| K.Balachander was undoubtedly one of the most talented directors in tamil cinema. He loved to focus
on complex relationships and analyse the complications that arose out of them. This was in evidence
even during the beginning stages of his long and illustrious career. For instance, Aboorva Raagangal
dealt with the intriguing relationships arising out of a father-son pair falling love with a
daughter-mother pair. His directorial talent is on full display in his masterpiece Sindhu Bhairavi,
a mature love triangle set against the backgroud of Carnatic music. Excellently etched out characters,
sharp dialogs and mesmerising music elevate this movie to the level of a classic.
J.K.Balaganapathy(Sivakumar), JKB for short, is a famous singer. But he lacks the right kind of company to discuss
music with since his wife Bhairavi(Sulakshana) is a zero as far as music is concerned. It is at this
point that he meets Sindhu(Suhasini), a music teacher. Though she offends him at their first meeting
on stage, her boundless enthusiasm for and in-depth knowledge of music draw him to her. They end up
spending a lot of time together and this closeness soon develops into a full-blown affair. When she
is advised to not spoil Bhairavi's life, Sindu moves away from JKB. But her absence affects him and
he starts drinking. When his life seems on the brink of destruction, Bhairavi herself invites Sindhu
back to correct him. And seeing the positive effect Sindhu has on JKB, Bhairavi decides to get her
married to her own husband. There is also a side story of Sindhu, who was deserted as a baby by her
mother, finding her roots.
I bemoaned the lack of any instances of the famous 'KB touch' in his last movie
Kalki . It should be clear to anyone watching Sindhu Bhairavi , what I
meant by the 'KB touch'. The movie is filled with deft touches that have a forceful impact while making us
applaud their innovativeness. One of the best illustrations of this appears early in the movie. Sivakumar
just saying that his wife is a novice as far as music is concerned would have sufficed. But KB makes
Sivakumar stop with "For my wife, music is..." and then cuts to Sulakshana asking a vegetable vendor
"Kilo enna vilai?". This conveys her state more effectively than any dialog could have.
KB's directorial acumen is evident at several other places too. Showing the unwrapping of a mridangam and
a veena to signal the physical union of Sivakumar and Suhasini, using the daily delivery of tamil magazines
to indicate the different days of the week (Suhasini is angry at Sivakumar during this time and her mood gradually
changes and a magazine with Sivakumar's cover picture signals her complete transformation) and indicating
Suhasini's train journey with a line of boys on the beach are some of these places.
There are few things that happen without reason and what happens on screen seems perfectly plausible.
Sivakumar's lack of music-minded companionship is beautifully brought out by the aforementioned scene that
illustrates his wife's blissful ignorance of music and the scene where his orchestra is playing cards while
he is looking for a meaningful discussion of music. This factor is key in order to sympathise with his character
during his relationship with Suhasini. The same goes for Suhasini. Her gradual bonding with Sivakumar is
based on music and this is picturised skillfully. This is important since the audience has to view her with
compassion, and not the scorn usually reserved for the other woman in a marriage, for the movie to work.
The movie is populated by one of the liveliest and most memorable cast of supporting characters. 'Mridangam'
Gurumoorthy ('Delhi' Ganesh) and 'Sitar' Gajapathy (Janakaraj) are the most prominent among these. 'Delhi'
Ganesh's drunken outburst against Sivakumar on his relationship with Suhasini and his later confession that
he acted drunk just so he could speak his mind are touching. Janakaraj is a reformed liar and the way his
head is shown swelling up each time he holds a secret is masterful and funny. It is amazing how smaller
characters like the judge's driver and Sivakumar's grandfather become unforgettable after appearing in only
a couple of scenes. But in the midst of such outstanding characters, Pratap Pothan's character seems
Suhasini delivers a masterful performance. Her expressive face excels at hiding sadness with a bright smile
and she gets lots of oppurtinities to do so. Her gradual closeness to Sivakumar is understandable and the
transformation from anger to realisation of her feelings for him is made believable by her performance.
Her reaction when Manimala bars her from entering their house so that she could "save her husband from her"
is brilliant as is her talk on the beach with Manimala. Sivakumar gets the role of a lifetime and delivers. His
character has the oppurtunity to run through a full gamut of emotions and he does justice to most of them.
Sulakshana earns our sympathy with her wide-eyed, innocent look. She earns laughs when she imagines slapping
Suhasini while she is leaning on her shoulder (KB earns another point here with the picturisation of this
scene) and her repeated distractions with household chores, when attempting to learn music, brings out her
This movie was the first time Ilaiyaraja tuned the music for a KB film and the result is colossal - exactly
what we would expect from the union of two gifted giants. I am in Sulakshana's shoes as far as Carnatic music
goes but the tunes here are unbelievable. Ilaiyaraja employs two innovations. In Mahaa Ganapathy...,
there is no Mridangam and the last song Kalaivaaniye... is completely in aarohanam with no
avarohanam. Moham Ennum is stirring and intense against the backdrop of the waves crashing against
the rocks. And the way the completely folksy Paadariyen
Padippariyen... merges into Mari Mari Ninne... is nothing short of amazing. Even the dappanguthu
Thanni Thotti... fits into the movie since it illuminates the depths to which Sivakumar has plunged due
to Suhasini's parting. K.J.Yesudas has sung all the songs and his mellifluous voice is a pleasure to hear.
Sindhu Bhairavi reaped a rich harvest of awards with Suhasini, Ilaiyaraja and Chitra all winning national
awards for the movie. If KB himself had nabbed the best director award, it would have been richly deserved.