Saturday, March 11, 2023

Thalaikoothal or Involuntary Euthanasia

Thalaikoothal was a traditional practice in a Tamil part of India.  It dealt with older people who were very ill, whose natural death could not be predicted.  These elderly people would be a burden on limited resources.  They also would be suffering and not enjoying life.  The solution was thalaikoothal which was a form of senicide or involuntary euthanasia.  They made it a ritual with the whole family involved.  Near as I can understand the basic principle was starvation.

 In this film we are quickly introduced to an old man comatose with tubes and oxygen around his neck and nose.  We learn the old man's name, Muthu and it is son Pazhani who tends to him with bathing,grooming, massaging and taking to a doctor.  He refuses to consider thalaikoothal although everyone around him is advocating for it.  His young daughter, about ten is cheerful and helps take care of her grandfather.   Later she reassures her other grandfather that she would do the same for him. 

 Pazhani has taken a lower paying job to have enough time to tend to his father.  He has also taken out a series of loans which he has trouble paying back.  He pledged his house for the loans.  He also got loans from his father in law and brother in law.  The loaner points out that the father will not get better, but does respond when Muthu is finally able to open his eyes and to blink to indicate yes or no.  His daughter in law had been verbally abusive, but now felt more kindly disposed and asks Muthu if he would forgive her and blinks yes. 

Through the magic of cinema we are shown the inner thoughts of Muthu who most remembers a courtship from his youth.  He loved a woman who was from a different caste that forbid him marrying her.  They both wanted to live with one another and when they privately wed she had her ring (where they had placed a ring) toe cut off.  I admit I was confused what happened next, but it seems obvious they did not marry and she was quite likely killed or chased away.

Eventually Muthu is no longer opening his eyes and the pressure for thalaikoothal resumes, from not only the loaners, but also the whole neighborhood except for his Pazhani's daughter.  The ending is not too surprising and we are shown some rituals and great sadness.

Of note was a neighboring couple who were despairing of being infertile.  The wife talks about what is natural as her husband explains about the involuntary euthansia and why it is not murder.  She had asked him to go to an infertility clinic and he said it was not natural.  

This is a low budget film that is very well done. 

Jayaprakash Radhakrishnan was the writer and director.  He had some acting, but in 2016 he was able to convince producers to let him write and direct his own film, "Lens."  It was a socially relevant film as were his next projects.

The producer was S. Sashikanth who started as an architect and became involved with major projects.  Later he became interested in films and bucked Bollywood traditions that made producers more in charge of financing movies.  He preferred to pitch creative ideas and began producing Tamil language films in 2010.  "His film credits include  "Vikram Vedha" (2017) and "Mandela" (2021).  Check

Not able to find out who responsible for the music, but found words (translated from Tamil) very appropriate.  I bought music (with singer Pradeep Kumar) and will be adding it to my relaxation playlist

Cinematography was handled by Martin Donraj.

 Editing was done by Dani Charles.

Sunflowers, symbol of eternal life were in many scenes.  For some reasons chameleons were in a few scenes

Samuthirakani played Pazhani.  He has credits as both actor and director including;  "Visaaranai" (2015), "Ala Vaikunthapurramuloo" (2020), "RRR" (2022) and "Don" (2022).

Vasudhara Kashyap played his wife.    

Kathir played the younger courting version of Mathu.  He has 14 film credits including "Vikram Vedha" (2017)

Katha Nandi played the young woman Pechi courted by the young Muthu.  She is Bengali and had to learn Tamil for this role and her next with Mohanlal she will learn Maylayalam.

I wish I could track the name stage name and background of the grand daughter as she was a delight.

It is another perspective on the sanctity of life.  It may seem barbaric to us, but most of us live a more comfortable life.

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