In the movie ‘House Owner’, Vasu (Kishore) and Radha (Sriranjini) have been married for several years. In the sunset of their lives, Vasu, a retired army man, suffers from Alzheimer’s. The only memories that linger in his mind are of the early years of their marriage: his first meeting with Radha, their wedding and subsequently their life together.
Of the present Vasu has no clue, so much so that when he wakes up one morning and stares at his reflection in the mirror, he does not recognise the old man there and shouts angrily, ‘Who are you?’ or ‘Get out of my house’.
Vasu is strongly possessive of his house, having bought it early in life with his savings. He refuses to leave even on a rainy night when the city is lashed by a heavy downpour and a flood situation imminent. With power shut down and food running out, Radha is caught inside her home with Vasu, who has changed from the man she looked up to into a stubborn child refusing to follow her instructions.
Lakshmy Ramakrishnan’s script has been inspired by the life of a couple she has known. It is no mean task to hold viewers’ attention within the space of a house and only two characters holding centre stage.
Ramakrishnan is brilliant with her writing and her narration in Tamil is typical of a Palakkad Brahmin community. She juggles between the past and the present to lead viewers into the life of Vasu and Radha and their enduring love for each other. We hear of other characters through conversations over the phone without invading the space of this elderly couple.
‘House Owner’s’ strength lies in the balance of casting Kishore opposite Sriranjini and their carefully controlled performances. Kishore, known for portraying versatile characters, is terrific. Sriranjini, an actress who has been in the industry for several years is the surprise; her Radha is real and if you have been in the shoes of a caregiver, you will instantly connect with her.
Radha is on her toes and maternal in the way she keeps an eye on Vasu, who is likely to venture out in the rain. While putting up with his stubbornness, coaxing him like a child into a board game, patting his self-esteem by asking him for help in bringing down a container kept on the top rack, Sriranjini is not visible — only Radha and her unconditional love.
Of course, there are times when Radha gets annoyed with Vasu, but never for a moment does she lose hope. I loved the tiny details director Ramakrishnan has inserted. On Vasu’s cap Radha has written in white his name and contact number. What if he forgets his way home? Radha is practical and not bogged down by self-pity.
As the rain intensifies and water seeps inside, she is the head of the house rushing out and switching off the mains.
What followed was a beautiful scene, the rains beating on the windows, the house plunged in darkness and Radha and Vasu walking around placing electric lights in the rooms.
Kishore of ‘Pasanga’ fame plays young Vasu while Lovelyn Chandrasekhar marks her debut as the young Radha. Their subtle on-screen chemistry sets rolling the beautiful relationship.
Alzheimer’s can be cruel to the patient and caregivers. Poignant is the scene where Vasu in a rare moment of clarity leads Radha into a dance while she is in the kitchen making dough. But after a few steps, he remembers his wife of younger days and Radha, who is savouring the moment, is rudely brushed off.
‘House Owner’ is a beautiful love story that remains afloat, despite the torrential rains outside and the washing away of memories in Vasu’s head. Clearly we don’t get such stories any more.
Don’t miss it!
‘House Owner’ is out on June 27 in the UAE.