Sunday, March 22, 2009


Sethu (1999) is a Tamil film directed by Bala, with score and soundtrack by Ilaiyaraaja.

Sethu (Vikram), a typical Indian macho college union president, seems to thrive on violence. He lives with his brother who is a Judge and who is quite disapproving of him and his sister-in-law who is more sympathetic. Love in the form of the timid Abitha, daughter of a poor temple priest, turns Sethu’s life upside down.

The tender love story plays the perfect foil for the cruel twist of fate that follows.

The role so fits Vikram that the public often addresses him by his nickname in the film: Cheeyan. Abitha wins the heart with her portrayal of pure innocence.

That which sets the film apart, however, is the depiction of some forms of mental health care as it still exists in India. This topic can and should be controversial rather than swept under the carpet. As shown in the film, it is dismaying and yet without the existence of alternative treatments all health care becomes as good as the old witch doctor system.

Interestingly, the presiding “doctor” in the film’s institution is a White man. Could this be a reflection on the tendency of some foreigners to come to India, pick up a bit of this and that and immediately seek to milk it for monetary gains?

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