Merku Thodarchi Malai (English: Western Ghats) is a 2018 Indian Tamil language drama film. It was directed by Lenin Bharathi and produced by Vijay Sethupathi, with cinematographer Theni Eswar and composer Isaignani Ilaiyaraaja.
The film revolves around the life and times of a group of landless workers living along the foothills of the Western Ghats in India. It depicts how the introduction of commercialization creates conflict in the simple lives of the villagers.
Daily wage laborer Rengasamy makes a living carrying cardamom sacks from the mountains to the foothills of the Western Ghats in the interior of Tamil Nadu. Chacko, a communist from Kerala, unionizes these workers to prevent the estate owner from exploiting them. As a result, there are frequent clashes between the landlord and the union members.
Rengasamy wants to buy a piece of land from a local, but fails due to objections from the seller’s family. He marries his cousin Eshwari, who is a worker on the estate, and joins her union. His second attempt to buy land ends in unexpected tragedy and he loses most of his savings. He later acquires land with a loan and begins farming to pay back the debt.
Meanwhile, in the communist party office, Chacko has a heated debate with a senior comrade about industrialization and the workers’ conditions. Another comrade sends Chacko to deliver a message, and while he is away the estate owner closes the estate to make the workers and union members suffer. When Chako returns, the estate owner mocks him, saying that he had plotted with the senior comrade for this purpose.
Angered, Chacko finds the workers who are preparing to leave. He gathers a few of them, including Rengasamy, to take up weapons and confront the estate owner. The mob finds the estate owner with the senior comrade, kill both of them, and are jailed for several years. When Rengasamy returns home, the fertilizer vendor forecloses on his land for outstanding debts. Rengasamy later becomes a security guard for a windmill constructed on the land he once owned.
The film closes with a series of short scenes which show the helpful nature of the people of the Thots. In one scene, a Muslim man provides land to the protagonist without asking for money. In another, the heroine is willing to take on debt for the marriage of a girl to whom she is not related. Lastly, the protagonist gives money to the land seller one day before registration, and the seller returns the money to the hero immediately after the deal is cancelled.
Directed by Lenin Bharathi
Produced by Vijay Sethupathi
Written by Lenin Bharathi, Raasi Thangadurai
Starring Antony, Gayathri Krishna, Abu Valayankulam
Music by Ilaiyaraaja
Cinematography Theni Eswar
Edited by Mu. Kasi Viswanathan
Production Vijay Sethupathi Productions / Dream Tree Productions
Distributed by VT Cinemas
Release date 24 August 2018
Running time 118 minutes