trying to write a love letter to Thangaraasu (like Andaal to the Lord) and all she can manage is her heartfelt wish for him to be happy. So many sequences, delightful in their innocence yet realistic, are a pleasure to watch. Thangaraasu (played by Srikanth, one of his neat performances) as a character is also very well-etched. Good hearted,  with inferiority complexes , he excels in the scene where he tells his friend that he is not looking to reach the stars, but just to move to the next rung of society.

The interactions between Penakaarar and his employer are really very well-done. One well-to-do father with his drunkard son, one poor father brimming with confidence in his newly-educated son. This is cinema.

Though Maari never manages to confess her love, Thangaraasu finds out the truth and is caught in a web of dilemma. His father has his heart set on Thangaraasu making a brilliant alliance [the employer of his father offers his daughter’s hand in marriage because he feels Thangaraasu can safeguard and manage his assets], Thangaraasu himself wants a decently educated girl of his own caliber and status with whom he can live happily but he also cannot bear to wound Maari for whom he has great affection. Whilst he runs around in circles in his own head, his father takes to drinking. The sight of a once-dignified man for whom respect was everything now lost to the world haunts him. What clinches the deal is a mentally challenged child of his friend who married his cousin [Kudos ! For what seems the very first time in Tamil cinema, we are shown what may be the consequences of marrying your athaan or mama or whatever]

But the film wins here, because Thangaraasu just says sorry, and Maari doesn’t even want that. No long-winded explanations, no justifications nothing. Thangaraasu decides to marry the employer’s daughter, and Maari looks woe-stricken but not for long. She agrees to be married if she can attend Thangaraasu’s wedding, and confesses to her friend that she fears being unhappy. Why ? Because the sight of her unhappiness may cause pain to Thangaraasu. Sounds very cliched while writing it down, but it feels extremely natural in the film.

Now, we are back to the present day. Maari goes to pay a visit to Thangaraasu’s house, and each look around fills her heart with unbearable happiness. They seem well-to-do, he seems to be taking care of big businesses, and his wife looks beautiful. Maari very shyly inquires whether she is pregnant and the wife snaps. It is clear that she is unhappy and disgruntled. A distraught Maari then overhears the heated altercation between the couple where she realizes that the wife holds Thangaraasu in contempt. What a beautiful picture, Maari’s huddled body convulsing in silent sobs, and her terrified eyes meeting Thangaraasu’s own. She runs from the house and into Penakaarar.

One of the winning moments of the film is when Pennakaarar says “You had your dreams, I had mine and he had his… But we all failed to realize that his wife also had her own dreams. Now no one is happy” and attempts to fall at her feet.

Maari runs like she has never run before, the background music is brilliant here and sits down in the blazing sun. Disjointed scenes from the past run through her mind, whilst her husband comes, grinning happily to see his wife. He prattles merrily about today’s overturn at the shop but she seems lost. A little huffily (having come all this way) he rebukes her, when she bursts into wails. Like a child. Who has lost everything, and doesn’t know what to do now. The director ends the film with the bewildered and rather alarmed husband trying to soothe her, Maari’s heart-wrenching wails and the brilliant song of a child singing

“Manasu onnu thavikithu, pazhasa enni thudikithu Choo Choo Maari “

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