The sad truth of life is that there is an overwhelming statistical probability that one day you will be a parent. The worse truth is that your kids will some day become teenagers, the stage at which they let you know that there is no such thing as good upbringing, and that parental authority exists only as long as it is acknowledged. If you are lucky, your kid will defy your guidelines only on the sly, and if you are not, it’s an emotional freefall.
Vaalliddari Vayasu Padahaare is a rare movie that looks at the plight of parents whose teenaged kids cause them intense turmoil due to their immaturity and insensitivity. After decades of movie-making that showcased parents as assembly-line self-seekers who deserved their comeuppance in the climax, this one is a mature look at the other side of the generation divide. At a micro-level, it shows how severe the trauma of erosion of parental authority can be, and at a macro-level, it shows just how unfair the world can be to just anyone.
Shankar (Tarun) is the 16-year-old son of loving parents Chandrasekhar (Raghuvaran) and Bhuvaneswari (Jayasudha), and a student of Intermediate. He falls in love with Anu (Devika), a co-ed with equally doting parents (Chandramohan and Suhasini), and the pair is head-over-heels in love.
When their parents find out, they want the kids to stay away from each other since they are at the age where they need to concentrate on their studies, but the kids simply cannot stay apart. And when in frustration Anu’s family decides to move out of town through a transfer, Anu just jumps out of the moving train and Shankar runs out of his house shoving his father out of the way.
Anu’s father dies of heartbreak at the fact that his 16-year-old daughter has eloped, and Chandrasekhar is hospitalized when he cannot control his grief at his son’s statement that he considers his parents dead since they oppose his love. And when the kids attempt to marry with the help of their college friends – the standard and increasingly sickening recipe originally conjured by a mass-savvy Teja who called it “student power” to sell more movie tickets – Bhuvaneswari files a court case as a wronged mother, leading to a charged climax.
Vaalliddari Vayasu Padahaare deserves a higher rating just for its theme, but is unlikely to do well for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it seems to rely too much on its heroine’s flesh to attract crowds. The girl is supposed to be 16 years old, and you’ll feel like a pedophile as she gets raunchier and raunchier in the songs. That whole exposing thing is also a misfit in a film with this theme. It looks like there was a clash between a commercial financier and an inspired director.
Secondly, the romance has no chemistry. The courtship needs you to be very credulous indeed, and even thereafter, the love seems mostly physical. It’s more gaudy than subtle – you’d expect that teenage romances are more about emotions than physical needs. You can’t help but wonder how Maniratnam might have handled this theme.
The plus points of the film are, of course, the parents – they lend legitimacy to the film by their very presence. Jayasudha is grace personified, and Chandramohan is a delight as always. Raghuvaran needs someone to dub for him, but is good nevertheless. Suhasini is her usual talented self, too. Venu Madhav in a comic role is energetic, but the role itself is clichéd. Telangana Sakuntala as a Seema warlady who becomes a History lecturer, is a fun concept that works for a while.
At a deeper level, what the film portrays – by design or accident – is how tragic the whole task of parenting teenagers can be. The kids simply do not have the maturity to understand the parents’ emotions at being defied or lied to, and the parents simply do not know how to make the kids understand what’s good for their long-term emotional well-being. Nobody’s the villain, but most parents go through churn that varies only in magnitude.
And in these days where desperate and unethical newspaper editors and TV channel owners shape teen aspirations in completely unfortunate ways, and make so many of them feel inadequate by showcasing trends that really aren’t, the challenges of parents who want their children to shape up into balanced individuals are turning insurmountable, as the film ends with saying. If your karma is your villain, then the media seems to have become its biggest weapon now.
Vaalliddari Vayasu Padahaare is a well-intentioned film, and what will happen to it at the box-office is unfortunate.