Kamal – K Vishwanath’s Salangai Oli

Kamal’s collaboration with K Balachander is well-known. But he shared a good relationship with K Vishwanath as well and ‘Salangai Oli’ (a.k.a Sagara Sangamam in Telugu) was their first attempt that met with critical and commercial success. Swathi Muthyam was an equally appealing and popular follow-up act.

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Kamal and Jaya Prada in Salanagai Oli                                                                                                                       Image Courtesy – Saavn.com

Kamal as a Bharatanatyam dancer and Jaya Prada as his ardent admirer with popular dance numbers is surely exciting. But the overall tale was one of an alcoholic dancer who missed fame and family in life. He finally gets a chance to redeem himself by passing on his craft to a talented protegé.

Balakrishna (Kamal) is a talented dancer who knows multiple forms of classical dance but he hails from an economically weak family who is doted upon by his mother and uncle (Sakshi Ranga Rao). There is an entertaining song number set in the wedding hall backstage where Kamal regales his family who are in the process of preparing the wedding meals (sappad). Madhavi (Jaya Prada) surreptitiously takes snaps to capture the special moments. He forgets his frustration with the film directors who have scant regard for the classical nature of the art form and are more interested in exploiting it for commercial purposes.

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Kamal Haasan’s ‘Anbe Sivam’

It is a classic Kamal style movie and he has written it to amply promote his views on competing ideologies of capitalism v/s communism, religious frenzy v/s atheism, and overarching theme of a humanist attitude towards people and life.

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Kamal Haasan in Anbe Sivam (Love is God)                                                                                                    Image Courtesy – Online FM Radio

It was possibly ahead of its time and though peppered with the routine cinema tropes of comedy, song n dance, romance and even action the message hung rather heavy in the air. A mindless commercial caper that released simultaneously stole its thunder and the movie never quite made it. Kamal may have known its possible fate for he takes potshots in the film itself by suggesting to the heroine that they should watch an arty movie in the Theatre – there will be sparse audience and it will permit them a few hours of private space. Continue reading “Kamal Haasan’s ‘Anbe Sivam’”

Kamal Haasan’s ‘Papanasam’

Papanasam a.ka. Drishyam wouldn’t have been possible if Suyambu Lingam had a mobile phone. Think about it – a successful cable operator whose business is all about contacts, an owner of a 5 acre farm with own house and Jeep doesn’t have a mobile. But the nitty-gritty is important in the plot – and these have been well addressed in the movie. You appreciate and enjoy them better when you watch the movie again – the nuances really strike home then.

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Papanasam – the family gets a reality check                                                                                                         Image Courtesy – Yadtek

Papanasam promotion trailer piece had been out for a while and of course the movie has just got released, so it has been a popular one.(1.5 million hits as on 3 July). The poster shows Kamal with the family (wife and 2 cute daughters) riding what looks like TVS 50 to me.

It is sheer nostalgia – Kamal has the rustic look of a rural side prosperous farmer from his Mahanadi days. He is paired with Gautami, again evoking memories of Apoorva Sagodharargal, Thevar Magan and Kuruthipunal. We seem to be in for a treat as usual – the Malayalam version, Drishyam, featuring Mohanlal was a blockbuster.

(Have updated the original piece with new comments on 3 July 2015 post the release and initial reception of the movie. It’s exciting but I am still to watch the movie though.)

Kamal’s penchant for perfection is well-known. So what have we in ‘Papanasam’ is not just a change in name. It extends beyond as a concept – the roots of Papanasam in Tirunelveli are traced to the point that we have Kamal sport the Nellai Tamil dialect as well. The exact allegory of the title to the tale is not very visible – am sure we will find it in the final version though.

Kamal explained this in an interview – it wasn’t done just to avoid using the name Drishyam again, it popped up as a choice that felt right for the story and of course Papanasam stands for a place where one can wash off our sins. The ‘Nellai’ accent bit came like an icing on the Cake.

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Thangar Bachan’s ‘Solla Marandha Kadhai’

‘Solla Marandha Kadhai (A story that was forgotten to be narrated) is such a quaint and apt title. It is offbeat and the hero is unconventional as well – director Cheran facing the camera instead of helming the project.

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Cheran and Rathi in Thangarbachan’s ‘Solla Marandha Kadhai’                                           Image Courtesy – directorcheran.com

It does have a feel to it – imagine a raconteur catches you on a lazy evening and decides to tell you the story of a poor but educated man. He got to marry a rich man’s daughter – Cinderella story in reverse. And the story begins from there, did they really live a happily married life or not is the moot question that needs an answer.

There is not much by way of suspense. Sivadhanu (Cheran) belongs to a poor family and he struggles to support his family. He is well-educated but does not find a suitable job. He is spotted by the wily rich businessman played by Pyramid Natarajan. He spots the potential in the young man and decides to get his acquiescent daughter married to him. He plans to have him as a ‘live-in’ son-in-law who will be groomed to take over his business.

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Love and longing for Uttama Villain

Personal priorities have created a situation whereby I am not able to watch the movie that released recently – Kamal is my all time favourite actor and the rave reviews have whetted my appetite for the show.

Have planned to watch it soon, till then it is a bit of love and longing as I just have to bide my time. The wait makes one a bit impatient but am sure the it will meet a sweet end.

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Kamal’s Theyyam Performance                                                                                                                     Image Courtesy – chitramala.in

Enough and more reviews have dusted the plot and story to death. It is trademark Kamal movie and the focus remains sharply on him. It is a workable combination of setting an art movie while keeping the commercial aesthetics in mind. To many the ‘story-in-the-story’ is not as pleasing and they wonder why there is a need for it. To my mind it all about enriching the plot by allowing a counter plot to appear – so imagine a dying Manoranjan (celebrated film star of present day) being contrasted by Uttaman (who is nicknamed Mritunjay – one who successfully evades death).

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Kamal Haasan’s Twin Comedies – Pammal K Sambandam & Panchathantiram

The year was 2002 and Kamal in collaboration with Crazy Mohan, a long time associate as story / dialogue writer, came up with 2 mindless comic capers – Pammal K Sambandam (PKS) and Panchathantiram (PT a.ka. 5 Ruses).

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Kamal and Simran Pammal K Sambandam                  Image Courtesy – thiraipadam.com
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Panchathanthiram – Kamal and his gang of friends                               Image Courtesy – tamiltube.com

I remember watching them at Albert theatre in Chennai and enjoying it as a fun riot. It is interesting to examine their contours now as there was indeed a method to the madness and both turned out to be good money spinners.

PKS was a comedy caper featuring Kamal and Simran as the lead paid. They share a mutual abhorrence for the opposite sex and an aversion to being married. Well they fall for each other in the end and do get married. Till that happens it is all madness and mayhem as each tries to outsmart the other using Abbas and Sneha as their proxies.

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Bharathan’s ‘Devaraagam’

From the man who gave us the classic ‘Thevar Magan’ starring Kamal Haasan and Sivaji Ganesan, we have yet another gem featuring Sridevi and Arvind Swamy. The movie was originally made in Malayalam and then dubbed in Tamil.

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The movie tanked on the box office and possibly it is still what one would call, ‘ahead of our times’. I have not heard of it emerge as a cult classic yet but then future is not ours to foresee. It is difficult to be a popular choice since it takes on orthodoxy and prevalent social norms head on. It is a bigger debate between the individual v/s the collective. And the climax sure pulls no punches.

Love as the forbidden fruit is not new in films right – particularly there does not seem to be much at clash when Lakshmi (Sridevi) falls for a young priest-in-making, Vishnu (Arvind Swamy). Of course the scene is rural countryside and definitely the Elders would be opposed to any such match. The brahminical world can be quite insular at times.And yet it unfolds quite playfully – Lakshmi’s charms her beau with a bagful of tricks. Lovely songs, comic interludes and acquiescing lovers, the first half seems to be meant for light entertainment. Continue reading “Bharathan’s ‘Devaraagam’”

Tamil Gana Songs

After a long time I was listening to Tamil songs on my mobile and suddenly it was playing a Tamil Gana Song. It was Ulaganathan’s all time hit, ‘Vaazha Meenukkum Vilangu Meenukkum Kalyanam’     (The scabbard fish and eel are getting married). Nonsensical as the lyrics may sound, it is very rhythmical and has a catchy tune. In fact the song contributed significantly to the movie’s success and Ulaganathan’s rise as a Gana singer.

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Ulaganathan – Malavika Chithiram Pesuthadi  Image Courtesy – http://www.behindwoods.com

Gana songs in Tamil movies possibly function similar to Item songs in Bollywood – they can make fortunes on musical rights, they are not really related to the story and often feature specialist Guest stars and they add hep & energy to the scene. They are fast paced, often the lyrics just make no sense, they are sung at a higher pitch and often include a rapid crescendo.

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Rajni’s ‘Engeyo Ketta Kural’

S P Muthuraman’s movie did not quite set the box office on fire but it was a fairly sober movie in its time. Rajni steals the show with his mellowed persona while Ambika and Radha competently execute their parts.

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Rajini, Ambika and Radha in Engeyo Ketta Kural                                     Image Courtesy – You Tube

The story needs to be seen from the prism of a patriarchal and provincial society – man’s social compact ensures a vise like grip on ordinary folks who pay a stiff price if they set about to violate the prevalent social mores in their milieu.

The tale is a simple one in many ways. Set in the rural belt the story revolves around the young Rajni who is a model farmer and a key marriage prospect for two cousins played by Ambika and Radha. Ambika is the elder sister who works in the Landlord’s mansion and wants to escape the rural scene. She is shown to be interested in books and city life with little interest or talent in managing household chores. In contrast Radha is personified as the ‘ideal girl next door’ who will make a great match for an aspiring farmer.

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Thangar Bachan’s Pallikoodam

Cheran gave us a memorable Autograph for the memories of our teenage and college days – Thangar Bachan takes it a step forward so that we can reminisce about our school days as well.

Schooling has changed a lot nowadays in urban India but many of us have memories of schools that were never meant to be ‘state-of-art’ – the experience was pleasant and memorable all the more I guess. Of course it remains the same for most schools in the countryside.

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Sneha & Narain in ‘Pallikoodam’                                      Image Courtesy – ysongs.com

We have seen this before in so many movies. The first segment in the movie ‘Autograph’ is based on a love story at the village school. Azhagi and Azhiyatha Kolangal too explore many parts of a similar story. Themes of patriarchy, feudalism, provincialism and rustic mores abound in plentiful. Many lives are blighted though education does seem to be a tool of emancipation. Continue reading “Thangar Bachan’s Pallikoodam”