Rehabilitation of a commercial sex worker is the underlying theme of the film, but linking with it the issue of female infanticide is what botches the show. Producer-director G.Siva, a one-time understudy of veteran K.Balachander, makes a good beginning but is lost in the labyrinth. It is gorgeous Sangeetha who props up the film.
Sex worker Dhanam (Sangeetha), a resident of Gandhi Nagar, Hyderabad, is of philanthropic disposition which wins her the affection of the people, mostly poor Tamilians, in the neighbourhood. Anantharaman (Prem) from an orthodox Iyengar family comes to Hyderabad for studies and is taken in by Dhanam’s qualities of head and heart. He falls in love with her. Dhanam, who is reluctant, finally agrees to marry him provided his parents give their consent. Ananthu’s father (Girish Karnad) and mother, however, put their foot down. However, their family astrologer, Vedagiri (Kota Sreenivasa Rao), who has an eye on Dhanam, comes out with his prediction that Dhanam would bring prosperity to the family into which she is married.
This is the answer to the financial worries of Ananthu’s parents and Dhanam becomes their daughter-in-law. After her marriage the unscrupulous and lecherous astrologer approaches Dhanam for a sexual favour, but she firmly turns him away. In this situation, she gives birth to a female baby. Ever since the birth of the baby, the family is dogged by problems after problems. This is the opportune time the astrologer has been waiting for to settle scores with Dhanam. He again appears on the scene and conveys to her family what the stars foretell – that the baby is the harbinger of bad luck and members of the family would be alive only if the infant is killed.
Ananthu’s family steeped as it is in superstition stoops to snuff out the life of the baby using “Kalli Paal” (milk of a poisonous herb) keeping Dhanam in the dark. Coming to know of this heinous crime, Dhanam erupts like a volcano.
Sangeetha’s portrayal of the ‘dasi’character is superb, to say the least. She gives an astounding performance though at times she goes overboard. Her make-up, expressions and body language are typical of those of a professional _ a voyeur’s delight. And, the character is well nuanced. What is far-fetched is the use of lizards as poison to kill Karnad’s family of eight. Biology teaches that lizards are not poisonous.
Prem plays Sangeetha’s timid husband dancing to the tunes of his parents. Kota Sreenivasa Rao, the evil-incarnate, and Girish Karnad, the head of the orthodox Brahmin family, do their parts with a touch of class. Karunas as a Brahmin youth is hilarious.
The comedy troupe includes M.S. Bhaskar, Chinni Jayanth and Singamuthu. But their lampooning of the Brahmin community is uncalled for. ‘Customers’ scenes are repetitive. Some others are nauseating. The Brahmin family is portrayed not in right perspective.
While Sangeetha is one saving grace, the other is Ilayaraja’s music and background score. “Kannanukku Enna Venum…” and “Kattilukku Mattum Thaana…” are the songs which resonate.
“Dhanam” falls far short of expectations.