Mahanati, the biopic on legendary South Indian heroine Savitri, has fixed a release date: May 9. Directed by Nag Ashwin, the Telugu-Tamil bilingual movie stars Keerthy Suresh as the eponymous screen goddess.
Ashwin has attempted a cradle-to-grave account of the actress, which includes her tumultuous off-screen relationship with actor Gemini Ganesan (he is played by Dulquer Salmaan in the movie). The palpable chemistry between Ganesan and Savitri resulted in a number of successful collaborations, including Muktha Srinivasan’s 1965 drama Poojaikku Vandha Malar (The flower that came for the puja).
Srinivasan’s film is about two thick friends, Ravi (R Muthuraman) and Suresh (Gemini Ganesan), who fall out after a misunderstanding. Chitra (Savitri) is Ravi’s sister, but Suresh does not know that when he falls in love with her. While Ravi is away working in Mumbai, his parents fix Chitra’s wedding with Suresh.
Chitra sends Ravi a letter giving him sketchy details about the alliance. Chitra mentions her brother to Suresh, but refers to him by his family name, Chandru, further complicating the drama.
“If you see him, you’ll also become very close to him,” Chitra tells Suresh.
“It looks like you will forget me once your brother comes here,” Suresh retorts.
“Is it possible for a lamp to forget light?” replies Chitra, lighting a kuthuvalakku (a lamp).
The track Maiyendhum Vizhiyaada ensues, and shows Chitra sitting on top of a giant lamp. Suresh looks up at her from the ground as she begins to sing.
Maiyendhum Vizhiyaada, composed by MS Viswanathan and TK Ramamoorthy, written by Vaali, and performed by P Susheela and PB Srinivas, is laden with metaphors. The traditional lamp is an essential item at a Hindu wedding. After using the lamp as a larger-than-life backdrop, Srinivasan picks two more nuptial-related objects: a rose water sprinkler and a garland. As Suresh and Chitra describe what they intend to do for each other, the director ensures they are simultaneously drenched in the water from the giant sprinkler. They are later seated in front of the garland, which looks like it is suspended in mid-air.
Vaali’s lyrics add to the symbolism: Maiyendhum vizhiyaada, malarendhum kuzhalaada, kaiyendhum valayaada naan aaduven (I will dance like the movement of the kohl around an eye, or the swaying of flowers on a lock of hair, or the way the bangle moves on the hand).
The song heightens the couple’s optimism, but things take a turn for the worse right after when Suresh realises the identity of his future brother-in-law. He calls off the wedding. Mirroring Savitri’s determination in real life, Chitra moves into Suresh’s house in order to convince him to marry her. Unlike Savitri, who died in 1981 at the age of 47, Chitra’s love story finds success.
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