With Valentine's Day around the corner, it's a good time to look back at some of the on-screen couples in Tamil cinema who have stayed with us long after the film came to an end. While love is a popular theme in films and nearly every movie that hits the screens has a romance track, it isn't often that the script gives it more credence than a few duets in the snow.
Films like Alaipayuthey, OK Kanmani, and Vinnaithaandi Varuvaya are popular romance flicks which come to the mind immediately when someone mentions the genre. Here, we look at films which are not conventional romances but have nevertheless caught our eye because there's something different about the relationship and how it has been portrayed.
Kabali and Kumudhavalli (Kabali)
The 2016 Pa Ranjith film subverted many tropes that we've come to expect from Rajinikanth films, not in the least the treatment of women characters. While the film opened to mixed reviews, the relationship between Kabali (Rajinikanth) and his wife Kumudhavalli (Radhika Apte) warmed the audience.
Though Kabali is told that the woman he loves so much might have been raped and may have been sold into a brothel, he's eager to find her. This is a marked departure from how rape and sex work have been viewed in mainstream cinema, as a loss of "honour" (perhaps with the exception of Mahanadhi). Further, Kumudhavalli is outspoken and even orders her husband around - which has thus far been a strict no-no in Rajini films.
The song Mayanadhi, which marks their reunion is full of crackling chemistry between the two actors.
Gandhi and Karmegha Kuzhali (Aandavan Kattalai)
Directed by M Manikandan, this delightful black comedy was about a young man (Vijay Sethupathi) who desperately wants to go abroad. Listening to some ill advice, he fills in a random name - Karmegha Kuzhali - as 'spouse' in his passport. And thus, begin his travails.
Ritika Singh, who plays Karmegha Kuzhali, a quick-tongued journalist, is among the few well-written heroines we've seen over the years. The unlikely couple get together over a mock court divorce and the romance is real and funny at the same time.
Jyothi and Kani (Angaadi Theru)
Vasanthabalan's film on a big store in T Nagar's busy Ranganathan Street and the exploitation that the workers there are subjected to, made for a gut-wrenching watch. Jyothi (Mahesh) and Kani (Anjali), as a young couple who work in the shop together, and stand up to the oppression within made for a memorable on-screen pairing.
The song Aval appadi onrum azhagillai, which underscores love between ordinary people, remains one of Na Muthukumar's best lines.
John and Regina (Raja Rani)
Atlee's debut film has similarities to Mani Ratnam's Mouna Ragam and the Kannada film Milana but it was nevertheless refreshing to see a modern young couple deal with their past relationships within a marriage in a Tamil film.
John (Arya) and Regina (Nayanthara) get married against their wishes. The two of them abuse each other and behave atrociously until later when they come to understand each other's past. There haven't been too many Tamil films which have looked at moving on and letting go of old love, so it was interesting to watch this premise unfold on screen.
Selvam and Agal (Thiruttu Payale 2)
This Susi Ganeshan film was about a woman (Amala Paul) who is trapped by a pervert (Prasanna) on Facebook who manages to procure her nude videos. Bobby Simha plays her husband, Selvam, who also happens to be a cop.
The husband-wife relationship in the film was interesting because Selvam doesn't go down the usual victim blaming route or speak of his wife's 'honour'. He remains focused on getting her out of the situation and plans a happy future with her.
Paandi and Poonthendral (Pa Paandi)
This Dhanush directorial was an unusual story of a stunt master who goes in search of his old girlfriend. Played by Raj Kiran and Revathy, the aged pair shared a beautiful chemistry on screen.
Elderly people are usually shown as "sacrificing" and hardly thinking about themselves, but Paandi and Poonthendral look to rekindle their old romance and carve out a new life for themselves. The relationship had its share of emotions but remained light and fun to watch.
Aishwarya and Murugan (Kaadhal)
This film by Balaji Shaktivel is indeed about love, as the title suggests, but it isn't the candyfloss romance that we can watch happily while munching popcorn. Delving into the dark subject of 'honour' killings, the film was about a young inter-caste couple Murugan (Bharath) and Aishwarya (Sandhya) who defy society to elope.
Based on a true life story, the film doesn't stop with the elopement but also shows their struggle to stay together and survive. The film ends with Aishwarya and her husband taking care of Murugan, who has lost his mind thanks to the torture Aishwarya's family had subjected him to. A hard to watch film, Kaadhal depicted an unsavoury reality that we don't see often on screen without flinching.
Anbuchelvan and Maya (Kaaka Kaaka)
Gautham Menon has since tried to repeat the chemistry between this film's pair in subsequent cop films but they've never lived up to what Suriya and Jyothika could do together.
Suriya's understated performance as Anbuchelvan, an upright police officer who is uncomfortable in the presence of a woman he's attracted to, is among his best to date. Jyothika, who was known for her "bubbly" roles, played Maya, a teacher who expresses her feelings freely to the cop. Though their romance is short-lived, it was among the reasons why the film went on to become a big hit.
Kathiravan and Yazhini (Kadhalum Kadandhu Pogum)
An official remake of My Dear Desperado, this Tamil film by Nalan Kumarasamy was about a thug called Kathiravan (Vijay Sethupathi) and his neighbour Yazhini (Madonna Sebastian).
The couple, who start off on the wrong foot, end up liking each other through a series of events. From getting drunk together to fighting and expressing their feelings to each other, the film had many sequences that made it an enjoyable adaptation.