Sindhu Bhairavi by Balachander: A treat for every sense 2

Sindhu Bhairavi

Year: 1985

Writer: K. Balachander

Director: K. Balachander

Length: 2 H 50 M

Category: Drama
Rating: 5 out of 5

A classic Tamil movie that’s almost perfect

Sindhu Bhairavi is a rare love story where the relationship between the man and the woman is based on an intellectual craving. JKB, an acclaimed Carnatic singer (played by Sivakumar), has a beautiful wife (played by Sulokshana) who has no knowledge of music or interest in it. He discovers a fan of his – Suhashini – a keenly intelligent woman who thrives on music. Her knowledge of music, willingness to confront him, and her musical endeavors (such as translating Carnatic songs into Tamil from other languages) wins his admiration and respect.

The relationship changes him as a person and what started with an intellectual basis turns sexual and Suhashini becomes pregnant. In the meanwhile, his wife learns of the relationship and there’s a familial crisis, and his love leaves town to end the crisis. Sivakumar is wrecked and becomes an alcoholic.

When he makes a comeback, his wife arranges a wedding between him and Suhashini. The movie ends with Suhashini rejecting the offer of marriage and giving her newborn child to the care of Sivakumar’s wife who is passionate about children but does not have one.

Director “Balachander’s Touch”

Directed in his prime, the movie exemplifies the famous ‘Balachander Touch’. Cleaver use of symbolism, carefully scripted characters, powerful story line and great attention to details makes this movie an intense watching experience. Many of Balachander’s movies are based on strong, radical women. In this movie he takes the undercurrent of ‘woman being a temptress’, but giving a completely different twist to it. In the process, Suhashini’s character is carefully crafted as an intelligent, witty person who is willing to confront conventions and live a life that she chooses. The movie treads a careful line between portraying her individuality as a source of joy and a source of problems for herself and for others.

Memorable Music

One cannot talk of Sindhu Bhairavi without talking of the songs in the movie. Given the theme of the movie, the songs shift between Carnatic and folk-ish music with Maestro Illayaraja at his best in both forms. Yesudas adds to the beauty of the songs with his voice. Vairamuthu has produced a pure gem with songs that totally fit the theme and Barathiyar’s songs are used with a punch.

Acting and overacting

Suhashini’s acts well within herself and delivers a fantastic performance. Sivakumar overdoes on occasions, but does a brilliant job with his expressions. The range of emotions he displays even within one song “padariyen padippariyen” is simply fantastic. This is complemented by fantastic direction and editing. The movie is full of characters with small roles that make a mark: Janakaraj who is a compulsive liar turned a compulsive truth-teller. Sulokshana’s grandfather who like many aged people has a strong emotional attachment to his pension. The driver of a judge (a friend of Sivakumar) who confronts his employer’s musical sense, a colleague of Suhashini who is in love with her, among others.

Summing up

There are rare unwarranted dialogues here and there, but on the whole the script is close to perfect. I feel that powerful stories and script are distinguishing features of the best of Indian movies. Sindhu Bhairavi is a shining example of this. I would have enjoyed the movie better if it had avoided a stereotypical villain, occasional over action by Sivakumar and one out of place song (‘Thani totti’). Despite its minor problems here and there the movie is a treat for every sense and worth every frame of it.

About Vivek Srinivasan

I work with the Program on Liberation Technology at Stanford University. Before this, I worked with the Right to Food Campaign and other rights based campaigns in India. To learn more, click here.

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2 thoughts on “Sindhu Bhairavi by Balachander: A treat for every sense

  • manju

    great review about an outstanding movie…

    this is a movie that i have watched at least 30 times and the songs of which i hear almost on a daily basis and can never get tired of it.

    your review covers everything except for the brilliant BGMs that add so much emotion to each scene and supplements the superb acting.

    looking forward to more such reviews.

  • Thiruppathi

    I like this movie very much.

    You have done great review.

    I am a KB sir and IR sir fan.

    Direction and Music skills are very attractive.

    Suhashini and Sivakumar acted very well.

    Vairamuthu lyrics very nice.

    Jesudass voice touches our heart.