Last year I watched “Mayaanadhi”. I was fascinated by how it captured not just the tribulations of falling in and out of love, but the existential dread in a life full of uncertainties. Much as I enjoyed the movie, I was immediately struck by its thematic, if not narrative, parallels with Derek Cianfrance’s 2010 movie “Blue Valentine”. Yes, I know that Director Aashiq Abu cited “Breathless” as an inspiration for his film’s plot structure. But this article is solely concerned with Mayaanadhi’s perhaps lesser-known similarities with Blue Valentine. I even rewatched Ryan Gosling Starrer movie recently just to be sure.
Of course, some of these points may strike you as far-fetched, and by extension a fabrication of my imagination. But I hope that looking at these two movies from a comparative standpoint will lead us to appreciate them better. All their narrative differences aside, the crowning glory of both movies was their depiction of the mystical nature of love. Before we start, let me give some context to those who have not seen either movie.
In Maayanadhi Aparna is everything Mathew isn’t. They both have a past to forget and a future to build. Aparna is a Btech dropout and aspiring actress looking to land a lead character role, no less. Although she’s seen grappling with insecurities and identity crisis, Aparna mostly puts on a brave face. Mathew and Aparna are in a dysfunctional relationship. It’s a relationship as fickle as the ebb and flow of a river. And if things are to ever work out between them in life, they must take place in a Mayaanathi (illusory River). A river that will take them beyond their regrets, differences and realities. What’s central to the characters in Mayaanadhi is the conflict between what you want in life and what life actually gives you.
In Blue Valentine Cindy and Dean have stopped caring, perhaps knowing that their days are numbered. Movie swings back and forth in time as though to remind us of how irredeemable their relationship was from the word go. In the flash back we see the couple meet cute, leading up all the way to Dean willingly marrying Cindy who is then 6 months pregnant with her classmate’s baby. Dean takes odd jobs and has nothing in the way of a career. He just wants to get by. Cindy on the other hand once wanted to be a doctor but is now a nurse who takes care of her baby and man child of a husband. The writing was on the wall for the couple all along.
Female characters in both movies are high on existentialism quotient. They make grand plans for their career, only to be cut short by vicissitudes of fate. Aparna in Mayaanadhi is portrayed as being too thin-skinned for the trials of film industry that expects its actors to be thick-skinned. Cindy in Blue valentine, as Dean quips during their courtship, is too good looking for the toil as a doctor. The male leads on the other hand are under-achievers who expect nothing less than being saved by these women. They are ready to bide their time, and wait in the wings to grab their chance with the women of their lives. Sometimes they seem to not have any qualms about manipulating women to get their way.
The women in both movies don’t need their partners anymore than a student wants her father to be present in an embarrassing parents teacher conference. Both women are ready to look at their partners as just fellow travellers who have tagged along for the journey called life, the only difference being that they don’t really wish them to be around to complete the journey. As they barely keep their lives from falling apart, the last thing they want is a partner who can’t take care of himself. But these women, for all their appearance of strength, are weak. So they are stuck with men with whom they share rare moments of intimacy, and a one-way street relationship where they just go through the motions.
Both movies have characters that are hopelessly stuck in their past. In Blue Valentine Cindy wears the baggage of past regrets on her sleeves. Her countenance is that of a person who is still reeling from a blow from the past. In Mayaanadhi Maathan is desperate to get away from the crime ridden past but fate catches up, he receives it with resignation.
As the closing credits roll out, we are given images of the incompatible couple in their moments of true intimacy. It’s a brilliant little story telling technique that really resonated with audience. And it works like a charm because a part of you will always want to see these characters in their moments of joy. This way even though the story ends on a bleak note, the directors want to leave the viewers with images that immortalize the rare moments of togetherness shared by these flawed characters.
Unlike Michel in “Breathless” Mathew isn’t a morally repugnant petty criminal, rather he’s the adorable rascal with a conscience to boot. For a man child with a baked idea to secure couple’s future, Mathew comes to his senses towards the end of the movie. It’s a scene that marks the crowning glory for the movie, striping the climax of any ambiguities, and leaving viewers with glimpses of the couple’s mysterious union. Halfway through Blue Valentine, Dean with a look of resignation asks cindy what he must do. And she says she doesn’t know. This dialogue sets the tone for the rest of the movie.
I felt that Mayaanadhi was inspired by both Breathless and Blue Valentine. While the former helped set its tone and style, the latter gave it the much needed substance. As two uniquely different movies that happened to touch up on similar topics of life, all in all I felt that Blue Valentine accomplished with passion what Mayaanadhi did with melodrama and a dash of magic.