Moondram Pirai (Eng: The Crescent Seen On The Third Day Following New Moon Day) is a 1982 Indian Tamil-language romantic drama film written, directed and filmed by Balu Mahendra. The film features Kamal Haasan and Sridevi in the lead roles, while Silk Smitha, Poornam Vishwanathan and Y. G. Mahendra play supporting roles. The music for the film was composed by Ilaiyaraaja, with lyrics written by Kannadasan, Vairamuthu and Gangai Amaran. It also featured the last song written by Kannadasan to be recorded before his death in 1981.
Moondram Pirai is about a school teacher, R. Srinivas, who rescues a woman, Bhagyalakshmi, who is suffering from retrograde amnesia, from a brothel, and protects her in his house located in Ketti. The rest of the film shows how Bhagyalakshmi recovers her memory with Srinivas’ help. Moondram Pirai is based on Balu Mahendra’s brief relationship with actress Shoba, who died in 1980, shortly after their marriage. It was shot in Ketti, a small town situated close to Ooty, with further shooting also taking place in Bangalore. A total of 30 days was taken to complete the filming, using 36,000 feet of film negative.
Moondram Pirai was released on 19 February 1982 to positive critical reception. It was a box office success and had a theatrical run of 329 days. The film won two National Film Awards: Best Actor for Haasan, and Best Cinematography for Mahendra. It also won the Best Director Award for Mahendra at the Filmfare Awards, and five Tamil Nadu State Film Awards, including Best Film (third prize), Best Actor (Haasan) and Best Actress (Sridevi). The film was dubbed in Telugu under the title Vasantha Kokila. Mahendra remade the film in Hindi as Sadma, with Haasan, Sridevi and Smita reprising their roles from the original version.
Bhagyalakshmi, a young woman, has a car accident while returning from a party and is hospitalised with severe head injuries. When she recovers, she is diagnosed with retrograde amnesia and she fails to recognise her own parents. She mentally regresses to the state of a child. While she is undergoing treatment, she is kidnapped and sold to the madam of a brothel. Srinivas, also known as Cheenu, comes to Chennai to meet his old friend. Together, they visit the brothel to relax. The madam sends Bhagyalakshmi, renamed Vijaya, to his room. Cheenu realises that she is mentally still a child and pities her. He learns that she is from a cultured family, and that she was kidnapped and forced into prostitution.
Cheenu returns the next day and, after paying a huge sum to the madam, takes Vijaya out, supposedly on a pleasure trip. He takes her away to Ketti, where he is working as a school teacher. He takes her to his residence, where he protects her and also pampers her like a child. Viji, as she is called by Cheenu, has completely forgotten her past and becomes very close to him. When Viji accidentally spills ink over Cheenu’s documents, angering him, their relationship is threatened, but they reconcile. Later, a local woodcutter named Nataraj lusts for Viji and nearly assaults her, but she manages to save herself. When she tells Cheenu about it, he becomes livid with rage and almost kills Nataraj, but is stopped by his neighbours who were informed of the incident by Viji. Meanwhile, the wife of Cheenu’s headmaster is attracted to Cheenu, though he does not reciprocate her feelings.
Viji’s father Vedachalam, who was searching her through the police, releases a newspaper advertisement about his lost daughter. A co-passenger who had travelled with Cheenu and Viji from Chennai to Ooty by train gives them a lead. Cheenu takes Viji to an Ayurvedic medical practitioner and leaves her there for treatment for a day. In his absence, the police come to his house searching for Viji. Finally, the police learn that Viji is getting treated at the doctor’s place and reach there. Cheenu is unable to come as he is afraid of police action. The treatment goes through successfully. Viji regains her memory and completely forgets about the period between her accident and recovery. Vedachalam and his wife are happy and decide to leave. From the doctor, Vedachalam learns that the person who had brought her there had been taking good care of their daughter; he withdraws his police complaint and they begin their journey to Chennai with Viji.
After the police leave, Cheenu comes running after the car in which Viji is travelling. He follows them to the railway station and tries to gain the attention of Viji, but she is unable to recognise him. Cheenu acts like a dancing monkey that Viji developed a liking for, but Viji, unable to comprehend, thinks that he is insane and begging for food. Cheenu continues his futile attempts to gain her attention, and the train eventually leaves with Viji not recognising him. Cheenu, who was injured while chasing her car and trying to get her attention, is left alone, heartbroken.
Directed by Balu Mahendra
Produced by G. Thyagarajan & G. Saravanan
Written by Balu Mahendra
Starring Kamal Haasan, Sridevi
Music by Ilaiyaraaja
Cinematography Balu Mahendra
Edited by D. Vasu
Production Sathya Jyothi Films
Distributed by Sathya Jyothi Films
Release date 19 February 1982
Running time 143 minutes