Life was never the same after the advent of the Sun Network. There was a movie every afternoon on Sun TV! Every afternoon! Previously, movies could be watched only on the weekends, on TV, so this was cause for much joy, especially among those who didn’t have much to do in the afternoons.
Then there was Sun Movies. Three or four movies a day! When I wasn’t burning my skin off in the sun during the summer vacations, or watching Cartoon Network, or fighting with my sister, I’d be glued to these movies.
This love for movies were further kindled by themed movie weeks on Sun TV. So the late evening movies for a particular week would follow some theme. Like ‘Adhiradi vaaram’, where all the movies would be action blockbusters, or ‘Thik-thik vaaram’, where horror movies would be screened the whole week, or even a week full of Vithalacharya movies, or movies where Vishwanathan-Ramamurthy were the composers. There were also other more specific themes like Movies Where Hero And Heroine Cannot Be Together, or Movies Where Love Is Sacrificed For Higher Reason. Apart from Movies Where One Or More Protagonists Are Differently-Abled, or Movies Where One Or More Of The Protagonists Are Dying (Of Cancer). I’m not making any of these up.
This went on for around a year or two, before they filled late evenings with some or the other soap (which all deserve a post or three to themselves… remember Chitthi, anyone?). Then they had a common theme throughout, with every day of the week having one genre. Like there was a comedy movie every Monday, a love story every Tuesday (Kaadhal Sevvaai), a classic old movie every Wednesday (Kaaviya Budhan), an action flick every Thursday (Adhiradi Vyaazhan) and a superhit blockbuster every Friday (Superhit VeLLi). This, apart from two movies, one in the afternoon and another in the evening, every Saturday and Sunday.
And I sat fixated as often as I could. Watched heckuva load of Tamil movies. Amma and I would watch some Kannada movies too, on Chandana, but we stuck to comedies… Anant Nag’s Ganesha ones, or S. Narayan… we both still adore his Oho. Channels would promptly be changed if it was a Kashinath movie. But I hated Kannada movies back then. They seemed too serious and too tragic. When we didn’t still have cable, Amma and Ajji would watch the Sunday evening Kannada movie on DD, and cry and cry and then cry some more. One movie which freaked the heck out of me had Ambarish write a letter in blood to the leading lady. Years later, when a classmate wrote a love letter in blood to another, I felt very very very faint not because it looked like a crazed madman’s handiwork, but because it brought back repressed memories of this movie. And I stopped watching Kannada movies after this one wacko movie where Ambarish gets bitten by a dog and dies of rabies. He barked like a dog, ate food from an aluminum plate not using his hands, frothed at the mouth, and died. I swore to myself I’d never watch a Kannada movie again, and never one with Ambarish in it.
So Tamil movies it was. And God, they weren’t any less gaga. They might be cheerier, more hopeful, better-made and more watchable, but less crazy, they most certainly weren’t.
One of the more tragic ones I watched involved a lower-middleclass family, where the father was presumed dead in a train accident. They get his insurance money, and their standard of living suitably improves. But then, the father comes back, and the rest of the movie is about the shenanigans that result from trying to hide him from the rest of the world. It could have been a nice comedy, but it mainly involved the family politics, grinding poverty, maintaining self-respect, and endless mother-in-law daughter-in-law shenanigans, apart from the mother not being able to wear her mangalsutra and sindoor even though her husband is alive. It sapped the energy out of me.
Then there was this seemingly normal movie where a boy with a widowed mother falls in love with a girl with a widower father. The girl’s father suitably opposed the match like all movie dads, but then he went one step further. He spoke to the boy’s mother, saying there’s only one way we can stop them from marrying and making the biggest mistake of their lives. And the mother agrees. They both get married, and then he snidely tells the boy, now since I’m married to your mother, Heroine is your….? . Mindblown, simply mindblown.
And I saw this one clip of a movie and couldn’t bear to watch it any more. So this guy has a rather cold wife who’s not being intimate with him. He takes her to a movie one evening. And from her horrified shrieks on watching it, we infer that it was an adult movie, and she is thoroughly disgusted and limp from shock. He tells her in a confrontational tone that he did that just to loosen her inhibitions after which she’d fall limp into his arms. Oh. My. God.
On the other end of the spectrum, there was this sweet movie on Young Love called Panneer Pushpangal. The western world (and the Star World-watching world) may have had its Wonder Years, and Kollywood had Panneer Pushpangal. It starred Prathap, who I used to confuse for Kokila Mohan, as a cool and with-it teacher at an Ooty boarding school, where the lead pair were students and fell in love. Of course, the girl’s mom was a witch and locked her daughter up, but the ragtag bunch of friends help her escape. She meets the boy, and then everyone wonders what to do. And then the movie ends. I rather liked this movie, I’ll admit, and wished my school had a teacher like Prathap. And I mention that movie here mainly because it has this wonderful, wonderful song.
Radhika (of Chitthi, Annamalai and Arasi fame) starred in a few more mindblerg movies I watched. First was this one where she woos Sivakumar as a village girl, going as far as getting each others’ names tattoed on their arms, after which he is transferred to the city, where he meets another Radhika who is a modern-dressing rich daughter of his boss. She keeps aggressively pursuing him, and he never gives in because he loves only the villager Radhika. He goes back to the village to find her, but she isn’t there and the whole village blames him for her disappearance. And then comes the shocker. Both the Radhikas are the same! It was an experiment where the rich girl was testing a potential suitor to see if he was only after her money. Oh, what problems rich girls have. Anyway he takes offense and spurns her, and her own father says while he supported her through this endeavour, he feels this sort of test insults any self-respecting man. Then both Sivakumar and Radhika down sleeping pills separately. After appropriate edge-of-seat shenanigans, the director makes sure both lives are saved and that they live happily ever after.
Another one was Meendum Oru Kaadhal Kadhai with Radhika and Prathap. They are two mentally-ill kids in an asylum, and are supervised by a progressive doctor played by Charuhaasan. Radhika is from a rich family who all don’t really like her, especially her scheming brother and brother’s wife, while Prathap has no one. They fall in love, get married and move to some new village with the doctor to have a new life. The village had a slew of quirky characters I don’t really recall, but most of the movie was pitiful while not being slapstick. Radhika ends up pregnant, and dies when Prathap is making her laugh or something…. most mindblerging natal death EVER. I didn’t follow what happened after that, but it might have involved the doctor dying after killing Prathap.
And then. This is the first mindblerging movie I watched, and the one which I was thinking about and then remembered all these movies I’ve talked about. I saw it first on DD one Sunday afternoon when they’d show regional-language movies, which meant this movie had subtitles. It starred Mohan as a Hindu boy, who falls for his sister’s Christian friend. She keeps away at first, actively asking him to get lost, but he persists and they end up in love [Aside: it never fails to blow my mind how easily couples before the Noughties fell in love in movies so quickly and based on so little! He saved my life, so I'm going to spend it with him! Or, she loves animals, so I'll love her]. His mother and her father can simply not submit to this match. They chain Mohan to a small room in their terrace, while the girl (who could have been called Julie and could have been played by Radha) is locked in her room, while presumably her wedding to a Christian boy was being planned. The separation proves too much for her, and as Christ is the reason she can’t be with her love, she hammers a nail through her palm, like was done to Christ. And obviously dies. He escapes from his shackles and comes to help her escape, but he only sees her little neighbour boy (every heroine in every movie before the late ’90s had one) standing in line for her funeral. He runs to the graveyard as they are reading out hymns before burying her, sees her dead, kisses her prone body and dies right there. Lovers dying, okay, fine, but nail through palm? That made my eight-year-old self squirm a whole lot when I saw a crucifix after that, and I took special care to never hold a nail in my hand, and was very edgy around hammers.
I’ve been wondering what the name of this movie is. Does anyone know? Please please tell me… I want to watch it again, this time with new eyes that are cynical about such dated movies.
But…. that might be jumping the gun. These movies were definitely cheesy. But they were gritty. And original. And had an honesty and creativity to them which is missing in later suave movies without bright lights and item dancers in shiny costumes. They had some really good music, and I don’t know how popular they turned out in their time, but their actors gave really wonderful performances in these movies.
The themes were bold and original. The filmmakers might have been wacko jerks with too many rich uncles, or they might have been thinkers, I’ll never know. But I’m glad these crude movies that lack even an ounce of finesse and subtlety got made. They were like alcohol experiments in undergrad where you experiment with a wide range of quality and quantity of drink before you figure out what works for you. The makers of these movies might have hit bull’s eye with exploring early-teenage love and jealousy with a Panneer Pushpangal, and I might be glad for that, but I’m also glad that they got the scenario of ‘What if a guy likes a girl but his mother marries her father?’ out of their systems so that none of us needs to explore that again.
After a long time, I watched the video of the remixed, hip-hop song Madai Thiranthu by Yogi B and Natchathira. When I watched it for the first time, the beginning didn’t make sense to me. One guy says, “Inna, Raja-saar?“. I later found out the ‘Raja-saar’ in question was Ilayaraja, who’d composed the original.
I wanted to listen to the original yesterday. Good ol’ Guruji dot come slash music came in handy. I searched for Ilayaraja, and man! I’d never realized before this that so many of the songs I grew up listening to were from him!
For starters, the soundtrack of Hey Ram. Each song is so rich by itself. I particularly liked the fusion of Vaishnav Jana To with Vaaranam Aayiram with South Indian wedding beats.
Another movie set in the same time-frame – Sirai Chaalai, dubbed in Hindi as Kalapani.
And then Agni Natchathiram. I didn’t pay attention to the storyline or anything, but I totally loved the tapori Raja Rajadhirajan indha raja which had in it typical ’80s disco beats. It totally suited its purpose – it was the intro track of a totally rebellious youngster (played by Karthik, who ceased to be a youngster a decade-and-a-half back), which instantaneously won a lot of hearts.
On the same lines there is Ilamai idho idho from Sakalakala Vallavan. Intro track of a richkid Kamal Haasan who’s actually a poor do-gooder in disguise to teach the baddies a lesson. He wears a blonde wig, and says “Hyappy nyu yeear yevverybody”… this was ten-fifteen years before his ‘I’m in the undezhhbeolly uf the aizhhczhaft’. Whatae lyrics… “College teenage penngaL ellorum enn-meedhu kaNgaL“… whou… ages since any song acknowledged the existence of women ogling at men, and even longer since a man flaunted that in his intro song. Rather liked this song after it was used to great effect in a Pepsi commercial starring Madhavan and a bunch of ‘college-teenage penngaL’… and a fat guy in a vest and lungi and a squeaky voice… and a Pepsi bottle.
Rather surprising is Raja-saar’s success in dik-chik dik-chik disco tracks, considering his best-known work is for Bharathiraja films. Which mostly if not always have a village theme.
One of those really nostalgic songs is Adi Aathadi from Kadalora KavithaigaL. Sathyaraj playing a village idiot… whoa! Insane movie, but very well-directed. And the music… no words left.
The soundtrack for the Parthiban-Nandita Das (yes, of 1947-Earth and Rockford fame) starrer Azhagi was another. It is a rather recent movie, with the first half set in a village. In an age where you only heard jing-chak urban songs and village meant gaana (think Pettai Rap and Nakka Mukka), it was really refreshing to have some different music, which was a throwback to an earlier era personified by Bharathiraja introducing the movie with “Enn iniya Tamizh-makkaLe…“.
He also did neutral-ish tracks well – sample Nizhalgal. Madai Thiranthu was about a wannabe making it big in the music industry.
And Anjali – staple Children’s Day fare in the days of Doordarshan. One of the very few movies for kids back then, it enjoyed cult status with folks of my age-group. And hence the soundtrack was popular too. The videos were of kids bossing over the adults… having code claps… screaming ‘yaaay!’ all the damn time… ubercool gang… what more does a kid aspire for?
And my favourite at the moment – the soundtrack of Nayagan. In particular, the ‘item number’ – Nila adhu vaanathu mele. Insane lyrics that make no sense to me. But catchy. And the tune is no less.
When I was playing these tracks, my sister looked askance at me and gave me an expression which suggested my tastes had steadily deteriorated. She doesn’t know the nostalgia these tracks inspire, being born when Rehman had begun to reign and gotten interested in music when Himesh did. She doesn’t know these are the best there was back then, when synthesizers were a non-existent entity. To her ears, Ilayaraja sounds tacky – neither the mellow respectable tone of old songs nor the snazzy attractiveness of the new. And his voice… too forceful for someone that looks like him. And vocal sound-effects like ‘ta-jing, ta-jing’ have become slotted into uncool. The disco-ish beats of the faster songs sounds confused to her, who is used to It’s the time to Disco and Where’s the party tonight. The videos of these songs aren’t very inspiring to her, considering they were shot in an era where a nightclub was supposed to have bright colourful bulbs, and tackily dressed dancers.
She wonders how come Rakkamma Kaiya Thattu got voted as one of the top 10 songs of the millennium in a BBC-conducted online poll. Why not Rehman’s Vande Mataram?
Rehman is God in his own way, no doubt… I’m very impressed by the artfully-out-of-tune songs he composes – Kabhi Neem Neem and Yaaro Yaarodi, and I worship a lot of his other soundtracks, but of late I’ve begun to feel his songs lack the boldness and confidence Ilayaraja’s had. His songs do not bring out the beauty in lyrics or in the voice of the singer as much as Ilayaraja’s does.
A decade earlier, I would have said Rehman’s is for the urban elite, while Ilayaraja appeals to a wider section of the crowd… but now in the natural scheme of things, you have everyone in India not just TN humming Rehman’s tunes, and folks don’t much remember Ilayaraja’s usage of orchestras creatively in his music.. either ways, he didn’t get much reach outside of his home state… and maybe in Karnataka, thanks to soundtracks like Geetha(think Jothe Jotheyali). And Gultland, thanks to dubbed Tamil movies.
But finally, I’ll Raja-saar’s music has an earthy appeal to it. They are easy to sing, unlike other recent songs which rely less on the voice and more on effects. Even if you sing it wrong, it doesn’t sound so far-gone. It’s almost like he gets into the mind of the wannabe crooner and writes songs. Like he sings in the item number from Nayagan, ‘Adi Aathadi, naan paattaLi, unn koottaaLi‘ – ‘Lady, I’m a commoner, your comrade’.
PS: If you have no clue as to who Raja-saar is, he originally composed the music that was used in the soundtrack of Cheeni Kum.
PPS: This isn’t a very well-researched post. Please feel free to correct and provide addenda.
PPPS: What’s with my overwhelming Tam-ness these days? I’ve even begun to say ‘Yaazhpanam’ instead of Jaffna! My mum is beginning to wonder what is happening to me that I’m going ‘astray’ into deep interior Tamil Nadu from Bangalore, preferring Ilayaraja over Rehman, saying Ponniyin Selvan is an excellent book, reading Naachiyar Thirumozhi… maybe it’s just a phase. And… I’m still a true-blue Bangalorean at heart. I prefer MTR/Maiya’s over Adyar Ananda Bhavan any given day. And I is still the speakings of Benglur longvages. I’m sure you can be considerate enough to ignore the slight Tamil accent in my otherwise okay-ish Kannada. Oh, and I can read Kannada faster than I can read Tamil.
Been ages since I did one of those movie-music-list posts. So here we go again.
There are many times when I’ve been totally floored by just one tiny scene in an entire movie, even if the rest of the movie is quite sucky. Some scenes are very poignant, the sort of ‘defining moment’, the sort that make their point very well. Basically these scenes are the ones responsible for dramatic changes in your emotional state, the ones that make your heart stop, or race, or put a smile on your face, or make you wince and squirm, or left you speechless for the rest of the movie and gave you something to talk about to the rest of the world.
- The climax of Siraichaalai/Kalapani: Amrish Puri is the dreaded Afghan jailor in the Andamans who inflicts untold misery on the prisoners. Mohanlal has been wrongly convicted and has to serve a sentence in Kalapani. Prabhu is the revolutionary who tries to escape (and fails) multiple times and so gets the worst of Amrish Puri. Tabu is Mohanlal’s wife, who has contacted a friendly British officer who manages to get a release order for Mohanlal. Prabhu has been shot in an ‘encounter’. Mohanlal is infuriated, and wants to put an end to the brutality inflicted upon all the prisoners. The officer runs in to the prison with the release order. Just then he sees Mohanlal ram an iron rod into Amrish Puri’s throat. He screams a ‘No….’, and crushes the release order he’s holding in his hand.
- The escape scene in Siraichaalai/Kalapani: Elaborate plans have been made and executed by a band of prisoners led by Delhi Ganesh, to escape on a German steamer after blowing up the jail. Everything’s going according to plan. The sticks of dynamite are in place. When they strike matches to light them, it begins to rain.
- The scenes after Aparna and Apu are back home after their wedding in Apur Sansar. It just showed them going about their daily routine. But there was something about the way it was executed that was so poignant, that made their chemistry so palpable. There were no sweet nothings exchanged, there’s hardly any dialogue even. But you still sense the newlyweds-in-bliss feeling, something Mani Ratnam tries hard to achieve, but doesn’t quite get there. Sample: the scenes in Bombay where Manisha Koirala and Arvind Swamy can’t get their hands off each other and at the same time look so ill at ease with each other.
- The scene in Cyanide where all the LTTE militants are seeing their life flash before their eyes while biting the cyanide capsules. That is one point when you actually feel some semblance of pity towards them.
- The one in The Prestige where you see the duplicate drowning, and then you understand how the trick is done.
- In Alaipaayuthey, where you see the opening scenes repeated near the end, after you know Shalini’s suffered an accident, and Madhavan is still unaware of that fact, and he’s teasing, joking, unaware of what is to come…
- The song Kaadhal Sadugudu in Alaipaayuthey. Seems so common, everyday, but the little details are well taken care of, leaving the larger picture to the imagination.
- The last scene in Thiruda Thiruda, where Prashant and Rehman, mercenaries to the core, are each ‘sacrificing’ the girl (Heera Rajagopal) for the other and taking the money as consolation… until she begins to yell at them, asking if they think she is something to be bargained about… and chases them out of the frame. What makes this scene all the more better is that throughout the movie, you are kept guessing as to who likes Heera, and who she likes.
- Panchathanthiram‘s penultimate scene, when all of Kamal’s friends denounce him and leave him, out of fear of their wives, and the doctor telling him right after that his wife might not live. A couple of minutes of torment, when he realizes he’s got it all wrong giving his friends priority over his wife… and then everything resolves itself in true Crazy Mohan style.
- Last scene of Aayutha Ezhuthu where the evil politician Bharathiraja congratulates Surya and his party members on making it to the Legislative Assembly. Now there’s politics, you feel like saying.
- The scene in Anbe Sivam where Madhavan says he’s scared of blood, and almost confesses as to why. He loosens his guard a bit to tell Kamal Haasan that his brother at age ten was hit by a cricket ball and bled to death before they could reach a hospital… he just about lets it slip that it was he who hurled the fatal cork ball, before his guard comes back on and he slips into denial again. Just a brief glimpse of the kid he still is, and then he’s back to being the always-unsatisfied ad-filmmaker.
- The one in Hey Ram after the riots when Kamal Haasan sees his now-dead wife’s (Rani Mukherjee’s) painting on someone else’s wall.
- Hey Ram when Vasundhara Das is singing Vaishnav Jan To when Kamal Haasan comes for the bride-seeing. She chooses a very high pitch, and her mother (played by Hema Malini) is worried whether she’ll go off key when she hits the high notes. She hits the high notes, doesn’t go offkey. Hema Malini sighs. Vasundhara looks back and gives a smile of achievement while continuing to sing. What I liked about this scene was the very perfect Iyengarish touch to it. Guess that would have to have been achieved, considering most if not all of those cast in that scene, and in the following scene of Kamal’s and Vasundhara’s wedding, were Iyengar – Hema Malini, Vasundhara Das, Vaali, Kamal Haasan, YG Mahendran.. and a few others whose names I’ve forgotten. The best touch was when a wedding guest scolds the naadaswaram player – ‘Seevadi-ya chappindirukkadaeL’… the total busybody touch.
- In The Holiday, when Kate Winslet realizes that she’s recently acquired some… gumption.
- In Keladi Kanmani, when Ramesh Arvind is rather dissed with his girlfriend for not turning up for their date on his birthday, and vents out his frustrations. She patiently hears him out, before calmly telling him that that was when she fainted, and found out after a doctor’s visit that she’s not going to live much longer.
- Balram Naidu’s intro scene in Dasaavatharam. He exudes Gultness with every atom of his being – right from accent to ringtone.
- The ‘Ek gaon mein ek kisan rehta tha’ scene from Indru pei naalai vaa. I don’t think I need to elaborate any more, because words won’t bring the magic of the scene to those who haven’t watched it, and for those who have, I don’t need to say anything further.
- I forget the name of this movie, but remember everything else about it rather well. It was produced by Sun TV, and it starred Radhika. She played a very Indian not-very-educated housewife in UK, whose husband left her for someone else, and she is left all alone, with two daughters to take care of. Vikram (of Anniyan fame) was her Indian neighbor who gave her moral support. She tells hims she doesn’t understand why her younger daughter has resumed bedwetting. He appears to share her perplexity, but just as soon as the child is fast asleep in another room, he gently asks her if she cries in front of her children. When she nods, he very politely, caringly says not to, because her children would lose their courage and begin to feel insecure. And casts a lingering look before he leaves. [Aside: This one was where Vikram looked and sounded his best IMO. Yuppie glasses, polite demeanor, formal clothes, guy-next-door appeal, and being the soothing foil to Radhika's helplessness... where the hell is this part of him gone? All he does now is some shite porikki role.]
- Madhavan and Geetu Mohandas in Nala Damayanti, in the third-to-last scene where they are telling the folks at the immigration office why they are in love and want to get married. Maybe this is not what happens in an interview for Australian citizenship, but who cares when they are spouting such sweet dialogues.
- The entire movie Avvai Shanmughi aka Chachi 420. Where do I start? Where do I end? The Hindi version wasn’t so awesome, but the Tamil one is IMO Crazy Mohan’s magnum opus. Such a well-crafted script, appealing to different people at different levels… And I haven’t seen another flick with the Iyer aspect so well-portrayed without the slightest hint of stereotyping or disdain. I can only put a few samples here.
- Manivannan’s love-at-first-sight on seeing Kamal in disguise. The otherwise roughshod man turning into a lovesick guy who reads between the lines when a flower falls on him, or when (s)he holds his hand
- Kamal’s deft gestures – One second he’s gesturing to his daughter on how to tune the video, and when he senses other eyes on him, he switches so deftly to gesturing his daughter to come to him. And when he’s instructing Nasser on what to say, he makes his fierce nods so impossible to tell from an innocent turn of the body when he’s feeding his daughter.
- The scene where Gemini Ganesan is giving wads of cash to Nagesh, supposing he’s Shanmughi’s husband. So rife with pun and double entendre.. it needs to be watched to be appreciated.
- Basically, the whole absurdity of so many men vying for an aged lady well past her prime, and so many women doubting her character being one of the underlying themes, and how well this has been treated by the scriptwriter, so well that you’ll believe it… this is what makes the movie what it is.
You might have noticed bulk of the movies here are Tamil. Understandable, considering it’s my mother tongue, and that I frequent Tamil movie channels more than others. But virtually no Bollywood movie makes it here. That was one thing that surprised me, too, considering I watch a good number of Bollywood movies too. Guess it is because most of those I’ve watched are from the ’90s, when thoughtful movies had become totally nonexistent. No single scene in a Hindi movie has warmed the cockles of my heart or made my brain cells go ‘Aha!’, or showed me a new emotion – which I’d not already seen in Tamil or Kannada or English movies, or least of all made me marvel at the well-made-ness of the scene. They might be entertaining, but thought-provoking… naaaaaah, not unless you count thoughts like “Why the hell am I even watching this?”.
You never realize what you have until…. sounds too cliched, doesn’t it?
Do unto others as…. nah, this too.
Absence is to love what wind is to fire…. mush-ick-y.
Give ‘im an enema and ‘e’ll fit into a matchbox... there.. that’s a better status message.
For close to eight years now, I have been mistaken for a metalhead, so much that people once dropped by to check if I’m fine when they heard strains of Roxette’s It must have been love from my room. [I am not exaggerating... my friend felt my forehead, peered into my eyes, and gave me the mental third-degree about whether I had fallen in or out of love or what. And no, it was neither.]. I suppose that phase is ending… retro Hindi is taking over my playlist.
Talking of which, I read somewhere that Kishore Kumar once had a “Beware of Kishore” board put up on his gate. And once when a colleague came home and offered to shake hands as he was leaving, the maestro bit his hand, and laughingly asked the visitor whether he had seen the board on the gate.
And another bit of trivia… apparently Nana Patekar is a police artist – the sort to which you describe what your assailant looks like and based on that get a sketch of what (s)he probably looks like.
Watching Kamal Haasan’s Kurudhipunal, which is a remake of Govind Nihalani’s Drohkaal, I wonder what the difference between a “good” person and a “bad” one is… is an good armyman still good when he makes tiny, seemingly careless transgressions that anyone could make by mistake, at the behest of a terrorist organization that’s holding his family hostage? And that, along with a few events I came across at college makes me wonder… is a niceguy still a niceguy overall if he doesn’t remain a niceguy when faced with a nattily-dressed Natalie?
It’s amazing how little things can be such a turn-off. Like the way Sagarika Ghose says “Mmhmm”, and the finality of her tone when she says “Okay” to cut off someone she is speaking to. Or when someone swipes the kitchen counter with a dishcloth in a way which doesn’t ensure gleaming surfaces. Or uses ‘besides’ where they should actually use ‘beside’… as in “She lives besides my house”. Or simply bad grammar, zero punctuation and improper capitalization on blogs.
Talking of Ms. Ghose cutting people off, I’ve begun to watch Lok Sabha TV, and it makes such a refreshing change where you have panel discussions with not more than four panelists, where none of them cut the others off, and best of all, the moderator really moderates, and it does sound like a chat than a charged-up game of one-upmanship with the stress and time constraints showing on the reporter’s face as you so often see on 24-hour news channels. The interviews aren’t designed to provoke, but to gather insight about issues rather than people. And unlike other TRP-oriented channels, the interviewer openly says “I disagree with you on this” rather than let that show in the way he biases the discussion, and very less attempt, if at all, is made at being politically correct.
I wonder what has happened to the concept of gathering around for the purpose of idle chatter. You don’t anymore see people gathered around a park bench talking politics or cricket or national policy, or even plain gossiping… no, not even the ajjas and ajjis in panche or cotton sarees and imported sports shoes… they are too busy looking inward, closing their eyes and meditating, when they are not walking at marathon-ish speeds.
So much hoo-haa is being made about the shortage of teachers… why don’t they simply hype teaching as a career on par with one in the IT field or medicine, like it has been done in Southeast Asia and Finland, with really painful entrance exams and coursework (though I’d say the coursework in a decently good college in India is no joke either), apart from absurdly high pay?
I’m not able to understand the correlation between a good education and being a good leader. It’s the sort of thing that is taught in schools, but it seems absurd to me that Shashi Tharoor writes a column asking why when the US has its presidents from Harvard and Yale that we don’t. More than education it has to be a willingness to learn, and knowledgeability. And education, while it opens up new insights and possibly newer ways to solve problems, is no band-aid remedy for corruption; if anything, it enables you to loot the nation in a more suave way. India doesn’t have any dearth of educated politicians… Narendra Modi is a postgraduate in Political Science, Praveen Togadia is an oncologist, Manohar Parrikar and Jairam Ramesh are from IITB…. and, on the other hand, Madam Sonia didn’t even quite finish a spoken-English course at Cambridge, and after Nehru, the only graduate in the Family has been Varun Gandhi and he is not with the Congress…. well, there you go.. that resolves the doubt I put forward in the first line. But heck, what has a stint at School of Architecture given Arundathi Roy other than one of her husbands, and material for In Which Annie Gives It Those Ones?
I’ve started to see ads for this proposed successor to IPL… it’s called ICL. If you, the cricket fan haven’t yet heard of it, despair not and you can stop looking for more feeds and sites to keep you updated on the latest in the Gentleman’s Game… it’s the Indian Comedy League. It’s on Star Vijay and the humour doesn’t seem much different from the other standup comedy shows… the same imitations of Vinu Chakravarthy, Chinni Jayanth, Janagaraj and Bhagyaraj.. but the team names sound cool this time – Chennai Kings, Trichy Terrors, Kovai Killadies, Pondy DeFulls, Katpadi Cutbodies, Nellai Notties, Salem Siddhars, Madurai Mannars. And for some weird reason, I have the lines in the ad going round and round my head – “Tiruchi da, kokka!”, “Ellam rendu-renda theriyudhu”, “Haiyyo.. vekka-vekkama varudhu”, “Maga, soukyama?”… Going by these, it should be called the TNCL… we didn’t see as much as a Bangalore Bandha-parties or a Kolkata Koothaadies.
After hearing about Love Story 2050, I’m wondering why coloured hair is seen as a sign of rebellion… I’ve always wanted to have my hair colored bubblegum pink or a garish violet, or electric blue streaks like Kylie of Extreme Ghostbusters, and I’m the worst sort of conformist and conservative you can find. Oh, and the reason I haven’t yet done it is the risk of follicular damage, wispiness and split-ends, all of which I can’t take for granted considering the long time it takes to recover from the effects of hard water. Oh and if you want to advise me to try burgundy or hazelnut, please don’t waste time… IMO, if you’re coloring your hair, it should look like you’ve coloured it, not like you’re trying to cover up a few greys.
And… the other debutante flick… Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na… from what I’ve heard of the storyline, it’s a remake of the Prashant-Shalini starrer, Piriyaadha Varam Vendum, Shalini’s last flick before she succumbed to the pressures of matrimony, which itself was a remake of a Malayalam flick called Niram. While it is refreshing to *not* hear the line “But… we’re friends!”, or variations thereof, it gets onto your nerves to hear yet again that Ladka-Ladki kabhi dost nahin ho sakte. I can’t help but give an ironic laugh at that.
Look at the ease with which I declared a movie I hadn’t even seen to be a remake of a Tam flick… for some reason I seem to worship Tamil cinema, atleast more than Bollywood or even Hollywood, as I discovered on a long, long discussion with yet another fanatic.
There’s this old, old friend of mine who I’ve long lost touch with, who I had almost forgotten about. Recently, I was reminded of a story idea suggested by this friend – a murder mystery set in the Indus-Sarasvati Civilization. Of course, he called it the Indus Valley Civilization, and staunch Congressman, secularist and Anglophile that he was, he called the river as Indus, or if we got into specifics, the Ghaggar-Hakra, instead of the Sarasvati. Gives me an indication of how much I seem to have changed in idealogy since then, but still, that’s one heck of a story idea… anyone any more ideas, anyone?
And in case you’re wondering what Minestrone is… here.
I haven’t yet watched Dasaavathaaram; but I’m simply dying to… the reviews have more than whetted my curiosity. Then there’s one scene that I am very eager to watch. Apparently Kamal Haasan in one of his many roles (for the uninitiated, he plays ten roles in the movie, and no two of them are related by blood, let alone be twins, and they aren’t even doppelgangers. Why then, should one do the work of ten, you ask? Because he can… remember “yeh kitne ka baraabar hai?“?), has throat cancer, and when someone fires a gun at him, the bullet goes through his throat taking the cancer away with it. I want to see for myself how such a scene is handled with style. And if not, I would like to think about what Kamal was thinking right from conceptualizing this shot to actually filming it and canning it, KS Ravikumar notwithstanding.
Now I’m not one of those who dismiss these gimmicks; I don’t mind them too much. Quite unlike most of the general populace who do dismiss these actions for being too populist and reaching out to the lowest common denominator of the audience.
And who send email forwards saying Newton got a heart attack watching a Rajnikanth movie.
In some versions, it is Mithun-da. And there are also endless Chuck Norris facts turned into facts about Superstar. In fact, it is these forwards that make Thalaivar larger than life than his on-screen persona.
And for the veracity behind these claims… I am yet to find a YouTube video showing Rajnikanth or Mithun with two guns and an enemy on the other side of a high wall, when they throw one gun up and shoot it so that it goes off and the enemy is killed. You would imagine when folks can be jobless enough to clip videos of Gaptain Vijaykanth shock the electricity out of a generator, they would atleast upload these legendary videos which everyone talks about in disparaging, superior tones, but no one has viewed.
And these superior, cynical tones from the supposed elite… that’s the reason I’m really surprised as to why Kamal Haasan put in that bit. Because Kamal starting from the ’90s has packaged himself to be sold to the urban elite. He makes ‘thinking’ movies, or so they say, and lives his characters, and you need a classy mind to really appreciate his films, or so it is publicized. Rajnikanth on the other hand, is projected as appealing to the masses (mainly by virtue of the aforementioned gimmicks), not take pains in getting into character, plays the same roles again and again, and delivers hits mainly due to the profusion of his fan clubs.
But when you rewind to fifteen years back or more, you’ll find this is just not the case.
In the initial decades of their careers, you’ll find Rajni did a larger variety of roles, while Kamal simply played the same loverboy character over and over again. Now getting into a debate over who is better is futile, as I’ve seen in the past; but I’ll say this generalization to “actor” and “superstar” are too generic to be taken at face value.
When you take a closer look at Kamal’s recent classy movies, you’ll find that the ones that were hits were mostly comedies, and penned by Crazy Mohan (whose absurdist comedy that was the main feature of his multilayered scripts that appeal at different levels to different people, and who deserves a whole post to himself). Whenever he deviated, his films have been commercial as well as critical failures – Aalavandhan, Hey Ram are examples. A notable exception is Anbe Sivam.. though I would say the story gets predictable, the characters of Kamal and Madhavan are exceedingly endearing, and along with the situations portrayed and simple dialogues, make it worth more than a watch.
But I guess selling Rajni-saar as the darling of the masses is a money-minting exercise, because that packaging chooses not to alienate the masses while not really turning away the ‘classes’, most of who have grown up watching Thalaivar in myriad roles right from their childhood, be it the rip-roaring Thillu Mullu (remake of Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s Golmaal, with a guest appearance by Kamal), Billa, Johnny, Gayathri or Netrikan. Ask these same people to name earlier films of Kamal that stand out, I’m sure you won’t get much beyond Kalathur Kannama, 16 Vayadhinile (with Rajni playing villain), Sigappu Rojakkal, Moondram Pirai (Sadma), or Raja Paarvai. Rajni sells for this nostagia, as well as for his movies (They really aren’t as bad as they are made out to be… entertainers, yes, but not lame ones). Kamal on the other hand sells for his current repertoire, as well as for his air of being a ‘thinking’ man’s filmmaker/actor, of which the latter has been tried successfully by Aamir Khan (who however is the non-thinking, non-critical, pseud (wo)man’s favorite filmmaker).
Habitual Rajni-bashers choose to ignore his large repertoire of good work, and choose to highlight only his cigarette-flicking (of late, coin-flicking), villain-thrashing ways, all of which have only that much importance in his career as “Aati Kya Khandala” or the train scene in Ghulam had for Aamir Khan.
And these people who scoff at the sheer unbelievability of his plots and scenes are the same people who wouldn’t mind a whirlwind tour of three countries in a 24-hour period from Dan Brown who churns out the same crap book after book, or Chetan Bhagat for who much of the same can be said. Or for that matter, Sidney Sheldon or Jeffrey Archer who can write about Czechs with nubbins and bracelets and get away with it.
Or watch SRK with his little mannerisms, RGV’s implausible plotlines, and applaud.
Or for that matter, even Tarantino and Disney flicks.
One of the main reasons why Rajni films succeed so well is because they are made for a family audience (like the movies Crazy Mohan pens for Kamal). When his scriptwriters lack the finesse of Crazy Mohan in tackling complex issues in such a way that it wouldn’t alienate any age-group, they would rather compromise on the issue. Unlike Kamal, who comes up with an Aalavandhan, about a psycho killer, or a Hey Ram (Which had viewers going Aiyo Rama). Rajnikanth takes great care to portray qualities that are valued in society – respect for elders, honesty, hard work and the like. His films, of course, are well-known for misogyny, but that isn’t his sole preserve.
I, like the average Tamil moviegoer choose to have it both ways – I’ll watch a Thalaivar movie with all the usual ingredients, whistle at the punch-dialogues, and tolerate the few references to him/his character being the superstar/perfectMan. I would enjoy a good Kamal movie by paying attention to his plot, characterization and script, apart from his makeovers, and choose to ignore those forced scenes of intimacy, over-the-top accents, and his general overdoing everything.
For they are doing it all just to entertain us. It is not everyday that they make movies, and their little idiosyncrasies are worth tolerating for the entertainment value of the finished product, and heck, their swelling with self-importance is what makes them larger than life.
PS: I intended to make this a post that doesn’t take itself very seriously… but somewhere down the line, it turned into a biased Doordarshan newsreader’s report, with none of the associated feeling of well-researchedness or newness about it. I suppose the bottomline would be that at the end of the day, Kamal and Rajni both are actors, out to make money and fulfill the expectations of the audience… and everything they do would be better understood if it was viewed first in the light of that.