Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Tamil (Film) Matrimony: A light read on wedding scenes in Tamil Cinema

Courtrooms.  Train Stations.  Wedding Halls.  These three are arguably the oft-visited locations for climactic sequences in Tamil movies since its inception.  I suppose that in their own way, they give writers and directors a setting to heighten the dramatic tension.  A while ago, I had written about the different ways in which trains had been utilized in the movies.  It’s time to show wedding sequences the same love.  As I began to reflect on wedding scenes in Tamil movies, I realized that they spanned the gamut from sublime to hilarious to downright ridiculous.  Hop on.  Let’s take a fun ride to a wild variety of settings – caves, churches, temples and more!

The hilarious:

Sundar C has had a checkered career, headlined by some undisputed comedy classics like Ullathai Allitha but also marred by clunkers like Action and Ambala.  Janakiraman is a rather hilarious but sadly forgotten comedy film of his.  The wedding sequence is an extremely well-choreographed farce, with some rib-tickling lines, my favorite being Manivannan’s exasperated comments to the priest.

The ridiculous:

If you were an ardent Tamil movie fan, you would have seen this coming.  Chinna Thambi would sing in a dulcet voice for every occasion from a baby’s birth to an oil bath. (I am being factual, not facetious.  The situation for the “Uchanthala” song was three muscular men taking an oil bath!)  Yet the guy ties the sacred thread around the heroine’s neck but doesn’t realize that he is marrying her.  If you find this sequence unintentionally funny, for a real skewering, you must check out S Ve Sekar’s spoof, Periathambi.)

The dramatic:

From Vidinja Kalyanam to Thaali Pudhusu, there are films that extend the wedding connection right up to the title.  Scores of films over the decades have utilized the wedding hall setting for dramatic impact.  The dialogue-less climax of AvaL oru Thodarkathai is a masterful piece of direction by K Balachander.  But to me the ‘dramatic’ wedding scene that I find to be the best staged and the most touching is the one directed by his disciple Suresh Krissna, in Aahaa.  The wedding takes place in a house, not a wedding hall.  Every character, big or small, gets an opportunity to shine.  Sometimes, true, enduring beauty lies in minutiae.  Among all the beautifully written vignettes, the Thatha’s inquiry to the hero is a luminous gem of a moment that is as unexpected as it is poignant. 

The coolest:

Strains of Mangalyam Thandhuna… has accompanied many a wedding but when it’s set to tune by AR Rahman, directed by Mani Ratnam and captured by PC Sreeram, it is hard to find something cooler.  A surreptitious wedding has never made one grin harder than the one in Alaipayuthey. 

The romantic:

When the wedding guest Kamal Hassan hollers, “NANCY!” at a church in the middle of Nancy's wedding, you know that her bridegroom doesn’t stand a chance.  He didn’t!  Of course, the girl eloped in full view of her family and the guests! 

I know that this scene is a straight lift from The Graduate.   Nevertheless, the charming screen presence of Kamal Haasan, ably supported by LV Prasad and Y Gee Mahendra, makes this a truly special finish to a delightfully sweet romance.  Raja Paarvai didn’t get the love that it deserved at the time of its release.  But 39 years later, the film has aged as gracefully as its lead actor.

The registrar office:

I think people that get married at the registrar office owe a debt of gratitude to Tamil Cinema for showcasing it, normalizing it, even romanticizing it!  There are far too many registrar office sequences like the ones in Aboorva Sahodarargal, Aasai, Vaali and Kaadhal that have carried incredible emotional and dramatic heft.  But to my knowledge, the first ever Tamil movie scene at a registrar office was in Nenjathai Killathey.  Suhasini plays the reluctant bride-to-be.   Her brother Sarat Babu is accompanied not only by his wife but also a woman with whom he shares a platonic but misunderstood relationship.  Ashok Kumar’s framing is exquisite – the grilled window separating Sarat and the lady symbolizes an almost invisible barrier separating them.

The sublime:

Didn’t I mention a wedding in a cave?  As surreal as it may sound, it is one of the most magnificent emotional highs that I have experienced in a Kamal Haasan film.  Everything about the scene coheres.  Right from Balakumaran’s poetic explanation of “pournami” (“Manasu neranja naaL”) to Roshini’s response to Kamal’s inquiry about the rituals, everything fits into what is a perfect culmination of Guna’s inchoate yet taintless love for his ‘Abirami.’  It would have been a shame had their union been showcased in any conventional manner.  Because it is not a “manidha kaadhal” after all.

And that’s it for the year, folks.  Happy New Year!


Viveka Parasuram said...

Wow what a nice read about weddings in Tamil cinemas! My fav Ofcourse is Alaipayuthey. It was so cool and every college kid just loved how well they married and lived in their respective houses until they got caught. Some other movies that I can recollect are Nadula konjam pakkkatha Kanu, Vaali register office scene, Jeans reception climax, Padaiyappa etc.

Ram Murali said...

Viveka, thank you for your comment. Yes, I wish I had written about NKPK. A superb comedy with some genuinely emotional moments that worked very well.
I also liked the contrasting wedding scenes in Iruvar, one ritualistic, the other rational, 'seerthirutham' style

mounikaj said...

Tamil cinemas are amazing. Thanks for sharing these cult matrimony classics.