Tamil film Narai Ezhuthum Suyasaridam: Poignant study of post-retirement life

Tamil film 'Narai Ezhuthum Suyasaridam': Poignant study of post-retirement life

'Jai Bhim' actor K Manikandan's debut film deals with the void people grapple with after retirement

In an era when work from home and moonlighting are the norm, the word retirement has started to lose its meaning.

There are no more sophisticated 9 am to 5 pm jobs. Even the government jobs, which were once considered as cushy, now involves a lot of back-breaking work. Also, following the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic stress that ensued in the aftermath, many are doing more than one job at a time.

In a report published in 2019 by the Pearson Global Survey, about 25 per cent of Indians have said that they need a career post their retirement. Due to the pandemic, it is possible that this number has increased manifold.

On the other hand, many states are increasing the retirement age, which means that working senior citizens do not have to panic about the void that lies before them, post-retirement.

Jai Bhim actor K Manikandan’s debut film Narai Ezhuthum Suyasaridam (English title, Endless) deals with that void people face after retirement. The one hour and twenty-two minutes long film, which is currently streaming on the OTT platform Sony LIV, approaches the issue with a deft hand.

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Losing one’s power

The film tells the story of Vaidyanathan (played by Delhi Ganesh), who was a senior employee, working in a private export company with 36 years of service behind him. When the company decides to computerise the office, Vaidyanathan’s role is considered redundant and he is given premature retirement though he still has nine months of service left.

This is a blow to Vaidyanathan, who eventually becomes depressed. He was once a much-sought member of the office and integral to its smooth running. Moreover, he was also a diligent employee and hence, he spent most of his time in the office and gave little time to his family. However, all this changes after his retirement.

Vaidyanathan is now seen as a man who has a lot of time on his hands. He is also roped in to do all sort of jobs in his home – from household chores to escorting his grand-daughter to school and picking her up after school. Nobody in the house gives him the respect he had once commanded. This sudden loss of ‘power’ affects his self-esteem terribly and he becomes angry and starts fighting with his family.

It was at this time, in an inebriated state one day, he meets a jobless youth Manikandan (played by Manikandan) and they strike up a friendship. How the friendship between a pensioner and a jobless youth impacts both of them positively forms the rest of the story.

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Matured writing

Manikandan, who dons many hats such as a mimicry artist, radio jockey, actor, etc., is basically a writer. He has worked in films like Pizza II: Villa (2013), Vikram Vedha (2017), Viswasam (2019) and Thambi (2019) as a dialogue writer. As an actor, he has given stellar performances in 8 Thottakkal (2017), Sillu Karupatti (2019), Aelay (2021) and Jai Bhim (2021).

Though Narai Ezhuthum Suyasaridam is his first film as a director, he deserves praise for his nuanced treatment of the subject. Take for example, the scene where a tea shop attendant’s cavaliar way of serving tea to a jobless Manikandan completely changes when he is accompanied by Vaidyanathan. Earlier, the attendant would rotate the tea tumbler making it clear he was serving the tea with much resentment because the jobless youth has outstanding dues at the shop. But, later, since Vaidyanathan has already made the payment, the tea glass is placed on the slab calmly and carefully.

This avamana tea (which literally means shameful tea) that Manikandan refers to beautifully portrays the pain and angst thousands of jobless youth must feel.

The veteran actor Delhi Ganesh, for his part, scores in scenes where he picks up a fight with a newly-appointed employee, who has replaced him. He expresses his displeasure that the newcomer doesn’t know the phone number of the head office from his memory but has to rely on his phone or computer. The veteran actor beautifully brings out the indignation blended with anxiety that a person feels when one’s years and years of experience and knowledge have suddenly become worthless.

Independent films for film festivals

Made on a shoe-string budget and completed in 2015, Narai Ezhuthum Suyasaridam was screened in many international film festivals, including the Bengaluru International Film Festival and New York Indian Film Festival and won awards.

Manikandan has said in a media interaction that he was keen on making a film that shouldn’t be compromised because of any kind of commercial constraints and that is the reason he decided to make an independent film. He is clear that he wants to focus only on making indie films and showcase them at film festivals.

Manikandan talks to The Federal

Talking to The Federal, Manikandan said that though the film is being appreciated by many, he still believes it to be an “amateurish” work.

“We started this film in 2012 with a meagre budget of Rs 2.5 lakh sourced from my friends. At that time, I was 25. Our core team consists only of four members, including Delhi Ganesh sir. The post-production was carried out, whenever we could lay our hands on funds. I made that film to check whether I have directorial skills. Thankfully, now it has been acknowledged by many that I do have the skills, who saw that film,” he said.
Manikandan added that one of the reasons for that film’s success is its “honesty”.
“I was able to say what I wanted to say without any commercial constraints. I think that the honesty behind the film has attracted SonyLIV and now the film has been released,” he pointed out.
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