I was not going to publish this post for two reasons. For one , the spoilers would ruin the movie for a lot of people and I wanted to analyze this particular relationship with its nuances , angst , resentment and all related baggage for a longer time before sharing my thoughts for the world to see. But then I had this long DM with PV and I suddenly felt like writing and so here I am. I’d offer one warning though – stay away from my post until you have seen Chekka Chivantha Vaanam and have had the time and patience to let the movie sink in.
Varadan is a selfish man just like his brothers. But what sets him apart is this inherent inferiority complex and resentment against his father who may have married his mother in a Tudor like set up to consolidate power . <It is implied that Senapati murdered his wife’s father , was a serial philanderer and was an emotionally distant father and extremely controlling one when it came to Varadan> . Varadan is married to his first cousin Chitra and it is implied that his father imposed the marriage and Chitra on him and Varadan resents the marriage and Chitra by extension .
There is this simmering resentment between the two but there is also trust and he depends on her to hold things together at the home front. Chitra knows the family and Varadan inside out warts and all. She is blunt , calls a spade a spade and is his emotional crutch and de-facto second in command. She is his mirror and there is nothing that is hidden from her including the paramour . Chitra knows about Parvati and is probably more than a little hurt that her husband loves to wind down with the other woman and not with her. But you don’t see her cry about it. Parvati , to her , is one of the many paramours and she has probably seen men in her immediate family stray and cheat that she appears to take this in stride.
Her love and complete devotion to Varadan is not reciprocated in kind and one gets the feeling that Varadan probably sees her more as an ally than as a wife and that status quo continues until they have to run for their lives. Chitra refuses to abandon her man and matches him step by step as they seemingly outwit their foes and gain a safe abode. There’s a lull where they indulge in normalcy : Varadan , Chitra and their henchmen and then she is caught in the cross fire and is fatally shot.
Varadan rushes to the hospital , never leaving her alone for the moment and you see this vulnerability in his eyes that makes you realize that he loves Chitra in his own way. On her death bed she asks him to abandon her and escape to ensure that their kids at least have one living parent and even then he doesn’t give in or give her the comfort/assurance she seeks . He refuses to abandon her and goes on to lament about his mistakes. In a very vulnerable moment , she asks if he is alluding to their marriage when he is talking about his sins and mistakes . He is quick to say no , but in true selfish Varadan fashion goes on to make that Macbeth like confession and she passes away as he is ranting , denied of comfort , emotional assurance or even a few words of love that she very much deserves. Varadan , the selfish man that he is , knows only to take and even in her death , Chitra is deprived of the attention and affection she desperately craves from her man. But once she is gone , Varadan becomes unhinged and goes on that splendidly choreographed rampage and therefore Chitra’s death is in a way Varadan’s death too.
With Parvati , Varadan is dominant yet passive. She feeds his ego and he feeds her back < literally > .You get the sense that with Parvati , he is probably playing at his version of happy families , where he is the caretaker , the care giver and the man who does not have flaws. One gets the feeling that Parvati is very important to Varadan. Heck even Parvati , Chitra and maybe even Varadan feel the same about it . But once Chitra is gone , taking away that blanket of emotional strength and support , you realize how important Chitra is to Varadan . May be Varadan also realizes the fact only when it’s too late and the situation is beyond salvation.
Varadan strays , not because he is seeking love , but because he is seeking control. Being with Parvati makes him feel in control whereas with Chitra it is probably the other way around. She knows too much about him for his comfort : his ambitions , inferiority , baser instincts , selfishness , self doubt , resentment , suffocation are all known to Chitra and even as he takes a lot of emotional support from her , he resents her because she sees too much and knows too much and Varadan simply cannot come to terms with it and by the time he attempts to man up , everything is done and dusted . There is love behind all these smokescreens but ultimately that love is toxic and is not of any help.
May be , there is redemption waiting for Varadan and Chitra in a different universe – one where he is a little selfless , tactful and sensible and one where he grows to love her. In that universe , maybe Chitra and Varadan would grow into Senapathi and Lakshmi . Maybe there is a better world where Chitra has had enough of this family , takes an out from it when offered and is happily settled in Coimbatore with her children away from all the toxicity , venom and violence. In yet another universe , Varadan and Chitra are running the syndicate together , him providing the strength and her providing the brains . May be in all these universes , Chitra is still unhappy as she only knows to give but not to take or may be she is happy , because she gets to be her man’s emotional anchor . One never knows , because alternate universes rarely exist and even if they do , one can never predict which way things are going to go .
Varadan and Chitra are not real but they felt like real people ( thanks to the brilliance of the actors who carried the part with elegance) with real issues and for a few hours after the movie , I brooded about why Chitra was dealt such a poor hand by the God above and why Varadan couldn’t be man enough to acknowledge all that Chitra has done for him and at least try and repay that in kind.
Thank you Mani Ratnam , for making me feel that .