Ka Pae Ranasingam
Director: P. Virumandi
Cast: Vijay Sethupathi, Aishwarya Rajesh
It has been raining women-centric films on streaming sites in recent months. While Jyothika's Ponmagal Vandhal, Keerthy Suresh's Penguin and Anushka Shetty's just out Nishabdham disappointed me, Aishwarya Rajesh's Ka Pae Ranasingam – the first Tamil movie to run on Direct-To-Home Zeeplex (with a one-time viewing charge of Rs 199, valid for six hours after one starts the movie) – is an admirable effort.
We saw Aishwarya some years ago in Kaaka Muttai (remade by Samit Kakkad in Marathi as Half Ticket), as the young mother of two boisterous boys. With their father in jail, the woman has to struggle to eke out a living. Aishwarya was extraordinary in a very moving film made by Manikandan.
In her latest outing, Ka Pae Ranasingam, she plays a young wife whose husband, Ranasingam (Vijay Sethupathi in a longish cameo) goes to Dubai to brighten his family's fortunes. An accident there kills him, and the movie is all about Aishwarya's Ariyanchi, who stands up and fights a lethargic system of political and bureaucratic insensitivity.
We saw such behaviour in Mukesh Bhatt's 1984 Saaranash (in which Anupam Kher debuts), where a distraught father, trying to grapple with the death of his young son in America in a mugging incident, is forced to run from pillar to post in order to collect the ashes. It was an extraordinary work that underlined how unfeeling Indian administration is to grief and suffering.
Ka Pae Ranasingam, based on a true incident, is also about a political bureaucracy that could not care less about a young widow's anguish. The story unfolds in a small village in Tami Nadu's Ramanathapuram district, where Ranasingam is a local activist, adored by his people. He puts their plight before his own or his family's, and when he dies in Dubai, Ariyanchi is forced to trek from one office to another, one city to another to get her husband's body back.
There is a very sad scene in which she hears the news of actress Sridevi's body being bought back from Dubai in no time, while Ariyanchi has been waiting for 10 months with not even a flicker of hope.
The twist at the end is extremely disturbing and points to utter cruelty on the part of Ranasingam's company and the Indian administration.
The film is inconsistent and too long, but we remain with the young woman and her family. We empathise with her horrific situation, and fully understand her last action when she confronts the car carrying the Prime Minister. A little far fetched may be, but Ka Pae Ranasingam makes its point as a matter-of-fact and quite fearlessly.
We are reminded, time and again, how India's have-nots are really nobody, enjoying hardly any rights. We saw this in the way migrant labourers were treated at the beginning of the current Coronavirus pandemic.
Aishwarya carries the work on her shoulders, conveying helpless anguish at the prospect of not being able to have one last glimpse of her husband. Sethupathi does make a significant mark, as usual. He is simply endearing as a young man in the first flush of love. His charismatic personality also makes him a darling of his village folk.
Ka Pae Ranasingam is certainly worth your time and money.
(Gautaman Bhaskaran is author, commentator and movie critic)