In Bruce Almighty, God meets a regular person and gives him superpowers. In the Akshay Kumar-starrer Oh My God!, he reforms an atheist into a theist. In Vinodhaya Sitham, Samuthirakani tweaks this template to his style of films that are usually packed with edifying messages. The message in this film is that we won’t find peace until we recognize the insignificance of our egos. It’s conveyed through the story of Parasuraman (Thambi Ramaiah), a middle-aged executive obsessed with career, wealth and social status. At home, he’s a benevolent despot with his wife, son and two daughters, thinking of them more as his satellites than as people capable of thinking for themselves. If God wanted to teach such a person a lesson, it would look like Vinodhaya Sitham. Except that, God, played by Samuthirakani, is called Time in this film.
Early on, Parasuraman meets with an accident and dies. In a space that looks like a black void, he meets Time (a form of God responsible for the causality in our lives, ensuring that we reap exactly what we had sown). Through this conversation, the philosophical premise of the film is established when Time says to Parasuraman: all events in our lives are predestined by God based on our past actions; our desires and efforts are irrelevant. That sounds like a tough idea to sell. But you accept it as the truth within this film’s universe (even if you might not personally buy into it) because this conversation is happening after Parasuraman’s death: unlike the living, a dead man would, perhaps, be a bit more willing to accept that his ego is insignificant.
After their first meeting, Parasuraman gets to come back to earth for three months to complete his final duties (and also to enjoy his long-pending desires) on one condition: Time will shadow him everywhere. This sets it up for a common mythological trope, much like, say, the Biblical book of Job, where an essentially good man is put through a series of terrible misfortunes until he realizes that the best attitude is to accept everything as God’s blessing, good or bad. In Vinodhayam Sitham, Parasuraman gradually loses everything he has, his job, his family, social status, only to gain even better replacements. It teaches him that what life gives us is often better (and morally appropriate) than what we desire from it.
After he is raised from the dead, Parasuraman is forced to quit his job when he’s denied a promotion he feels he deserves. Next, his wife is diagnosed with Parkinson’s and hospitalized. By the time we get to episodes where his eldest daughter elopes with her boyfriend against Parasuraman’s wishes and his son reveals to him that he’s already been living with his girlfriend, things get predictable. The film lingers a little too long on the idea that a person who has everything in the world could lose it all in a second, and it repeats similar episodes to establish an already common notion. Every episode follows a similar pattern: Parasuraman throws a tantrum when something unpleasant happens, and Time forces him to see every event as a just reflection of some action of his from the past.
The film is weakest when it tries to explain Parasuraman’s present through his past. Out of nowhere we get stories about how he trifled with a girl’s heart in his youth, cheated an interview candidate in order to get his present job, and how the daughter who eloped is the same one he had tried to abort when his wife was pregnant. These flashbacks from his life feel like convenient devices to drive home a moral point about, say, why abortion is bad (according to Time). But it’s not like Parasuraman’s daughter eloped because he tried to abort her as a foetus. Linking the two events is a false explanation for Parasuraman’s problems.
Samuthirakani as Time brings a certain nonchalance and mischievousness to an otherwise dignified character. In contrast to his other serious roles, say Appa, where he gets his own monologues, many of his dialogues here are crisp and epigrammatic. Thambi Ramaiah prevents Parasuraman from becoming a caricature. If he hadn’t made the character as relatable, the moral messaging of the film would have seemed pretentious. Because he gets us to identify, at some level, with the confused and pompous Parasuraman, we are invested in the film’s message.
But apart from sacrificing believability to make moral points, Vinodhaya Sitham mostly works as a comedy-drama. Like Samuthirakani’s earlier Nadodigal, most of the messaging emerges organically from the drama, with little exposition. Right at the end is a superb quip by Time about heaven and hell, and it leaves you thinking about the film’s message, even if the film that served as its vehicle isn’t as memorable.