Peranbu, in Tamil, means compassion. And indeed the movie Peranbu is about compassion.
Compassion towards one’s own child.
Written by Ram and starring Mammootty as the protagonist, the movie has a lot of depth and has some astute observations about nature, humans and relationships.
Amudhavan is the runaway father of a child with cerebral palsy, Paapa (played by Saadhna), who is kind of forced to come back into his eleven year old daughter’s life because the mother leaves him no choice. Before we blame the mother, she took care of Paapa for eleven years, along with the burden of being in an indifferent and cruel environment where everybody wanted to abandon the child; all of this without the husband’s support who was working in Dubai and couldn’t stomach visiting his family as he could not accept the child’s circumstance.
Well, back to the present, Amudhavan takes over the responsibility of his daughter, in an environment where no one could understand the mother abandoning the child after eleven years of caregiving, but encouraged the father to do so, even though he had not yet started taking care of her.
Paapa could not recognise her father and it is heartbreaking to see her getting scared of the stranger in her room. The story is in a diary form which beautifully portrays the thoughts of Amudhavan, who gradually goes from disappointment to acceptance to caregiving in different stages of the movie.
In the first stage, he is disappointed. He finds it hard to accept that he has an ‘abnormal’ child but has no choice but to take care of her. What is admirable here is that he fiercely stands by Paapa despite his mother goading him to abandon her. Yet he struggles to understand her.
That’s when he decides to try being in her shoes for a minute, i.e. he literally tries to stand and walk like her. Once he does, he realises the futility of comparing one child to another. In his own words, ‘All these years, I was worried why Paapa is not like other children. But when I tried walking like her, I realised comparing one person with another is brutal.’
He takes her away from his toxic home environment. The story goes on with Paapa’s struggle and her getting used to living with her father in a faraway cottage in the middle of nowhere. Thus begins his journey of getting over his disappointment.
That’s when he hits the second stage of acceptance. He slowly gets used to his life with Paapa, steering clear of her yet taking care of her food and other physical needs, as she finds it hard to be around him. One day, he finds her out in the open trying to count the stars. She goes, ‘one, two, three’ then restarts from ‘one’. He is puzzled and tries to teach her to say four. She just gets up and walks away. He pens his thoughts again in such meaningful words, ‘Whether we know to count till three or three million, we can’t count the stars! What’s the point in knowing the numbers that can’t be counted? My regrets that Paapa didn’t know many things became tinier than the star that shone at the farthest horizon.’
His journey of accepting his daughter the way she is began from this moment on.
Slowly Paapa begins to mature and also starts accepting his presence. When he gets beaten by goons at one point, she is terribly upset and slowly caresses his cheek while he was asleep. The scene coincides with a couple of lines from the song which is playing in the background:
Kandathu unnidam mattum thaan
En uyir boomiyil piranthathu
Pidithadhu innodi mattum than
(I witnessed God’s hand only through you, this is the moment I found the purpose of being born.)
Tamil movies are always known for fantastic lyrics, but this one really touches the heart. This is the moment when Amudhavan truly becomes a father.
Shortly after, Paapa gets her periods. He frantically searches for a female maid to take care of Paapa’s needs but fails to do so. He then takes care of her himself. His thoughts are beautifully essayed in the lines, ‘Only nature treats humans based on their gender as man and woman. Thus, I fathom love and affection is beyond such differences. After that, I start to take care of all the needs of Paapa.’
He enters the stage of true and selfless caregiving from then on.
The movie further showcases the needs of a special child, with a special focus on sexual needs. This is where Amudhavan proves himself to be an exemplary father. Sure, he makes mistakes, but that portrays the reality very well.
Much as I loved the movie, the ending seemed a tad stereotypical. While he is worried about Paapa and her sexual maturity, he ends up marrying someone himself and makes them a happy family again. It was disappointing to see that after gaining such maturity as a father and a human being, he ultimately succumbs to society’s idea of a happy family by getting himself a partner, which completely under-shadowed the real issue at hand – Paapa’s sexual maturity.
If the ending were different, where instead of finding a partner for himself, he had focused on addressing the issue raised, or if they had not raised the issue of sexual maturity and stuck to other issues, then the movie would have made me feel a little better. Though the concerns raised are very valid and frankly opens one’s eyes and understanding of the issue at hand, addressing it by getting married himself goes a little beyond my understanding.
The movie released in 2018 as ‘Peranbu’ in Tamil and as ‘Resurrection’ internationally. There have been mixed reviews about it. But the movie is definitely worth a watch, especially as it highlights the real life issues faced by special children.
For those who do not understand Tamil, it is available on Amazon Prime with English subtitles.
*All images used in this article are either Eyra’s own design or widely and freely available on the internet.*