Successful re-make movies inevitably raise the question – is the re-make better than the original? The recent success of Kamal Haasan’s Papanasam raises the same debate vis-à-vis the original Drishyam starring Mohan Lal. Kuruthipunal didn’t face that debate – Govind Nihalani who directed the original hindi movie Droh Kaal accepted that the re-make was better than the original.
Kamal donned multiple hats as usual – actor, producer, screenplay and dialogue writer. The life of our specialist commandos who take on the real threat of terrorists is depicted with realism sans false bravado and bombast. And the pressure and ‘breaking point’ is all a psychological game, beating the physical aspects of their jobs including pain and torture.
Aadhi Narayanan (Kamal) is a tough cop and a skilled interrogator who excels at playing mind games and getting the better of hardened terrorists. He forms a great team with Abbas (Arjun) as they take on the tough task to ensuring peace and destroying terrorist gangs. The action is real and naturalistic, the terrorist threat is potent as the opponents are organized and brutal in their methods.
Released in 1988, for a change it is a remake of a Hindi movie in Tamil – Arjun starring Sunny Deol was released earlier in 1985. The talented Amala plays the role of a Malayali girl who romances the hero – an angry middle class youth who is frustrated about being jobless. Lata Mangeshkar has lent her voice to couple of songs in the movie – Valaiosai, the duet with SPB, remains a popular evergreen number till date.
It has the makings of a commercial thriller – the story of the underdog taking on the System, some lovely songs, a beautiful heroine, plentiful of family sentiment and the typical angst of the jobless youth who are frustrated about not finding their space and role in society. It is a popular movie for delivering the right tonality to the subject and the approach was refreshingly new at the time when the movie was released.
It is a period film dealing with the important events around the time when we gained independence narrating the events set in motion by the ‘Direct Action Day’ (a.ka. Great Calcutta Killings) on 16 Aug 1946 and climaxes with the assassination of the Mahatma on 30 Jan 1948.
It is a fictionalized account and Kamal is quoted as saying that it does not attempt to repair the damages caused, but only remind us that it can happen again. It is possibly one of Kamal’s personal favourites as he dons the hat of actor, writer, director and producer of the movie.
It was a bilingual movie simultaneously released in Tamil and Hindi worldwide in Feb 2000, but it did not quite fare well on the Box Office. With a run time of 3 hours 20 minutes possibly such a serious subject couldn’t hold the attention span of the average audience. Over a period of time, it seems to be acquiring a new audience and is likely to be included among the select few movies that depict Kamal’s oeuvre.
Kamal Haasan and Singeetam Srinivasa Rao tasted success through their ventures – Raja Paarvai, Pushpaka Vimana (a.ka. Pesum Padam – a silent comedy starring Kamal and Amala) and Apoorva Sagodharargal (Kamal in dual role with dwarf Appu stealing our hearts). And then they delivered a popular blockbuster in Michael Madana Kama Rajan.
We are reminded in shades of Manmohan Desai and his crazy plots like Amar, Akbar Anthony, since story is pure nonsense (the most outrageous premise is a car falling over the cliff, the father landing miraculously unhurt in a hut below and getting reunited with his wife after over two decades) and the plot as pedestrian as possible. But it is still a laugh riot and Crazy Mohan gives us some cute lines to savor.
Singeetam Srinivasa Rao play a cameo of travelling singer with a bioscope – he conveys the bare outlines of the plot in the opening song, ‘ Kadha Kelu Kadha Kelu …’. So we have a rich man who loves a poor lady and their life is ruined by the rich man’s younger brother who eyes the fortune for himself and his son. Quadruplets are born but stolen by a thuggish Santhana Bharathi who disposes them in a unique manner.
One he raises to be his own criminal son, Michael. The others have the following destinies – one is abandoned at the Temple and is raised to be cook by Delhi Ganesh (Kama a.ka. Kameshwaran), one is left at the orphanage and grows up to be a Fireman (Rajan a.ka. Raju) and the ultimate miracle is the final one who is unknowingly found in the car by the biological father himself and goes to study Management in London (Madana).
Maro gaam katha pare
Ja dudh ki nadiya waahe
Ja Koyal ku ku gaaye
Mare ghar angana na bhulo na
Hey mare ghar angana na bhulo na
The song captured the mood of the movie and indeed won Preeti Sagar, the singer better known for ‘My heart is beating ..’ in the movie Julie, a Filmfare Award as well. Amul eventually adapted it for a television commercial using footage of the movie focussing on Smita Patil. Indeed an appropriate tribute as the original song was literally a title track showcasing the railway track of a small town in Gujarat and didn’t feature her.
The production of the movie is a story in itself – Dr. Kurien’s journey on his road to becoming the ‘Milkman of India’ started in the early 50s in Anand, a small town in Gujarat. The milk co-operative movement gathered enough steam to be replicated in all districts of Gujarat and eventually created structures like Amul and the Gujarat Co-operative Milk Marketing Federation Ltd.(GCMMF) in 1973. The 500000 farmers who were associated with GCMMF contributed Rs. 2 /- each to fund the movie.
Amul has instant recall in our minds – images of the cute Amul moppet girl, their priceless topical ads, Amul butter, Amul milk, Taste of India, all come instantly to our notice. We don’t quite realize the story within which would have images of – Dr. Verghese Kurien, White Revolution, Operation Flood, NDDB, GCMMF, milk co-operative movement, milk movie Manthan, etc.
The book (I too had a dream) is less of an autobiography – fleeting personal details are mentioned – but it is a great narrative of India’s milk revolution. From a country struggling with milk production and per capita consumption, a great journey has been covered wherein we are now the second largest milk producers in the world and have significantly improved on consumption per capita as well.
Dr. Kurien has set the narrative but it has been scribed by Ms. Gouri Salvi. It provides great insight into India’s journey from by a milk deficient country to becoming a leading milk producer. The book spans Dr. Kurien’s journey from 1950 to 2005. It is dramatic enough – a reluctant Kurien ended up being posted to Anand in Gujarat by the Government of India, who had sponsored his higher education in Michigan in the field of ‘Dairy Engineering’, and spend the initial months trying to resign from his job and move to greener pastures like Bombay.
It is as good a time as any to compile my review list. Papanasam, his latest movie, is a great success and just completed a 50 day run. It sounds unusual in today’s world where a movie does maximum business in the first 3 days and often tapers off within 2 weeks of release, but the run is a tribute to the popularity of the movie that saw the return of Kamal the actor.We look forward for more such performances from him.
He too has gone about scripting his legacy – we saw glimpses of his life faithfully reproduced with an artiste’s integrity in ‘Uttama Villain’. It was like having a special rendezvous where the actor’s mask was being peeled off to show the real person – naked and vulnerable as any human being.
Without much ado, appended is the list of reviews that I have written so far based on his movies. Undoubtedly the stock would grow as he keeps coming up with stellar performances and I as continue to delve in the rich repertoire that he has collected over the past 6 decades in Indian cinema.