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Why Santhi From The 2000 Movie Sakhi Is A Feminist, Before The Ideology Was Defined On-Screen

Posted: September 15, 2020

A strong woman who spoke her mind and thought nothing of supporting her husband financially through his struggles, Santhi from the 2000 Telugu movie Sakhi, was a feminist.

I watched the Tamil movie Alaipayuthey (Sakhi in Telugu) a few years ago. The film released in 2000 in Tamil, and was dubbed into my mother tongue, Telugu. I then watched it in Telugu, and rewatched it numerous times afterwards.

The movie is a realistic love story between Karthik, portrayed by Madhavan and Santhi, portrayed by Shalini. (Character names in the Telugu version).

*Spoilers alert

The story of Sakhi

The film starts with the spoilt brat Karthik falling for the medico from a poorer background, Santhi. They share a beautiful relationship, but as predictable in films, the wealthy father of Karthik scorns Santhi’s family.

They both marry quietly at a temple. However, the truth about Santhi being married is revealed in front of her elder sister Poorni’s suitor. The family is subjected to insult, and Poorni’s prospective alliance breaks.

Karthik and Santhi then start their new life, breaking all ties with their families. How they go through the trials and tests of married life, and how their love wins every single time forms the rest of the movie.

A strong, outspoken central character

Santhi is introduced as a chirpy and bubbly girl, full of life.

As the movie begins, we see her dancing merrily at a wedding – the wedding of Karthik’s friend with Santhi’s friend, where they first meet each other. During the wedding, she doesn’t take any comment against the bride’s side of the family. Traditionally, in Indian weddings, the bride’s side is expected to take it if anyone from the groom’s side says anything. But when Karthik passes a comment about his friend losing his freedom after the marriage, Santhi quips back.

Santhi is aware of how her parents struggle to make her a doctor. She often mentions her adulation towards her father, a railway employee, who leaves no stone unturned for making her a doctor. When Karthik’s affluent father comes to Santhi’s small house and says that she has trapped his son, the family asks him to leave, without stooping down to his arrogance. Later, Santhi confronts Karthik about his dad’s haughty behaviour. She values her family’s respect above a rich man’s conceit.

Standing up equal to her husband

Santhi could have accepted Karthik the way he was and become rich instantly. Yet, she tells Karthik that she doesn’t have any respect for a jobless lad who just squanders his dad’s money. She loves the Karthik working for a struggling startup than the Karthik who is dependant on his rich father.

In all her scenes, Santhi is shown as a person herself – not someone’s daughter or wife or sister. She marries man who has just started his own company, while she has a reliable job. It shows how a wife can support her husband financially, than nagging him for not earning enough. The couple also shares household chores, which was quite uncommon 20 years back. (It is still not totally accepted, though).

Standing up to a ‘matchmaking’

Santhi’s sister Poorni gets a match. The family also brings along their younger son. After seeing Santhi, they impudently ask if the parents can give Santhi’s hand to the younger son, who is also a doctor himself in USA. His family is probably scared that he’ll marry a girl from US hence the hasty alliance.

Santhi’s mom takes her inside and orders her to change into a saree for her to become a bride to be. Santhi rebuffs this idea, saying that the groom’s side hadn’t come to a market where they can ask for whatever they like. Santhi’s family is scared that they might lose a good alliance for Poorni. So Santhi then agrees to come out in a saree, but when she has an opportunity, calmly reveals that she is married already.

A woman of her own

The movie shows Santhi as a woman with dreams, making her own decisions. She balances everything, makes mistakes while doing so, but gets up and moves on, but never does anything that can hurt her self-esteem. She loves the people around her but not at the cost of her respect. She stands up for what she believes. She accepts her partner’s flaws and makes him a better person. She knows her worth, and doesn’t take anything less.

Santhi’s character was a feminist long before this word was used.

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