Sandhya Raagam (1989) Showcases Challenges Of Being An Elderly Dependent In A Middle Class Family

Sandhya Raagam shows everyday struggles of a middle-class family comprising a husband, wife, their girl child, and their soon-to-be-born second child.

I’ve been a fan of the ace filmmaker Balu Mahendra and his signature style of movie making. One movie which didn’t have a theatrical release but was relayed on Doordarshan time and again, is the Tamil movie Sandhya Raagam (1989).

Sandhya Raagam is about the everyday struggles of a middle-class family comprising a husband, wife, their girl child, and their soon-to-be-born second child. With the husband being the only earning member of the family, the wife operates on stringent budgets to run everyday errands and also make room for the second child in their lives.

It is at this point in time that a new member joins the family, the husband’s uncle, on losing his wife to a natural death (due to old age). As he doesn’t have children of his own, he decides to live with his nephew. The couple welcome him warmly and are quite hospitable. Although gradually, the lady of the house is concerned about accommodating her father-in-law permanently, as they barely make ends meet themselves, let alone having to support an additional member. This leads to arguments and emotional outbursts between the couple, and the old man in the house is also able to sense that he is being a burden on the family.

Excellent casting and nuanced acting

The casting cannot get better, with veterans nailing their performances, be it Archana (the lady of the house), Sokkalinga Bhagavathar (the old man), or Oviyar Veera Santhanam  (the man of the house). The movie is made in black-and-white, for reasons best known to the director (faintly remember reading that he thought it was way more authentic this way). This movie is about life in all its reality, dilemmas, and people’s struggles for survival.

Any woman and a mother can easily relate to the myriad of emotions exhibited by Archana. The casual conversations she has with her husband, the scene where she confronts the old man for having bought her daughter a street-snack (upon which the child falls sick), crying herself to sleep and hugging her daughter in bed upon altercation with her husband, etc, assures she is an actor par excellence and there is a reason she is a National award winner.

Special mention for the actor who plays the old man in Sandhya Raagam

One actor am sure will capture everyone’s heart is the old man, Sokkalinga Bhagavathar (already a huge fan of his for his performances in Sathi leelavathi and Veedu). Balu Mahendra’s favourite, he is best at what he does, and warms our heart with both his innocent, beautiful smile and with his melancholic expressions. A gem of a find and a gift to Indian cinema, he would take everyone by surprise in the scene where he enacts the dialogues he says he used to, in his younger days of being a theatre artist (he was one). His grieving upon his wife’s loss, his immediate bonding with his nephew’s daughter, his narration of stories to the child, struggling to adapt himself to his new world, makes you forget you are watching a movie and makes you feel like you’re watching snippets of real life.

The music by L. Vaidhyanathan is subtle and just about adequate to enjoy the movie in its real essence. The movie is a pioneer of sorts as it captures the stark differences between life in the city and village and illustrates a positive perception (sorry about the spoiler) about old-age homes and why they are not so bad. Sandhya Raagam is indeed, a delightful ragam to immerse our senses in.

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About the Author

Sukanya Raghunathan

Sukanya Raghunathan is a leadership trainer and a faculty of management. A mother of an eleven-year old girl, she also teaches Carnatic music and her hobbies include singing, dancing, playing keyboard, reading fiction/non- read more...

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