Another super hit movie that Venu Nagavally is famous for is, Aye Auto, the first commercial entertaining movie of its kind that delved into the lives, conversations and relationships of auto rickshaw drivers in Kerala.
Once again, it is Mohan Lal’s exceptional acting abilities coupled with humorous dialogues that made the movie so popular in Kerala. The story is about a poor auto rickshaw driver who meets a girl called Meenakshi from a rich, well known family and begins to fall in love with her. She teaches him English and dreams of seeing him as someone who can speak the language with confidence while he dreams of her as someone as beautiful and priceless to his life just like the auto that he calls ‘Sundari.’
There is no ‘sugar coated romance’ as such but from the way they look at each other and care so deeply about each other, you can guess how deeply they are in love and yet fighting the conflict within to not acknowledge it because the divide is too great.
Also, no director had ever bothered to delve into the pressures, working conditions and lives of autorickshaw drivers before. Even the little details about how they are treated badly in a status conscious society are dealt with in such a heartrending way through scenes that are so often snippets of what we really see around us in real life. A rich guest is treated with greater respect and hospitality by the host while a poor guest, who has no social status as such, is treated with contempt and indifference. Not all do it but yes, it is a fast growing norm and inevitable crisis that we are learning to struggle with. The movie subtly questioned the society’s upper crust and their rules that they alone can dictate the terms of how to treat others.
The goodness, the warmth of characters and the dose of reality combine all the essential attributes of a successful entertainer, which is finally, what this movie is all about. Other directors made similar attempts to make movies around the lives of auto rickshaw drivers but came up with sloppy rendering and slapstick comedy. The mark of a good director, after all, is not something every Tom, Dick and Harry can imitate.
And that’s exactly the legend Venu Nagavally was.