Aval Appadithan (English: That is how she is) is a 1978 Indian Tamil-language drama film directed by C. Rudhraiya in his directorial debut, and co-written by him with Somasundareshwar. The film was produced by Ragamanjari in association with the M.G.R. Government Film and Television Training Institute. It stars Sripriya in the lead role with Kamal Haasan and Rajinikanth in supporting roles, while Ilaiyaraaja composed the film’s music. The plot revolves around Manju (Sripriya) and the difficulties she faces in her life, due to her romantic relationships, resulting in her developing an aggressive and cynical nature towards men.
Aval Appadithan was released on 30 October 1978, on Diwali day. Although the film received positive critical reception, it was not a box office success at the time of its release. However, the film began to develop an audience after directors P. Bharathiraja and Mrinal Sen commented positively about it. The film was noted for its stylish filmmaking, screenplay, and dialogue, a large portion of it being in English.
Aval Appadithan was the first film made by a graduate of the M.G.R. Government Film and Television Training Institute, facilitating students of film technology to achieve success in the field of cinema. The film received the second prize for Best Film at the 1978 Tamil Nadu State Film Awards, while Nallusamy and M. N. Gnanashekharan won the Best Cinematographer award. Additionally, Sripriya received a Special Award for the Best Actress of 1978. In 2013, CNN-News18 included the film in its list, “The 100 greatest Indian films of all time”.
Manju (Sripriya) was raised in a dysfunctional family that consisted of a timid father and a philandering mother; she hurtles from one disastrous affair to another, leading to her degenerating into a cynical woman. Into her life enter two radically different men. One of them is her boss, Thyagu (Rajinikanth), who owns the advertising agency she works for. He is a stereotype of the successful man: money-minded, opinionated, arrogant, and a male chauvinist. In sharp contrast is Arun (Kamal Haasan), who has come to Chennai from Coimbatore to make a documentary on women. Sensitive and sincere, he believes his job has a purpose and is both shocked and amused at the cynical attitudes of Manju and Thyagu.
Manju has been drafted by Thyagu to assist Arun in his documentary. As Arun and Manju start working together, Arun begins to understand Manju’s complex personality. She tells Arun about her unfortunate past relationships: How she was molested by her uncle, the ending of her first relationship in college when her lover left her by marrying another woman for the sake of employment, and how her second love, Mano (Sivachandran), a Christian priest’s son, used her to satisfy his needs and lust, calling her “sister” in front of her parents. These incidents have led to her present attitude towards men. Arun later shares these conversations with Thyagu, who warns him to steer clear of such women.
Inevitably, Arun falls for Manju. However Manju incurs Thyagu’s wrath when he overhears her reprimanding her office staff for commenting on her character. When Thyagu also comments about her, she resigns from her job. When he learns of this, Arun requests Thyagu to re-employ her. Thyagu simply laughs and says that she is already back, after which Manju seems to have a change of heart and starts courting Thyagu. Arun is devastated to see that she has turned out to be just the sort of woman that Thyagu earlier said she was — opportunistic, money-minded, and fickle. When he asks her about her contradicting stands in life, she responds by saying that is the way she is and will be.
The truth finally emerges that Manju was merely baiting Thyagu to teach him a lesson. When Thyagu starts believing that Manju has fallen for him, he attempts to take advantage of her at a party banquet, but she rebukes and slaps him, after which Thyagu runs away in fright. However, this revelation comes too late for her, as Arun, who is disillusioned with her behaviour, has already married a small town girl (Saritha). When Manju tells her aunt about the attempt to humiliate Thyagu and its ramifications, her aunt tells Manju that she deserved it for leaving behind a golden opportunity to start a new life. In a final discussion in Thyagu’s car, Manju asks Arun’s wife, “What do you think of women’s liberation?”. Arun’s wife replies, “I don’t know”. Manju replies with a cynical, “that is why you are happy”. The film ends with Manju standing on the road as the car carrying Thyagu and the married couple pulls away from her. A voice-over says, “She died today. She will be reborn tomorrow. She will die again. She will be reborn again. That is how she is”.
Directed by C. Rudhraiya
Produced by Ragamanjari
Screenplay by C. Rudhraiya, Somasundareshwar & Vanna Nilavan
Starring Sripriya, Kamal Haasan, Rajinikanth
Music by Ilaiyaraaja
Cinematography Nallusamy & M. N. Gnanashekaran
Production Kumar Arts
Release date 30 October 1978
Running time 114 minutes