This week, we celebrate Raksha Bandhan, the unique Indian celebration of brother-sister love and bonding. Though the festival is primarily a North Indian, it is also slowly echoing in the Southern parts.
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The occasion is an excellent reason for us to dive straight into the genre of brother-sister affection. There is no dearth of such movies. But we’ve limited our choices to just two from each language. Most of these movies should be available across OTT platforms like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video.
Dil Dhadakne Do (2015)
Despite the overwhelming South Bandra sensibilities of the film, this Zoya Akhtar directorial nails the brother-sister equation. It is not cloying or a tad too mawkish but realistic and agreeably emotional. Ranveer Singh and Priyanka Chopra, who played the brother-and-sister combo, brought a vulnerability to their characters that made us empathize with them at once. The fact that real-life brother-sister Farhan and Zoya were the writers of the film added gravitas to the proceedings.
Sarbjit is based on the story of a man incarcerated in a Pakistani jail for over two decades while his sister fights a dogged battle for his release. Sarbjit lived with his family—old father, wife and fiercely loyal sister in a Punjab village near the Indo-Pak border. He strayed over the line one night and was nabbed by the Pakistani patrol. That’s when his ordeal started. Though the film chose high-pitched melodrama for its tone and tenor, the acting of Ranjit Hooda and Aishwarya Rai salvaged the film. The surge of emotions was palpable.
Ponniyin Selvan 1 and 2 (2022/2023)
This fictionalized saga of the Cholas, even if Mani Ratnam’s treatment made it mostly about the (jilted) love story between Aditya Karikalan and Nandini (Aishwarya Rai), had a strong middle that was all about the bonding between the two brothers (Aditya Karikalan and Jayam Ravi) and their sister Kundavai (Trisha). The needle between Nandini and Kundavai — a clash between two beauties — sets up the story, at least in its book form. One of the film’s highlights is the confabulation between the brothers and sisters ahead of a tragic climax. It is a stretch that Mani added in the film despite it not being part of the book.
Kadai Kutty Singam (2018)
Kadai Kutty Singam is a typical but complex family drama. Upon his marriage, a man wants a son but becomes the father of four daughters. Since his first wife can’t bear him more children, he marries again, and his second wife (sister of the first wife) also bears him a daughter. Unrelenting, the man looks for a third wife, but his first wife miraculously becomes pregnant. She bears a baby boy, hence the name Kadaikutty Singam. The storyline gets even messier. But what stands out is the equation between the brother and his gaggle brother. Sometimes it is fun. Sometimes it is fraught. Karthi, as the hero, has a whale of time.
T P Balagopalan MA (1986)
This mid-80s Sathyan Anthikkad movie about people he unfailingly trained his sights on — the middle-class folks, shows brother-sisters links in various shades. Mohanlal, playing the eponymous T P Balagopalan, has an elder sister and a younger one. The older one is exploitative; the second is emotional. The contrast provides the film with much-needed reality and believability. Not every brother-sister tie is full of rosy emotions. Trust a mid-80s Malayalam movie to grapple with this fact of life.
This film is less about the brother-sister relationship but about something larger. But the very name Moothon, meaning the elder one, makes it clear about its internal contours. This tour de force from director Geetu Mohandas starts with the search for a young person for the elder brother, although things are more complex and layered here. Nivin Pauly’s most memorable career role so far must be in Moothon. The final portions and the reveal are what adroit direction is all about. It is organic and not gimmicky or forced.
You seldom get a movie where the brother and sister are twins- Arjun is an exception. It is about the titular Arjun (Mahesh Babu) and his bonding with his twin Meenakshi (Keerthi Reddy). She gets married, but her in-laws are villainous. As they want to finish her off, it falls on Arjun to keep scorching their evil plans. It is a typical masala pot-boiler, but one leavened well with brother-sister sentiment. The elaborate sets of Madurai temple are also among the talking points of this mass entertainer.
Annavaram is another of those breezy action entertainers that Telugu cinema has made its own. This remake of the Tamil hit Thirupaachi is about how a loyal brother who is not afraid to take to fights and fisticuffs just to safeguard the life of his sister and her family. As a story arc, it is nothing too novel. But Pawan Kalyan and Sandhya as the bro-sis combo are exceedingly good. Also, this is for you trivia buffs, this was Asin’s last Telugu film before she bade goodbye to South India and switched to Bombay.
Thavarige Baa Thangi (2002)
Thavarige Baa Thangi is among the biggest hits in Kannada, even though the film follows the predictable trope. It is about a man who raises his sister like a princess as they had lost their parents quite young. He also gets her married to the person of her choice. But things turn sinister when her in-laws accuse her of adultery when her brother is not around. Enraged, the man, upon his return, pledges to prove his sister’s innocence. Shivrajkumar and Radhika played brother and sister in the film. It was later remade in Telugu as Puttintiki Ra Chelli (2004).
Varsha has to be the most remade film on brother-sister relationship in the history of Indian cinema. Varsha is the remake of Malayalam Hit Hitler, which had Mammootty and Shobhana in the lead. Later, Telugu Superstar Chiranjeevi led the cast in the film’s Telugu remake. The movie was reprised in Tamil as Military with Sathyaraj and in Hindi with Sunil Shetty as Krodh. But only the Malayalam original and the Kannada remake were big hits.
The film is about a short-tempered man looking after his five younger sisters. Things turn out differently with each of them when it comes to marriage and love. It is a fun as well as an introspective film. Vishnuvardhan was as ever top-notch.