Maro Charitra (1978)

  • Written by K Balachander
  • Directed by K Balachander

   Repeat Value : 10 / 10     

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Maro Charitra - Movie Highlights

Winner of Dadasaheb Phalke Award and renowned as Iyakunar Sigaram (Peak among directors) in Tamil film industry, K Balachander, shall always be remembered not just for his superlative movies but for his immense contribution for introducing multiple talents that have went on to become legends in Indian cinema. Great talents like Rajinikanth ('Apoorva Ragangal'), Kamal Hassan ('Arangetram'), Sridevi ('Moondru Mudichi'), ace villain actor Prakash Raj ('Duet'), and comedian Vivek ('Manadhil Urudhi Vendum') and character artist Nazar ('Kalyana Agathigal') were introduced by him.

In 2013, when Indian cinema was celebrating its 100th anniversary, CNN-IBN listed out 100 greatest Indian films of all time where both Maro Charitra and its Hindi remake Ek Duuje Ke Liye were mentioned, sums up the great repeat value of this film. This film was made by Balachander with the sole intention of introducing Kamal Haasan as a lead actor in Telugu cinema and later did the same to introduce him to Hindi Cinema. Maro Charitra was so highly successful that it ran for 450 days in Andhra Pradesh. Owing to its popularity it was also highly successful in neighboring states such as Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, without being dubbed into the respective languages. Balachander won a Best Director at the Southern Filmfare Awards in 1979. It was commercially successful and remains a cult classic. The film was remade in Kannada as Love Story in 2005 and in Telugu itself in 2010 (with same name) but all to a poor result not coming an inch closer to the classic. It is lesson for filmmakers which just goes on to prove that a classic is indeed a classic and is best left untampered.

The film tells the story of a cross-cultural romance between a Tamil boy and a Telugu girl. Telugu non-Brahmin girl, Swapna (Saritha) and Tamil Brahmin boy, Balu (Kamal Hassan) are neighbours in Vizag. Their parents, her mother and his father, are always at constant loggerheads due to their differences in language and caste. So now Balu and Swapna who come from totally different backgrounds and can hardly speak the other's language fall in love. Love blossoms between them despite the differences in language and they find many non-verbal ways to communicate and express that love. And when their parents learn of Balu and Swapna's love, they aren't happy and tie to break it. As a ploy to separate the lovers, their parents impose a condition that Balu and Swapna should stay away from each other for a year and if they can stay apart for one year and still remain devoted to their love, their parents will agree to their marriage. But during the year there should be no contact between them whatsoever. Balu and Swapna reluctantly agree to the condition and decide to separate. Balu goes off to Hyderabad where he works for his father's friend. There he meets a widow, Sandhya (Madhavi), who teaches him dance as well as read and write Telugu. Meanwhile, Swapna's mother brings a family friend's son, Pattabhi to their house to distract Swapna from Balu. After a misunderstanding over Swapna's relationship with Pattabhi, Balu turns to Sandhya. However, Sandhya discovers Balu's unsent letters to Swapna and comes to know of Balu's real love and goes to Vizag to know the exact situation and to clear the misunderstanding between the lovers. She sees that Swapna also has never betrayed Balu and was waiting for him to return. She reassures Swapna that Balu has been faithful and will come back to her. Will the lovers withstand the test? Will they reconcile and clear the misunderstanding? And why their fate ends in tragic forms the rest of the story?

Maro Charithra is probably one of the most famous love stories ever in Telugu cinema and is one of K Balachander's most popular films ever. One more important aspect is that contrary to most of the films that released during the period, Maro Charitra was shot in black-and-white, which gives it a different look and dimension. From the engaging lead pair of Kamal Haasan and Saritha, the strong supporting actors, to the bold black and white cinematography, catchy soundtrack and fab 70s fashions, this film is stunning. Its biggest asset is its story and screenplay and the characterizations of its lead pair. The romance overcoming the language barrier is done extremely well with the lovers exchanging dialogues and sweet nothings over washing clothes or banging on books or through switching on and off of their bedroom lights. What's more, the love story has an intensity that was rare till then in Indian cinema as the lovers here are openly defiant about the expression of their love towards their opposing parents. This and their agreement to separate for a year to prove the strength of their love fired up the imagination of youngsters. The tragic ending in Maro Charithra and consequently Ek Duje ke Liye has always been a source of constant debate. Many felt after all the lovers had gone through, a happy ending was needed. After all love had to overcome its obstacles and win. But K Balachander stuck to his guns and while one may or may or not agree with his decision, there is no doubt the ending give the film a solid emotional wallop and brings a lump to your throat. More so when you connect to the opening sequence as you go through the empty ruins and hear Balu's and Swapna's romance. The film has several memorable moments but the most famous act of defiance remains the scene where Swapna mixes the ashes of the burnt photo of Balu into her coffee and drinks it down. Another great sequence is where she takes her opposing mother to those spots where she has the fondest memories of her romance with Balu. All put together and with the execution of the same by the director and the performances make this film stand out from the rest. Direction is superb and goes with the flow and the mood of the movie and wrecks every nerve which watches the film. Other departments support the director's vision. The film is set in Vizag (Vishakapatnam) and the locales and the beaches are simply amazing. M.S. Viswanathan's music is one asset to this film and mainly 'Ye Theega Poovunu' stands top out of other songs in this film. But the movie is not without flaws, the execution of the ending included.

The central performances are spot on. Kamal Haasan shows why he is regarded as one of the finest actors in the country as he captures every shade of his lover boy role expertly. The man is totally into the role, beautifully essaying the part of a Tamilian trying to learn Telugu. A man mad in love, torn in between reality and passion. His Balu is simply adorable, fun and carefree. Towards the second half he totally immerses himself in the classical dance sequences which reflect the inner turmoil of his character, and they are beautiful to watch as well as adding some emotional depth to Balu. To choose the female character, K Balachander auditioned a number of girls and finally ended up choosing a 'dark-skinned girl with big eyes' named Abhilasha, who was in tenth grade. Though the members of the production unit were skeptical because of her dark complexion and for being fat, Balachander went ahead in finalising her for the role as he felt she had a homely look and was of the right age to fit in the role. Later, she was rechristened Saritha by Balachander himself and today she is a veteran actress who had a successful career. Back then, Saritha made a stunning debut. Though extremely ordinary in looks, she scores with her performance - in the more emotional and dramatic sequences. She is headstrong and a minx. Madhavi brings great depth and dignity to her role as the widow who falls in love with Balu and who eventually does the right thing, sacrificing her love. Others are adequate and supportive.

There are many great films in the illustrious career of K Balachander but 'Maro Charitra' (along with Hindi version 'Ek Duuje Ke Liye') will remain close to the hearts of millions of his fans.

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