Need a melt-into-a-puddle, non-mushy romance? Need two romances for the price of one? You need Mouna Ragam (Silent Symphony) - director-writer Mani Ratnam's first memorable film and in my opinion, one of his best. The love story of two strangers united in an arranged marriage unfolds in a gently flowing narrative that keeps you spell-bound. You're wondering what the narrative is. Well here goes...
Divya (Revathi) is a lively, fun-loving, college student. Her joie de vivre lights up her household which is ruled by her stern father (Sankaran). Her family arrange a marriage for her with Chandrakumar (Mohan) a manager for a Delhi-based company. Divya - a modern woman - is unwilling to marry a stranger. She tries to put the groom off by cataloging all her faults for his benefit. Instead of being convinced of her unworthiness, the disobliging Chandrakumar is charmed by her forthrightness! (And who wouldnt be - Revathy is at her charming best here.)
There is some drama, a family crisis and Divya finds herself married to Chandrakumar. After the marriage however, Divya finds herself unable to accept Chandrakumar as a husband. Chandrakumar, sensing her remoteness, tries to woo her. He wines and dines her in style. Things come to a crisis when he tries to buy her a gift. An angry Divya tells her stunned hubby that the only gift she wants from him is a speedy divorce!
Chandrakumar tries to get to the bottom of the problem - doesnt she like the decor of their their luxurious Delhi apartment? Or is it his habit of wearing a kurta-pyjama (instead of the lungi-shirt more favored in Tamil Nadu) that is putting her off? Turns out that the problem is way bigger than that. She is haunted by memories of a dead love - Manohar (Karthik) - and cannot bring herself to accept any other man!
Chandrakumar is stumped. He tries to convince her that her past is immaterial but she is unwilling to let go and accept him. He gives in and agrees to a divorce. Unfortunately for the couple, they live in Delhi not Las Vegas. So, they are required to be married for at least a year before the divorce proceedings can be finalised. The two of them are forced to live under the same roof until the divorce comes through. She could of course, go back to her parents' and wait for the divorce there. But we wont quibble over such small details.
Where were we? O yes, Divya and Chandrakumar are living separate lives under one roof. Once the decision to split is made, Chandrakumar makes it clear that he no longer regards Divya as his wife and she is free to live any way she chooses. Divya chooses to make him coffee in the morning which he declines, and cook him great meals that he contrives to miss. Now that the threat of matrimony is past, she is perversely interested in him, while he wants to maintain a distance.
Events contrive to bring them closer and as their year of married life nears its end, they both realise that a divorce is the last thing they want. Divya has learnt to care for this grave, courteous and considerate man. Chandrakumar who initially fell for her forthrightness and beauty, has come to value her warmth, her bubbly charm and quick empathy. Each of them waits for the other to make the first move. While they wait, the year ends and their divorce comes through!
Fear not reader, the movie isnt over yet. THE END is yet to come. Whether you have any doubts about how it ends or not, this is one movie you need to watch! The romance - I should say romances as there are two Divya-Karthik and Divya-Chandrakumar - is very well done. While the first romance - told in flashback - is fun but tragically cut-short, the second one is like a slowly simmering pot that gradually comes to boil. The whole movie is light on dialogues and relies on conveying emotions through facial expressions and body language. So, even with inadequate subtitles, you have no fear of missing out on anything!
If I havent sold you on the romance, then you might want to watch this for the great performances of the entire cast. Revathi is superb as the vivacious Divya. She brings Divya to life on the screen with her brilliant acting and every one of Divya's changing emotions are etched clearly on Revathi's face. Mohan gives a brilliantly understated performance as the calm and patient Chandrakumar. You can feel Chandrakumar's burgeoning love for Divya and his sadness at her refusal. Karthik adds a touch of masala as the charismatic first love. His over-the-top Manohar is a perfect counterpoint to the reserved Chandrakumar. Of the minor characters, V. K. Ramaswamy as Chandrakumar's hen-pecked, wise-cracking boss, the helpful Sardarji (who speaks Hindi with a distinctly South-Indian accent but provides great comic relief) and Sankaran as Revathy's stern but affectionate father, are memorable.
The music for movie was composed by Ilayraja and there are some great songs. I loved Chinna chinna vanna koyil and Nilaavae vaa sellaadhae but my favorite was Mandram vandha thenralukku.
The movie won the National Award for Best Regional Film and was also a huge success commercially. Its a beautiful movie and well-worth watching.