If the phrase ‘It is easier said than done’ applies to anyone, it is the modern woman who faces a very unique battle. The modern-day woman might be armed with liberal thoughts and progressive ideas, the zest to be independent, but she also comes bearing years of social conditioning. After lifetimes of being told how to sit, how to walk, how to think, what to speak, what to aspire for, what to wear etc, suddenly we realise the unfairness of it all. Thus begins the journey of rebellion, one baby step at a time. Your brain knows that you have got this right, but there are moments when doubts creep in. After all, the most painful accusations come from close quarters. This later builds into anger and frustration which gives way to a space of indifferent peace.
Director Mansore and his writer Sandhya beautifully package all of this into Nathicharami, a poignantly told tale of a widow who is grieving her husband’s death. There is a swarm of questions that surround her. It has been three years, why don’t you move on? You’re young, why don’t you remarry? Well, don’t you want a family? Amid all these, Gowri realises the need to fill the sexual void in her life. However, she isn’t ready for another emotional relationship; she lives in a shrine of memories, holding on to each detail with tenacity. She is the contemporary corporate woman who is independent and not skeptical about it. But it is understandable that she feels guilty about her sexual needs, to the point that she equates it with ‘prostitution’. It takes her a therapist to remind her that “humans are animals too and society is an acquired taste.” Not often we see this side of the cultural conditioning we are subject to and that is one of Nathicharami’s winning features.
Sruthi Hariharan powers this drama with a beautifully measured performance that has right ounces of dignity, melancholy, and anger. There’s a sadness to Gowri’s smile, a tinge of frustration and guilt to her lust — the only time her face lights up is when she talks about her husband. Sruthi wades through Gowri’s emotions with dynamic finesse.
It isn’t just Nathicharami’s women who are products of social conditioning, it is the men too. Suresh (Sanchari Vijay) who wants his life partner to be an independent self-sufficient woman, but can’t take it when a woman talks about her physical desires. When it is someone else, he ‘loses his respect’ for her’ and when it is his wife he asks her to stop behaving like a ‘new bride’. The writing is layered and sensitive, fully cognisant of the complicated story it chooses to tell. As a character says in the film, love cannot happen in vaccum and Gowri chooses a man who isn’t ‘available’. However, there is no attempt to justify. What Nathicharami does is to just tell a story of a few people and the few morally ambiguous choices they take. And what a picture that creates!