‘House Owner’ review: A pleasant, affecting survival drama

A scene from ‘House Owner’

A scene from ‘House Owner’   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Director Lakshmy Ramakrishnan weaves in a heartwarming tale about love, showing remarkable refinement in terms of her craft.

How often do we see survival stories written about people instead of the calamity? In House Owner, Lakshmy Ramakrishnan weaves in a heartwarming tale about love, showing remarkable refinement in terms of her craft.

House Owner
  • Cast: 'Aadukalam' Kishore, Sriranjani, 'Pasanga' Kishore and Lovelyn
  • Director: Lakshmy Ramakrishnan
  • Storyline: An elderly couple rediscover the concept of love amidst the devastating Chennai floods

The film opens with a young Vasu (Pasanga Kishore) getting hitched to Radha (Lovelyn) in the quintessential Palakkad-Iyer fashion. Theirs is a child marriage and this we learn when Vasu says "naan endrendum 16". One fine morning, Vasu wakes up to realise that he's grown old. He looks at his older self in the mirror and freaks out. Is he a figment of his imagination or rooted in reality? House Owner is essentially about the married couple – Vasudevan (Aadukalam Kishore) and Radha (a terrific Sriranjani who delivers a moving performance), and their journey through life and after. In the present world, Vasudevan is a retired army general with Alzheimer’s. There's a mention that he was in the army for 12 years. The Vasu-Radha love story is an excellent ode to Ganapathy uncle and Bhavani aunty from OK Kanmani.

Vasudevan lives in the past; he is occupied with the thoughts of a young, beautiful woman called Radha. Years of memories flash through his eyes, without him realising that he's married to the same woman he fell in love with. He keeps throwing tantrums at Radha and asks her who she is. Radha is helpless. Vasudevan might have lost his memory, but his love for Radha never wanes. You feel empathetic for them. There's a crushing scene later in the second half, when a young Vasu introduces Radha to his colleagues. He notices her discomfort and tries to charm her. And they dance. The scene is actually playing inside Vasudevan's head. But for a fleeting moment, he takes Radha into his arms, quite literally. The writing, the build-up and the effect is achingly beautiful. It's constantly raining in House Owner, where the rain (aided by Tapas Nayak's brilliant sound design) is treated as a character. That the rains that once fuelled their romance causes havoc in their lives is a fascinating idea by itself.

House Owner has very few dialogues and more conversations, that too in Palakkad-meets-Kodambakkam accent. Consider this: seri is pronounced sheri, saapadu as shapadu and so on. The Palakkad slang is uneven and sometimes off-putting, especially when it's spoken by the men. But it's perfectly tolerable when the women speak it. Although there's one scene where Radha's daughter, who's now settled in U.S. with her family, says, "Nekku pranthu pudikarthu." Something about the dialogue seems odd and one doubts if she'd say that, given her part-American, part-Palakkad accent. She would have probably said, "Amma, you guys are driving me mad."

There's a justifiable reasoning behind naming the movie House Owner. Yes, it's a nickname given to Vasudevan by Radha. But, could it also be because of the fact that an entire generation of women was dependent on their husbands, who were literally the house owners? The scene where Vasudevan says, "Who are you to command me? This is my house-aakum," speaks volumes of his patriarchal mindset. There was a hint in the poster too, where the two Os in the title are a symbolic representation of handcuffs. It also shows the graph of Vasudevan, who, early on, champions for the liberation of women. He offers flowers to a widowed woman, who, naturally, refuses. To this, he says, "These are customs devised by men to control women." It's an irony on what he has become: a malevolent. But House Owner is less about gender issues and more about the characters. It's about Vasudevan's relentless search for Radha. What a beautiful decision to name them Vasu and Radha. In the larger context, could it also be about Lord Krishna's unconditional love for his companion Radha?

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Printable version | Apr 2, 2020 2:58:20 AM |

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