Thursday, September 8, 2016

Treasure Hunt: A collection of my favorite ‘smaller’ scenes from thamizh cinema

Back in the 90s, Sun TV used to host a program where celebrities would pick four or five of their favorite scenes from thamizh cinema.  You had the usual suspects.  The Nizhalgal Ravi funeral scene from Nayagan.  The panchayat scene from Devar Magan.  The throwing of the gauntlet scene in Annamalai.  But as a rabid movie fanatic, I have the tendency to re-watch some of my favorite movies.  Even if not in their entirety, I do revisit portions of a lot of my favorites from time to time on youtube.  And, what strikes me is how some smaller moments seem to just leap off the screen like never before.  I wonder if it has to do with the fact that my mind has subconsciously registered the bigger scenes so much that I seem to have more capacity to notice and cherish the smaller golden moments that have a glitter of their own.  I’ve picked six such little treasures that were hidden in plain sight all along that I noticed on a repeat viewing.  Take a look and see if you enjoy these little moments as much as I did:

A Rajni – Shoba interaction in Mullum Malarum (1978):              
There are certain actors that I think are incapable of being inauthentic in any way.  They are just so wonderfully grounded and real, in terms of looks, in terms of performance.  Shoba – that marvel of an actress that met with a tragic, untimely end – was one such performer.  She was magnificent in every frame that I have seen her in, in classics like Nizhal Nijamagiradhu and Azhiyadha KolangaL.  But the pinnacle of her career was the role of Valli in Mullum Malarum.  Her innocent face, her impish smile and seemingly childlike nature are fully utilized by director Mahendran.  This sequence below is an example of how un-cinematic she was.  It is a cute interaction between brother and sister.  Notice how seamlessly Rajni and Shoba transition from an emotional moment (when Shoba reminds him of their younger days) to a lighter conversation.  Rajni is also marvelously understated and casual.  I especially love the way Rajni says, “Apdiye Valli…andha ponnukum oru kalyanam panni vechudlam!”

Watch from 3:29 min point:

The “chi chi…drama” moment in Michael Madana Kamarajan (1990):
One of the reasons for the enduring appeal of MMKR is that the movie is so densely packed that even on repeated viewings, there is invariably the odd joke that one may have missed in a previous viewing, that would make them smile or even laugh out loud.  One such easter egg that popped out to me when I watched the movie last year was the scene after the fire rescue sequence, where Kushboo gifts Kamal (the Raju character) with a piece of miniature art.  Kushboo and Kamal make this an impossibly cute repartee, with Crazy Mohan’s wordplays (“kalai arisi” for instance) aiding them in full measure.  My favorite moment in this sequence is where Kushboo asks Kamal about his artistic interests.  The educated Kushboo character asks, “Painting?  Sculpture?” and the uneducated, naïve Raju instinctively replies, “Chi chi…drama.”  It is such a spontaneous, hilarious reaction, one that shows that comedy is absolutely serious business, that it takes a lot of detailing – in the way a close up is shot, in the way one actor modulates his delivery, in the way another actor reacts – to make a comic moment work. 

Watch from 24:24 min point:

SPB’s “thank you” in Sigaram (1991):
Sigaram has to rank at the top of the list in thamizh cinema when it comes to sensitive portrayals of a husband-wife relationship.  On screen, SPB has always come across as an affable presence.  And, in Sigaram, the late writer-director Ananthu (a close associate of KB and a mentor of Kamal) makes full use of that persona.  SPB also rises to the occasion, imbues his character (that of a successful music director with a supportive wife and an alcoholic son) with warmth and sincerity.  One of the things I noticed is the respectful, cultured manner in which he interacts with his wife, played by Rekha.  Both SPB and Rekha are in glorious acting form, bringing to life an ageing couple still very much in love but dealing with a tough situation with their son.  There is a small scene where SPB tells Rekha about his upcoming trip to Singapore.  Right from the way he says, “thank you” when she offers a cup of coffee to the way she says that music is his “kavasam,” it is a very lifelike conversation that doesn’t come across as a dialogue written on a sheet of paper.  To borrow one of Baradwaj Rangan’s terms, the “invisibility of the writing” is perfectly demonstrated here.

Watch from 5:36 min point:

The delightfully sweet early morning sequence in Mahanadhi (1994):
Mahanadhi is easily one of the most gut-wrenching cinema experiences that I have ever had.  There are several moments from the movie that flit past my mind from time to time just when I come across as a reference or a song from the movie.  But if you watch the movie closely, there are actually several moments of just pure goodness amidst all the privation and the squalor.  One such sequence is the early morning sequence after Kamal Hasan realizes the error of his ways, in trusting a woman with questionable values.  He returns home late night from a party, only to be welcomed by his mother-in-law, who says that the kids skipped dinner because of him getting delayed.  Be it the way Kamal tenderly hugs his sleepy daughter and asks, “Adi pattudicha?” or the way the brilliant SN Lakshmi advises Kamal (I love the way she joyfully says, “Kaapi kudikreengala?”), this is one of those moments that always reminds me of Roger Ebert’s immortal words – “It is not sadness in the movies that moves me.  It is goodness.”

Watch the entire clip:

The temple scene in Rhythm (2000):
When I finished watching Rhythm back in 2000, I knew I had witnessed something truly special.  As I had noted in an earlier write-up, one of the greatest gifts of director Vasanth is his ability to bring his worlds to me (as opposed to another favorite of mine, Kamal, who transports me to his worlds).  The reason I hold Rhythm in very high regard is the way Vasanth strips away anything cinematic from his scenes and instead, grafts scene after scene with such depth of emotion that ring so true because of being devoid of sensationalism and melodrama.  All this despite the thematic content of the movie actually lending itself to that kind of overstatement.  One of the more lovely scenes in Rhythm is the one at the temple where Arjun’s parents (played by that inimitable genius Nagesh and Vatsala Rajagopal) request him, a widower, to consider remarriage.  Nagesh is in sublime touch in this scene, expertly mixing humor with a touch of emotion.  Notice the way the Amma gently holds Arjun’s face and asks, “Engalukaaga kalyanam pannika koodaatha?” 

Watch from 0:38 min (If time permits, also watch the scene from the 8:05 min point where Nagesh and his wife have a charming little moment where they exchange acknowledging glances):

The “Dey, Amma da” scene in Kaaka Muttai (2015):
Just like how the crow’s egg of the title is a little treat to the kids in the movie, this movie is full of delicious little treats.  Director Manikandan’s Kaaka Muttai is an adorable little movie that’s filled with lovable characters and wonderfully written scenes that boast of both crackling humor and real, understated emotions.  Just before the climactic sequence, there is a scene where the mother reunites with the kids that ran away from the house owing to the pressure and glare of their sudden publicity, owing to the fact that the video of a pizza shop’s owner slapping the older brother, has gone viral.  When they run away seeing the police, the mother hollers out to them.  The younger kid, recognizing the mother’s voice, stops immediately and says, “Dey, Amma da!”  He goes to hug his mother.  But the older brother is a little more unsure whether the mother has forgiven him.  And, when the mother sports a small smile indicating that all is well, the kids start smiling too.  What could have been a sappy scene is elevated by some exquisitely controlled emoting from Aishwarya Rajesh – who is the undoubtedly the most natural performer among current actresses - and the child actors, Vignesh and Ramesh who deservedly won the National Award.  (Youtube clip not available)



Rahini David said...

Lovely post and though I could not stream to watch a few scenes listed, I agree that the Mahanadhi scene is tops. I love it that she understands that her son-in-law needs a mate in life and this is something she should have considered long back.

I have often heard you remark about the "Nee romba nalla paiyan, unakku innum konjam nalathu nadakalaam" in Rhythm and often wondered why it does not touch me as much. In fact I have even tried to change the line to "nalla ponnu..." and it is still only an OK line for me. My favorite line of Vasanth is from his first film and mouthed by SPB. Radhika wants to break up their relationship as her parents may suffer without her. And he says, "I don't know if you think my house is small or my heart is small. Why would you have to leave them behind? I thought they would be living with us". Pure Gold.

Zola said...

Ram Murali : Really enjoyed reading this. That line on MMKR was too good "one such easter egg popped out". Apt description of the movie as a whole and why it is so timeless.

I havent seen Sigaram (atleast not entirely) but in the write up this one was my favourite. I know one such old couple who behave so graciously with one another. What a multi faceted and versatile artiste is SPB ! His role in Guna as the CBI officer was extremely well done too. Especially when he whispers to himself and his police aide while describing the heroine's guardian "thiruttu muzhiya paaru"

Nandini said...

What a wonderful collection of scenes. I just watch movies for entertainment and in fact never rewatch movies, so the video links helped jog my memory. It would be nice if you create another post of the top navarasa scenes or top comedy picks. I'm sure that would also be very interesting as this one.

Ram Murali said...

Rahini - so nice to see your comment. Thank you! Yes, the "romba nalla paiyyan" line in Rhythm, I felt, 'spoke to me' in a way very few movie lines have. I teared up the first time...and every time I see it :)

Ravishanker - thank the ultimate MMKR expert, I am sure you have unearthed lot more easter eggs...another favorite is, the "thondrinen navadhaarama" line in the "paer vechaalum" song coinciding with kushboo seeing raju after kameshwaran and thinking that he changed costumes in one second!

Nandu - thanks! Sure thing, will do post on the navarasas. great idea!

newmomontheblock said...

Great post. MMKR is one of my all time favorite movies. I think I know pretty much all the dialogues by heart. Same goes for Thillu Mullu. Rajini was amazing in that movie.

I watched the Mahanadi scene and it was beautiful. I watched it when I was really young and dont remember a whole lot. I lost my mom when I was 21 and my dad eventually remarried. I think of myself as someone who is forward thinking and for me to even openly tell someone that my dad remarried took a few years. So I understand that mom character's emotions.

It is really funny how we view movies completeley from a different POV. I have often wondered about your praises for Rhythm. I dont rememeber anything about that movie but the sole reason my friends and I hated that movie was because Meena was married but conviniently her marriage was never consummated and therefore according to our Tamil Kalacharam could remarry. At that point in time from a female POV, anything else that movie might had to offer did not appeal to us except for the songs of course.

newmomontheblock said...
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Rahini David said...

Newmomontheblock: fellow mmkr thillu mullu fan here. I agree a lot about rhythm. I view it as an average movie with the virginity clause compromise and a romance about two mature people.

I keep telling people that there should be more stories about second chances and widow and widower remarriage. But rhythm felt too tame. Too vanilla. Even a mid 30s romance will have konjam passion, no?

Keladi Kanmani nailed it, Imo.

Zola said...

Nice thread guys ! Keep going. Not being of the feminine persuasion and being a closet MCP dont think I can add anything here. Personal Disclosure : Despite being a closet MCP I'm a fan of Indra Nooyi.

Ram Murali : I think high time you wrote a book on Rhythm and Vasanth. For the edification and instruction of the vast bourgeois

Ram Murali said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ram Murali said...

Newmomontheblock, Rahini and Ravishanker - really, really appreciate your thoughts n perspectives. Over the years interacting with people who have differing takes on the same movie (Rhythm in this case) I feel that movies 'speak' to people very differently. So, what truly elevated Rhythm for me was Arjun's interactions with his parents. I watched the movie first as a 19-yr old. Those were the portions that made a deep, deep impression on me. And it stayed that way. It has even made me want to be a son like Arjun is, as dramatic as it may sound :)
If I had watched it for the first time say this year as a 35-yr old, I wonder if I would have 'seen' it differently...:)
But yes, I do see how you could have a different take and I respect that.

Ravishanker - book thane...ezhudhiduvom :) with your illustrations :)

Ram Murali said...

Newmomontheblock - thank you, also, for sharing the vantage point from which you view Mahanadhi. It is wonderful to see that you could understand the mother character's emotions based on your own life experiences. I think that's the reason why I absolutely love realistic cinema - it's such a joy to see something on screen shape up our perceptions and/or our personal life influence the way we watch something on screen.

Anusha said...

I wrote a long comment here but I'm not sure if it was posted. I didn't have proper signal at my office. :-D
Nice collection of videos.
I watched Rhythm for the first time when I was in school. Back then, what I wanted more than anything was for Meena's and Arjun's characters to get together. I was quite worried that the boy wouldn't have Karthik Sir as his father. Watching it later, even now, I feel annoyed by how tame the romance is. Does she not have any feelings of lust? Is this because she's a widow and a single mother? Is she not supposed to have such feelings? Does she deserve this shot at happiness only because she's still a virgin? As I type this, I'm reminded of Kaadhal, in which the director made it a point to show us that she was menstruating during the eloping. Is this his way of letting us know they weren't intimate? The reasons were different there of course, he might have wanted to avoid inciting caste violence. Sorry to go off on a tangent. Anyway, I'm not dissing Rhythm, I'm bothered by it because I actually do like the movie.

Anusha said...

Just read your comment and realised that I've used the word word 'tame' as well. :)

Ram Murali said...

Anusha - thank you for your comment.

Regarding the Meena character, I think that her character was established early on as a slightly distant (she even says, "Yaar kitteyum anaavasyama pesardhu, pazhagardhu enaku pidikadhu") so that made the gradual softening of her attitude towards Arjun and the subsequent interest in remarriage all part of a nice character arc. So, the "tame" nature of the interactions the way you and Rahini describe it, didn't bother me. Having said that, the whole 'virginity' issue has been the biggest criticism from several people that I've known, including ardent fans of the movie.

Regarding Kaadhal, I do remember the menstrual period detail that you mention. But I also thought that there was a pretty sensuous song shot on Bharath and Sandhya later. So, I don't remember Balaji Sakthivel (the director) being extra careful about the physical aspect of their relationship. Then again, my recollection of Kaadhal is hazy. (Not like Rhythm, where I even have the bgm of every scene by heart!)

Also, I don't think any other comment of yours was posted. (Sorry, that your long comment was lost due to signal issues.)

newmomontheblock said...

Yeah I dont remember the romance portion from the movie Rhythm at all. Whereas, there are several scenes from Keladi Kanmani that are still etched in my memory.

The main issue with Rhythm when we watched this movie as 19/20 yr olds was the unfairness between Arjun/Meena character. I remember us dissing the movie saying something like Arjun gets to do Jhalsa with Jyothika and then marry Meena. I had to literally read the wiki page for this movie after this post to know that Ramesh Aravind played Meena's husband character in this movie. I dont remember any of his scenes at all. Maybe if I watch this movie now, I might feel different. At that time, already pretty irriated at gender inequality (all the female med students being called as nurse by patients when all the male medical/paramedical students being called as doctors) didnt think of this movie as something special.

As to why there arent more mature love stories or stories about remarriage, maybe our directors are getting inspiration from the society. There are dime a dozen teensy real life love stories, but how many remarriage stories are we aware of?

Even if there are remarriage stories around us, how many of us are willing to talk about them. The loss of my mom and my dad's remarriage was something very painful for me to talk about for a long time and is even now.

And to add to all of this, there is box office to consider.A recent mature love story that comes to my mind is Un Samayal Araiyil, though I didnt have the patience to watch the entire movie.

Ram Murali said...

newmomontheblock - I can see how you have viewed Rhythm differently. It's amazing how our own life experiences shape up our movie going experiences and what we pick up from the movies.

On a tangential note, two movies where I had completely different experiences when I revisited them were Azhagi and Kannathil Muthamittal...I didn't rate them highly when I watched them first in 2002. But when I watched them again 10 years or so later, I just felt like I had watched completely different movies. The Devyani character in the former - that seemed like a shrill character in my first viewing- looked so much more human now. And, in Kannathil..., the emotions that Simran undergoes while in Sri Lanka (esp. the lovely phone call scene with her biological kids who are back in India) seemed so deeply affecting. I wonder if our initial impressions stay or change for some movies, over time.

"There are dime a dozen teensy real life love stories, but how many remarriage stories are we aware of?" -- interestingly, the related movies that I can recollect, ALL of them had the heroine as a virgin when marrying the remarrying hero - Sigaram, Keladi Kanmani (For Radha in Sigaram and for Radhika in KK, it's not a remarriage; they remains a spinster till they see SPB, a widower, again), Rhythm, Ennavale (Maddy - Sneha), Ponnu Veetukaaran (Satyaraj starrer where Preetha is a young widow who's a virgin)...hmmm...what can I say! It's clearly a trend in thamizh cinema. I guess the other end of the spectrum, you have two GVM movies - Yennai Arindhaal... and Vettaiyaadu Vilayadu where both heroines had a girl, maybe there are trend breaks too! Nearly 30 years ago, Visu made a movie called Sakalakala Sammandhi where Saranya plays a young widow. At least, she was shown as being married for two months. The husband was certainly not killed off the day of the wedding :)

"Even if there are remarriage stories around us, how many of us are willing to talk about them. The loss of my mom and my dad's remarriage was something very painful for me to talk about for a long time and is even now."

--> I respect and salute the fact that you have shared such a deep, personal thing in this blog. Thank you. I have not been witness to a remarriage in my family but I have had to deal with a loss - of my grandpa - that made a tremendous impact on my life. I have written about it. If time permits, please take a look:

"A recent mature love story that comes to my mind is Un Samayal Araiyil, though I didnt have the patience to watch the entire movie."
--> I watched the movie. Really amateurish. But I think Sneha is a fantastic performer. She was very natural in the movie.

Rahini David said...

The absence of real life romances of second chances is not a huge factor in why Tamil movies are full of virgin widows.

Right from Gemini Ganasan times, there have been movies about widower remarriage and the directors did not think of convoluted explanation why the hero is a virgin in spite of having children.


Ram Murali said...

"Right from Gemini Ganasan times, there have been movies about widower remarriage"

--> I don't know if you were referring to Velli Vizha. I watched this a while ago. May have been a good movie at the time but just hasn't aged well. Sambar bayangara HAMbar in that movie! (Three movies I really liked Gemini in were Punnagai, Unaal Mudiyum Thambi & of course, Avvai!)

Rahini David said...

Velli Vizha and Karpagam and Ramu amoung others

Zola said...

Ram Murali "Sambar bayangara HAMbar" tooo good !

Ram Murali said...

Ha ha, thanks Ravishanker! May his soul rest in peace!!