Alaipayuthey (English: Waves are flowing) is a 2000 Tamil romantic drama movie directed by Mani Ratnam. Starring R. Madhavan and Shalini, the film explores the tensions of married life and the maturing of love. The score and soundtrack were composed by A. R. Rahman.
The film’s story is mostly recollected in flashbacks by the character Karthik (Madhavan). Karthik and Shakthi (Shalini) fall in love against the backdrop of Chennai and its suburban trains, against the wishes of their parents. The film was well received by critics and it did well at the Tamil and Telugu box-offices primarily for its music and realistic portrayal of romance and married life.
The film made its European premiere at the Berlin International Film Festival in 2001. It was shown at various film festivals nationally and internationally. It also carried a very popular soundtrack, composed by A. R. Rahman. Alaipayuthey was also released in Telugu as Sakhi and was later remade and released in Hindi cinema in 2002, as Saathiya, directed by Ratnam’s former assistant Shaad Ali.
Karthik Varadarajan (Madhavan) is an independent and free-spirited software engineering graduate establishing a software start-up with his friends. At a friend’s wedding, he meets Shakti Selvaraj (Shalini), a student of medicine at Madras Medical College. They continue to bump into each other on local trains that they both use on their daily commute, and fall in love. Karthik pursues Shakti aggressively and proposes marriage; Shakthi, however, is reluctant. Karthik manages to convince Shakthi and requests his parents to formally ask Shakti’s parents for her hand in marriage; however, when the parents meet, they do not get along, and Shakti calls off the relationship altogether and leaves for an extended medical camp in Kerala.
While apart, both Karthik and Shakti realize that they are desperately in love and decide to get married without the knowledge or consent of their parents. They continue living separate lives after marriage, meeting outside of their homes and hoping that their parents will see eye to eye at some point in the future and can be informed of the marriage. However, when Shakti’s older sister Poorni (Swarnamalya) is on the verge of getting engaged, developments ensue resulting in Shakti’s parents attempting to fix her marriage to the groom Raghu’s younger brother Shyam (Karthik Kumar). Shakti confesses to her parents and Raghu’s family that she is already married; Poorni’s engagement is called off and her parents throw her out of the house. Karthik too divulges the same to his parents and is also asked by his father to leave his house.
Karthik and Shakti start living together and while all goes well for a while, they soon find that marriage is not as easy as they expected and living under the same roof results in a large number of conflicts. The marriage gets increasingly tense as both cope with frustrations and disappointments.
Shakti learns that her father is seriously ill and requests Karthik to visit him. Karthik declines, citing her father’s hatred of him as the main reason. He eventually agrees, but by the time they reach her house, Shakti’ father passes away. Wracked with guilt, the two return home, their relationship taking a turn for the worse.
The two stop talking to each other. Meanwhile, Karthik takes it upon himself to sort out Poorni’s love life and her broken engagement to Raghu. He arranges a blind date between the two, which initially fails, backfiring on Karthik, however, with more meetings, Poorni and Raghu become closer. This development takes place without Shakthi’s knowledge. Karthik waits until Poorni and Raghu’s marriage is confirmed before deciding to tell Shakti. However, Shakti witnesses Poorni hugging Karthik in gratitude at the train station and unable to see Poorni’s face, misunderstands what she has seen to be Karthik hugging her sister she assumes he is having an affair with.
Shakthi eventually learns from Poorni of her husband’s efforts in getting her married, and is overcome with guilt and love. Karthik sets off on the same evening to the railway station to pick up his wife as is their usual routine. However, Shakti in her rush to get home and make up with Karthik meets with a serious accident. Karthik waits for his wife, and as she fails to turn up searches desperately for her throughout the city, ultimately discovering her in the ICU of a hospital, registered under another name and having undergone brain surgery. Shakti is in a coma.
An IAS officer Ram (Arvind Swamy) admits that he caused the accident and admitted Shakti in the hospital. Karthik is inconsolable, wracked with grief and anger, and takes his frustration out on Ram. However, Ram’s wife (Kushboo) intervenes and lets Karthik know that she was the person who caused the accident and injured Shakti, and her husband was merely trying to protect her by taking the blame himself. Karthik observes Ram and notes that he has a lot to learn from the latter. He proceeds to Shakti’s bedside and admits that he could have been a better husband. Shakti proceeds to wake up from her coma and the two reconcile, admitting their enduring love for one another.
Directed by Mani Ratnam
Produced by Mani Ratnam & G. Srinivasan
Written by Mani Ratnam (dialogue)
Screenplay by Mani Ratnam
Story by Mani Ratnam & R. Selvaraj
Starring R. Madhavan, Shalini
Music by A. R. Rahman
Cinematography P. C. Sriram
Edited by A. Sreekar Prasad
Distributed by Madras Talkies & Ayngaran International
Release dates 14 April 2000
Running time 157 minutes