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Amma Vanthaal – Thee Janakiraman

by Venky

(Image Credit: Kalachuvadu Publications)

Controversial, convulsive and cathartic, “Amma Vanthaal” by acclaimed writer Thee Janakiraman leaves the reader with haunting and unshakeable memories. A story of remorse, repentance, reconciliation and recognition, “Amma Vanthaal” picks the bones off an unsuspecting reader showing neither mercy nor gentleness.

At the tender age of 8, Appu is packed off to the serene, tranquil and quaint town of Sitthankulam by his devout father, Dandapani, in the hope that the child would master the intricate nuances of Veda by undergoing rigorous training in a traditional ‘Paatashaala’.

Managed by the geriatric Bhavaniammal, Appu diligently spends most of his waking hours prising open the intricacies of one of mankind’s most enchanting scriptures. Assisting Bhavaniammal in taking care of the students is young Indu, her niece who has experienced untold misery in life. Married and widowed when still a child, Indu is the epitome of resilience and the very epigram of compassion. Personally handling the gastronomic requirements of the Paatashaala, she ensures that the children never go hungry.

After sixteen long years, when it is time for Appu to bid adieu to the Paatashaala, Indu rocks him with a revelation that she is incorrigibly in love with him and insists on Appu marrying her. When Appu counters her proposal by claiming that he has always viewed her as his own mother, she shellacks Appu by forbidding him to compare Indu with a woman who has been paying unashamed tribute to infidelity!

An enraged Appu returns to Chennai and to his family of five siblings. In addition to building new relationships with the family from whom he has been separated from almost close to two decades, Appu also has to contend with a frequent and irritating appearance of a mysterious gentleman going by the name of Shiva Subramanian (‘Shivasu’ in short).

Occurrences and utterances, denials and confessions, helplessness and hesitations all contrive together as a profound mystery unravels itself piece by disconcerting piece, moment by revelatory moment.

Could Indu be right after all? Is there something about Alangaram, Appu’s mother, that could cause an entire family to hang its head in utter shame? Or are rumours being taken to levels that are downright obnoxious? A confused, confounded and claustrophobic Appu needs every ounce of succour and strength contained within the Vedas – which he considers to be equivalent to his parents – for him not just to retain his sanity but also to continue leading a life of purpose.

Will Appu succeed in finding a method behind the absolute madness being played out in his life? Or will he succumb to the invisible forces that threaten to tear his life apart?

‘Amma Vanthaal” – a magnificent marvel courtesy a writer whose imagination is worthy of envy!   

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