indian cinema heritage foundation

Thanneer Thanneer (1981)

  • Release Date26/10/1981
  • GenreSocial
  • FormatColour
  • LanguageTamil
  • Run Time134 min
  • Length3930.09 meters
  • Number of Reels14
  • Gauge35 mm
  • Censor RatingU
  • Censor Certificate Number83428
  • Certificate Date19/10/1981
  • Shooting LocationTamil Nadu

Alternate Title: Water Water

Athipattu, an arid village with around 300 families, has been facing acute water scarcity for several years. The villagers look forward to rains and hope that the government would take action to supply water to the village in some way. 

Sevanthi (Saritha) who comes to stay at her father's place for delivering her child, treks 10 miles every day with her baby to fetch potable water. She is compassionate and gives the water she brings to people in need. Sevanthi's husband Alagiri (Radha Ravi) is a policeman working in a neighboring village. Vathiyar (Vathiar Raman) is the teacher in the Government-run school in the village and the villagers treat him as their head. 

Gopal is a hardworking, straightforward, honest, and aggressive person who fights for the basic rights and welfare of the village. Sevanthi happens to meet a stranger Vellaisamy (Guhan) while she is fetching water. Through Sevanthi, he learns about the acute water scarcity the village is facing. She introduces him to Vathiyar, who proposes the idea of serving water to the village, thereby getting a livelihood. Vellaisamy builds a water tank on a bullock cart with the villagers' contribution and uses it to fetch water from the neighboring village. Each home agrees to serve him food by turns daily, in lieu of his work. He starts supplying water from the Thenur river to the people. 

One day, the villagers come to know from Sevanthi (who sees a newspaper advertisement) that Vellaisamy is wanted for murder, and carries a reward of Rs. 5,000/- for his capture. Vellaisamy explains that he murdered the rich village head who tried to outrage the modesty of his wife. Though the temple priest recommends handing him over to the police and collecting the prize money, most of the villagers refuse this idea as Vellaisamy is helping the village in solving their water problem. They all take an oath before God that they will not inform the police. Vathiyar says that he will take responsibility for protecting Vellaisamy if the police comes to know about him. Life goes on smoothly for the villagers with the drinking water problem being addressed to some extent. 

Sevanthi's mother-in-law comes to see her newborn grandson and informs that Alagiri would be coming shortly to see his son. Sevanthi is shocked on hearing this; to prevent her policeman husband from coming there, she speaks badly about her husband and his family. Her mother-in-law gets annoyed and leaves the place, saying that her son would not come to take her back home. When Vathiar demands the reason for her odd behaviour, she explains she did this to protect Vellaisamy Meanwhile, the government announces the election date for the constituency. The two contesting parties belonging to the Nayakar and Reddiar communities come to the village soliciting the villagers' votes. The villagers express their anger for not responding to their repeated appeals to provide water facility to the village and decide to boycott the election. Not a single vote is registered in that village, which becomes news. Vandipettai Velusamy Naickar, the representative of the Naickar group, gets furious for losing the election by 300 votes and dismisses all the employees in his factory belonging to Athipattu village. He also sends people to destroy the bullock cart used by Vellaisamy to get water from the Thenur river. Vellaisamy is injured and the bullocks die. The villagers assemble to decide the future course of action. Vellaisamy comes up with the idea of digging a canal 10 miles long from the waterfall and Thenur river to the village. The villagers get convinced and start working together. They finish the canal work and plan for breaking the hill near the river to divert the water flow into the canal. 

To the surprise of Sevanthi, Alagiri arrives at the village. She apologizes for her harsh words and he forgives her. Though Sevanthi tries her best to protect Vellaisamy from her husband, he comes to know about him through others. Alagiri tries to arrest Vellaisamy, who requests him to give a day to complete the hill breaking work so that the village will have water. At the request of the villagers, he leaves the place but informs his higher officers and the Irrigation department. Government officials come and order the villagers to stop the work as the villagers are doing irrigation department work without any approval. 

Gopal and others shout at the irrigation department officials for ignoring their request for several years and declare they cannot stop the work now. Soon, the argument turns into a protest. The police orders lathi charge and many people get injured. The process of bringing water to Athipattu is stopped. The police arrive to arrest Vellaisamy. On the advice of the villagers, Gopal and Vellaisamy escape during a commotion. Suddenly, while running near the forest, Vellaisamy suffers a heart attack and dies. No one knows what happened to Gopal, though it is believed that he has joined the Naxalites (a terrorist group). Most of the people leave the village looking for greener pastures, while a few like Sevanthi who love the village stay back and look at the sky every day with the hope that it would rain someday and their problems would come to an end. 

[from the book Pride of Tamil Cinema: 1931 to 2013 by G Dhananjayan, Blue Ocean Publishers, 2014]