For a movie to call itself “women-oriented”, American movies must clear the Bechdel test. The Bechdel test demands:
1. the movie has to have at least two women in it,
2. who talk to each other,
3. about something besides a man.
It’s pretty rare for an Indian film to come through the other side of this simple routine. ’36 Vayadhinile’ does this with ease, does it well and keeps us glued to the screen. It’s stirring to watch how a woman’s mid-life crisis looks like. Few pages have been borrowed from ‘English Vinglish’, but none of that diminishes the achievements of ’36 Vayadhinile’.
That the movie will be a hit with women should be a given, but the movie also invests enough to get men to walk out with many things to ponder. With women directors hard to come by, Rosshan sets up a framework to linger longer on the lives of women. Jyothika and Viji (dialogues) make 36 Vayadhinile beyond entertaining. How Rosshan fills women throughout the film and explores their mini universes should challenge women scriptwriters and directors to step up for the sisterhood.
Rosshan’s other brilliant stroke is to not miss out on Men of all shades (mostly positive models) and very importantly not make them out as moustache twirling baddies. By tuning Tamilselvan (Rahman) into a conflicted/complicated person who is unsure about himself, misdirecting his frustrations on his wife, rather than your regulation wife-thrashing/abusive husband, Rosshan builds a case for us to treat Tamilselvan as a life-sized human. This goes a long way in strengthening the character of the movie and easily identify Vasanthi’s (Jyothika) inner turmoil.
Bonus points to the writers for not overcooking the drama between Vasanthi and her teen daughter. Treating the teen-rage as what it is, a passing phase works wonderfully for the movie’s maturity and a firm stamp that the script (by Bobby Sanjay) understand the changing times and attitudes. Trying to get down to Facebook trolls and painting social media as a scourge comes across as silly, in places.
Santhosh Narayanan, as always, plays only when he needs to and when he does, he does with an unmistakable understanding of scoring for a film where music isn’t the queen.
Rosshan Andrrews bring his ‘How Old Are You?‘ to tamil; that scarce import that resonates with a Tamil audience, growing increasingly demanding on nativity and context. ’36 Vayadhinile’ impresses with the power it packs in the simplicity of its plot. Never going overboard about feminism or what an empowered woman can logically achieve, ’36 Vayadhinile’ makes it accessible to women and men. A must-watch for the family.