It has been 20 years since Alaipayuthey (2000) and it still doesn’t miss to surprise.
Imagine you put the narrative of Alaipayuthey in order as it happens in the lives of Sakthi and Karthik. Except the part, the one whole day, which often peeks into the narrative, when Karthik spends in search of Sakthi, the film’s narration is, pretty much, linear. When you take this special ingredient out, Alaipayuthey (2000) might end up resemble the linear narrative of OK Kanmani (2015), which is Maniratnam’s yet another exceptional film in the same genre. Though OK Kanmani is distinctive in its own way, it’s hard to deny the fact that people still can’t get enough of Alaipayuthey and treats it as one of the greatest love stories of its time. Why weren’t we able to celebrate the Cheerful and reckless Aadi (Dulquer) the same way we did Karthik (Madhavan) who has the same devil-may-care attitude? Would you believe the non-linear narrative is the key answer for the aforementioned query?
To visualize the story curve of Alaipayuthey, it seems to find its ground with Saphir-Whorf hypothesis, the salient point of the film Arrival (2016). This hypothesis is a linguistic theory which explores the structure of languages and how it affects the learners’ cognition. Cinema is a language too. It’s the filmmaker’s tool for communication though he/she doesn’t get a reply in the same language. The viewers reciprocate their replies in the form of emotions. We see Karthik, a young man, in the beginning of the film and immediately observes many things. He is carefree, He is in love, He doesn’t indicate that he is going to be in an undesirable situation very soon. But if you put the narration of the film in order, things between Karthik and Sakthi are strained before that particular day. There is a rift but it is invisible to us. It is an deliberate attempt by the filmmaker for us to glimpse Karthik in this happy mood as this is how he wishes to introduce him to us. It makes easy for the filmmaker to guide us on his trip into his film. The next stop, he pulls over at the wedding ceremony where Karthik meets Sakthi. The joy is easily communicated to us and the rift is not. As things progress in the film, we grow into the story gradually just like how the love between Karthik and Sakthi grows.
From the present day in Karthik’s life, we keep looking back to the days of his past. The days of excitements to be found by love, the fights, the squabble and the merge after those fights. These memories, that we look back along with Karthik, makes Alaipayuthey bound to the ground and keeps it within reach. The resonance is possible unlike in OKK. By the end of OK Kanmani, We sadly forget the excitement of the newfound love and the ones that come after each fights. Alaipayuthey resembles the life of a common man in love, who looks back his lovely album of life events when things don’t go right, to find the right path in the times of conflicts. So, When Karthik finally finds Sakthi at the hospital, we were able to remember his emotions with which he fell in love with her. Those memories are neither distant to Karthik nor to us. We feel Karthik’s salvation when it hit him.
If it were to a linear narration, we would have seen Karthik at the railway station only at the end of the film. By the time we see him there, we might have been relaxed from the grip of the plot and would have forgotten the excitement of his love as it goes through all the tribulations that life presents to Karthik and Sakthi. Alaipaythey reassures the known truth that it is essential to look back at certain events of lives when you meet such conflicts. It is necessary to find the root of it all to preserve and to save the love which has changed the course of life for good. It is necessary to remember them often just so we don’t forget it in the heat of the moment and lose it for good. Perhaps, this is what missing in OKK.