What is it that makes every growing adolescent guy (and even his grown up father) wish that the woman-of-his-dreams is someone like the chirpy, fun-loving Geetanjali (Girija) in Idayathai Thirudathe or the bubbly and adorable Preity (Preity Zinta) in Uyire. Who would not want to have an understanding soul-mate like Chithu aka Chitra (Revathy) in Anjali or Indira (Simran) in Kannathil Muthamittal. Hey forget all this, who doesn't like the brave Roja (Madhoo) in Roja, the strong-willed Shakti (Shalini) in Alaipaayuthe or the stunning Meera (Kareena) in Yuva :-) Ok, pardon me just that last inclusion. So what is it about Mani Ratnam and the magic he weaves around his heroines ?
While jealous peers and obsessed critics fault his supposed fixation with style, they forget that at the heart of all of Mani's masterpieces is a wonderfully etched, multi-layered female protagonist. I need not look beyond Mouna Ragam, one of Mani's timeless classics and a movie I have seen 15 times fully (no exaggeration this) to prove my point. The heroine Divya (played by Revathy) is one of Mani's most interesting character sketches till date - here is a gal who is the apple of her family's eye, used to getting her way in everything, raised almost like a guy - boldness et al. But again all it takes for her to be swept off her feet is a dashing local thug (Cmon, Manohar played by Karthik is not like a glorified Robin Hood et al) and some hopeless romantic stunts. Falling for him like a tonne of bricks, Divya tries to make a proper citizen of the man but fails and loses him forever. To make matters worse, she is then forced into a marriage with a total stranger Chandrakumar (played by Mohan) and has to move to Delhi. Seeing her near-perfect world come crashing down within a few weeks, she is now forced to be someone she has never ever imagined possible. How she copes with a reality that is stranger than her worst dreams and how she rediscovers life is brilliantly depicted in true Mani style. Some scenes which stand out in my memory are
# When her husband asks her what she would like for a wedding present, Divya asks for a divorce
# When Divya leaves the wedding party at home in a huff and then repents for her hasty actions
# When Divya explains to her visiting parents how things are all fine between her husband and her
# When Divya wears the anklet and tries to grab her husband's attention
# When Divya finally sheds her ego and confesses her love for her husband
Where are these real life Divyas? Please don't tell me they are like Santa Claus :-(