Trust Malayalam cinema to give the audience some heartfelt slice-of-life films from the rural parts of the state and create an engaging narrative. There are plenty of examples from the industry that could fit the bill. Padmini is one such film, and writer Deepu Pradeep and director Senna Hedge have given us a humorous satire on how society generally is and how it treats us.
What Happens In The Film?
The opening credits of Padmini must be one of the most creative ways to introduce Rameshan. As the scene rolls out only on voiceovers, the viewers hear almost every family member, neighbor, and friend of his talk about the wedding day, his bride, her family, and the food served, followed by their trivial questions, which are usually passed off as small talk. The makers aptly represented what exactly happens at Kerala weddings, and viewers get the feeling of attending one vicariously. The reason behind such chit-chat is that there is nothing else to speak about at such functions, and people are chomping at the bit to gossip and pass on information.
The scene shifts to the first night of Rameshan’s married life with Smrithi. It is an arranged marriage of the type that is common not just in Kerala but in other parts of the country as well. They try to bond over many topics as the couple heads out for a walk at night. The newlywed husband and wife hardly know one another, and it is only during a few intimate moments that they get to understand their respective personalities. Viewers are intrigued by the way the wife is leading her husband, and it can be assumed that she might be up to something. The writing could be predictable at times, but so far, it works.
Smrithi and Rameshan reach a point where they see a man waiting in a Padmini car for Smrithi, and she breaks the news to her husband. She must abandon her marriage because she loves Siju and intends to live with him. Smrithi’s move was wrong, but she had no choice. Like every other family, she comes from a patriarchal setup that believes in restricting her freedom so that she does not overstep the boundaries created by the family. It is a weird predicament, but Rameshan couldn’t stop her because, at the end of the day, her choice matters. Two villagers witnessed this as it happened, and ever since, Rameshan has been called “Padmini” by the locals. The villagers come across an insensitive bunch who thrive on the misery of others instead of being understanding of the fact that Rameshan might never get married again.
Rameshan went back to his usual life, but the nickname stuck. Two years after the incident, people still mock him, and he wonders if there could be a solution to the villagers’ constant rubbing of salt in his wounds. The man’s state of mind is such that he would do anything to make sure this ridiculing ceases because it affects his self-confidence, and he wonders if anyone would accept him.
He ends up meeting Sreedevi, a family court lawyer, through the arranged marriage setup, but it does not work out. Sreedevi ends up getting engaged to a pompous mattress company owner, Jayan, who is ridden with insecurities about her, since she is an independent woman and is unwilling to lead her life as per his whims and fancies. Jayan is a representation of a percentage of men currently living among us who find comfort in restricting educated wives to their homes and who constantly seek validation from society. Sreedevi breaks the clutter and tries hard to make a living for herself and her mother, which Jayan accepts.
Though the scenes between Jayan and Sreedevi are supposed to be hilarious, the way he tries to convince her to get engaged to him seems problematic. The satirical approach does not come through well enough for the viewers to understand that the makers are mocking love stories that glorify men relentlessly pursuing women until they give their consent to the relationship. The narrative at this point is sticking to humor, and the subject matter seems to be lighthearted, just like other Senna Hegde films.
Rameshan ends up meeting a woman named Padmini, a colleague at his college, in the most absurd manner. This bizarre meeting led to the two of them getting to know each other, which subsequently resulted in Rameshan and Padmini getting into a relationship and showcasing interest in getting married. The man had hoped she could be the one, for they spent enough time together. Rameshan seems happy with his relationship, and so does Padmini, and it seems there could be nothing that will become an obstacle.
Did Rameshan Find Smrithi And File For Divorce?
One thought that must have occurred to the viewers is that Rameshan never managed to get a divorce from Smrithi, and in the wake of this truth coming out, his and Padmini’s marriage plans are stalled because he cannot get married. This is a technicality that Rameshan and his family forgot to rectify due to the embarrassment caused by Smrithi to his family. This hurdle was inevitable because, as a college lecturer, Rameshan should have requested a divorce or annulment since they were hardly married for 24 hours instead of drowning in misery and self-pity, which caused him more harm than good.
It is the journey from here on to find Smrithi, an expedition that is joined by Sreedevi as well, who ends up representing Rameshan in court. The two of them started on a bitter note, but they ended up becoming friends, as both are keen to help each other sort out their lives. Sreedevi wants to prove to her fiancé that she can feed herself by winning this case; meanwhile, Rameshan wants to let Padmini know that he is willing to commit to her by pursuing this divorce.
Sreedevi and Rameshan get the address from Smrithi’s sister. Rameshan also did not realize acquiring this information would be this easy, for he assumed there would be no contact between Smrithi and her family. The entire build-up of the scenario is for the viewers to want to know what Smrithi has been up to in the last two years, and the bigger question remains if she would be willing to divorce him. Since she left with her partner consensually, there is no reason to believe she wouldn’t agree to separation. In movies such as this, unless the tension is presented humorously, there is no way it could connect with the audience.
Padmini, on the other hand, is under pressure from her family to push Rameshan to get hold of his first wife as soon as possible. Her predicament is because of the familial and societal pressure for her to get married as soon as possible. The people, which include extended family and neighbors, put a lot of emphasis on the dignity of the woman, and it is somehow woven around the fact that she needs to get married. It does sound illogical, but no society thrives on logical reasoning. But in the narrative, this urgency of Padmini comes across as random, for she projected herself as a supportive fiancée, and her thought process towards these proceedings suddenly changed without much explanation. The writers could have given more context to help us understand Padmini’s woes with this engagement and Rameshan’s personality in general.
On meeting Smrithi, they realize she and Siju are on the verge of breaking up because of their constant bickering and arguments. She leaves with Rameshan and Sreedevi in the hope of reuniting with her husband, but she is made aware of the actual plans. Sreedevi comes across as a melodramatic woman who thrives on creating a brouhaha in every tense situation. The satirical and dramatic take on Smrithi’s personality was a good call because it added to the flavor of the narrative. Smrithi, who initially agrees to the divorce, does not turn up at the hearing at the court, much to Padmini and her family’s discontentment, who figure that Rameshan is not serious about this alliance, and she walks out with them.
This entire falling out of the couple came out of nowhere because Rameshan just a few days ago introduced Padmini to Smrithi as a way to vouch for his commitment, but his fiancée overlooked that and broke the engagement as if she was looking for a reason not to marry him. A tighter narrative could have helped. Smrithi confesses to having been in shock at losing her husband and boyfriend at the same time. The narrative seems to have put a lot of pressure on women and shows how marriage is perceived as a necessity. Again, because this film is a satire, it can only be taken in stride by the writers and the director, who project how women, in general, are expected to have dreams of getting married to a perfect partner. There is also talk of how women make mistakes and suffer the consequences of them, just like Smrithi.
Padmini ends with Siju getting married, but his wedding night is sabotaged by Smrithi, who proclaims that Siju broke up with him to marry Monisha, Siju’s bride. The confusion that ensues in the last five minutes of the film implies that Rameshan was successful in getting Siju and Smrithi together, and they were helped by Monisha in the execution, as she agreed so she could get married to the man of her choice. Monisha’s marriage broke up because her father chose the wrong groom for her. In this noise, the divorce part is forgotten by the makers because there is no discussion in this regard with Smrithi. It can only be assumed that she will agree to sign the papers if she is reunited with her boyfriend. Even if the situation is humor-filled, Smrithi seems toxic and selfish, and she seems insensitive toward people expecting help from her. The ending of this film will remind viewers of the other Senna Hegde film, Thinkalazhcha Nischayam, which ended in a rather disorderly fashion.
In this case, it felt as if the makers could not figure out how to end the film, which led to the audience being resorted to utter chaos and an ending that did not give away a definite conclusion. One can only hope Rameshan and Sreedevi got their part of the deal they hypothetically must have made with Sreedevi. During Padmini’s ending, we see Jayan selling his mattress as a part of the Valentine’s Day offer, which is ironic because he is willing to break up with Sreedevi over his constant doubts that she is being unfaithful to him. The relevance of the word Padmini just disappeared over time in the narrative, making the film a funny yet average watch.