The following post contains spoilers.
The concept of revenge has been a fascinating one since the beginning of time. The Greek and Shakespearean tragedies, with their violent plots, have not lost their relevance even now and they probably will not for a long time. All of us might not always act on our vengeful instincts and perhaps that is why it is always fascinating to watch a well-constructed and focused revenge drama on screen.
Saani Kaayidham by Arun Matheswaran comes across as a precisely constructed revenge drama that is led by a woman. We often associate violence and revenge with men because of our preconceived (and probably not completely baseless) association of violence with that particular gender. However, women too are very much capable of being violent and this film does not let you forget that for a minute. The female protagonist, Ponni, played by the brilliant Keerthy Suresh, knows exactly how she wants her revenge and never once falters in that path.
The film, a no-nonsense revenge drama, is essentially a commentary on the issues of casteism and shows how resorting to violence is often the only option left for the oppressed for the mindless injustice done to them. A strong argument that often comes against the concept of revenge is that it does not cater to the theory of justice. However, for the oppressed class and caste, nothing caters to the ‘ideal’. In the film, Ponni is beaten and violently raped by multiple men and her husband and daughter are burnt alive simply because of their caste. Even after that, they try to get justice in a society-appropriate way but what can you expect other than the judiciary system to fail them?
So when Ponni understands that the men who ruined her entire life would roam free, she naturally decides to take matters into her own hands. She and her step-brother Sangaiah who had always been a guardian angel to her daughter, decide to embark on this ruthless journey together because Sangaiah too had a similar brutal experience because of these men but had decided to let things go for Ponni and her family, especially her daughter.
What follows is a rush of blood bath and brutality as Ponni executes the abusers one after another. Her determination is unquestionable and though it might bring discomfort to the audience, the rage is understandable. The amount of violence shown in the film does not feel unnecessary because one cannot expect any less from a woman who lost her everything simply because of a failing society.
The generational-curse angle works well as a symbol of generational trauma. Ponni’s father had a wife and a son (Sangaiah) before he slept with Ponni’s mother, which resulted in the birth of Ponni. Upon coming to know about this, Ponni’s father’s first wife cursed Ponni and her mother, saying their bloodline will get lost and they will suffer in godforsaken ways. Unfortunately, the curse comes true and it becomes hard for Ponni to get over it. However, constantly revisiting that curse, just like it often happens with the constant revisitation of a trauma, finally makes her come to peace with it and she finds closure, at least in terms of her relationship with Sangaiah, by the end of the film.
Revenge, most of the time, gives people a purpose and they centre their entire lives around it. That is why when all is said and done, revenge comes across as a futile act because it brings you back to the void that fueled it. However, sometimes it becomes essential to engage in that act of vengeance because it also helps you move through your pain and gets you out of the numbness that grief causes you. But moving forward from a tragedy, with or without the acts of revenge often causes more losses and that is what happens with Ponni. She loses Sangaiah, the only family she had left, in the process of finishing off the abusers and is left alone with her daughter’s blind friend Sudalai, whom Sangaiah had decided to take care of when all this was over and who was the only one who did not touch Ponni on that fateful night when even young boys violated her body.
The film does not really offer a closure but has the quality of a satisfactory ending. The gruesome act of revenge committed by Ponni feels justified at every step and though nothing is really resolved at the end, the sacrifice of Sangaiah and Ponni leaving with Sudalai seems enough to give the film a fitting conclusion.
Disclaimer: This article has not been written by Film Companion’s editorial team.