വേദനിക്കുന്ന കോടീശ്വരൻ, അതാണു ഞാൻശങ്കർ ദാസ്, അഴകിയ രാവണൻ
Azhakiya Ravanan (1996) is an iconic romance-drama film starring Mammootty in the lead role. The film revolves around an ultrarich, boastful businessman named Shankar Das who returns to his village after many years. His main goal is to win over Anuradha, his childhood love. The rest of the film focuses on how Shankar Das attempts to woo her over. Putting aside the brilliant comedy scenes, catchy songs and compelling side stories, the film is about a man coming to terms with his insecurities.
As seen in the flashback, Shankar Das worked as the house help for Anuradha’s family when he was a teenager. Long story short, he is caught kissing Anuradha by her mother. This leads to him getting thrashed by his dad in front of her. As a result, he leaves town – eventually reaching Bombay. To understand Shankar Das properly, we will have to look at where it all started – his trauma. While mercilessly assaulting his son, Shankar’s father sentiment is quite clear – he isn’t mad about the kissing inherently, but about the fact that he kissed somebody above his social stature. This sets a sentiment that people are undeserving of love, depending on their position in the social hierarchy. And this is exactly what Shankar internalizes and acts on throughout the movie.
After escaping, Shankar decides to build up his social stature. The only malleable way to do this was to make money. And he does exactly that. He returns to his village as the business tycoon who seems to hang out with Bollywood movie stars every Friday night. The only thing left to achieve is making Anuradha fall for him. This will affirm his view on love, and in turn his whole identity.
Shankar plays various games to get closer to Anuradha, most importantly producing a film directed by her boyfriend. Upon realizing their relationship, Shankar uses his power to break them up and marry her himself. He is extremely patient with her, refraining to even touch her on their first night. This is reminiscent of the interaction between Sita and Ravana, the inspiration for the movie title. Frustrated with the situation at hand, Anuradha decides to lose her virginity to her boyfriend as an act of rebellion. This leads to Shankar breaking down and deciding to go back to Bombay. As I see it, the movie ends here. The next five minutes were unnecessary and completely undermines the whole psychological conflict the movie addresses.
Assuming the hypothetical ending, the story ends in a sad but hopeful note. Shankar has finally realized that the premise on which he built his life around was ultimately not true. His values are shattered and, as an extension, his identity. But this is not a bad thing. Shankar is free of his trauma now and can reinvent himself to be who he truly is.