Directed by : Neil Burger
Similarly there lived a person in 1900 in Vienna named Eisenheim, the illutionist.
World cinema need not necessarily be an Iranian, Spanish, Chinese or a Japanese movie. We do have the best in Tamil. For any art, it is more essential to note the time it is shared to public. If Jayakanthan had written the story 'Agnipravesam' in 2009, it wouldn’t have created the same shock waves as it did in 1965 [ A modern viewer may write about i-pill to Anandha vikatan ]. Mullum Malarum had came and broke all the rules that Tamil cinema had till that time. It was the time where in most of the new directors were experimenting..Bharathiraja wtih Kizhakke pogum rayil and Sigappu rojakkal, Rudrayya with Aval appadi thaan, KB with Nizhal nijamagiradhu. Rajini was a budding hero with Bairavi, Shankar Saleem simon kind of films. It was a transition stage for tamil cinema. [அந்த மாற்றத்துல தண்ணி ஊத்தின படங்களும் வந்தது..]
MM starts with Ilayaraja' artistic standard BGM [ Dolak ] and a beautiful number with his voice [ Maaniname - This song too has the Ganjiraa]. Those were days when none of the technician or artists had adjectives before their names - it's nice to see such a great team with a simple title cards. The very first scene depicts the relation between Kali and Valli. The beauty is that the characters at young age don't speak a single word. It's shown in just few scenes [தங்கச்சி..பசிக்குதாம்மா kind of dialogues were avoided - just 'looks' .. Have you ever called your sister as Thangachi :) ]. They grow up without any transition shots like spinning wheels or running legs or any object in motion. Young Kali breaks the headlight of an ambassador car [ Title card starts here ] - That's Mahendran actually breaking the Tamil cinema cliches.
Kali : He is introduced with his characterization. I observed his natural way of speaking Tamil with including Kannada dialects [ரீய் .. வங்களையெல்லாம்.. .., வள்ளிக்கு மாப்பிளை கேட்டேன்.. கணோ. Kano is used in Kannada - Naavu yaavudhu bidalla :) ]. Once the psychological reason for liking Rajini was said that his common man looks and complexion. Without make-up and seeing him in his kaakhi uniform, anyone can easily say that he is a winch mechanic. His furiousness is well depicted in the fight with the clerk - one of the best fight scenes; watch Kali's body language. The first 30 mins take up time to establish the characters. As the story flows, his character gets built up very strongly as you slowly get into Kali's variants of emotions. His anger, sarcasm, affection, temper, inability and what not. I like the famous scene where he meets the Engineer about losing his job. Character biography and the actir Rajinikanth were used at their best.
ரண்டு கையும் ரண்டு காலும் இல்லன்னா கூட காளிங்கறவன் பொழச்சிக்கிவான் ஸார்.. கெட்ட்ட பய்யன் ஸார் அவன்..
Valli [ Shoba] : The native face, expressions, innocence, hearty laugh and the character was so pleasing. She cries in case of any issues - this has been used in all the important scenes including the climax. She doesn't know or have much to talk. She is so poetic and got more shots [ may be because BaluMahendra handled the camera :) ]. The way Mangaa [ Jayalakshmi ] and her mother gets in to the life of Kali and Valli was handled very fluidly. The Engineer has the soft characterization and tough when it comes to work. Every character gets their dialogues in ration and that helps to understand them better. Valli was innocently beautiful [ Check "adi penne" song ] and Mangaa was gorgeous [ watch வைக்கற எடமா அது ;) ]
The other important factor is IR.. It starts with Maaniname - this is the other song where Ganjira is used apart from Nithtam nitham. For any new director, the role IR played was prolific. I never saw the effective usage of Dolak in any other film - that too it's used in climax. The other observation is that he used a lot of Santoor music. He uses a bit music even for moving the winch. IR's effect is also used with silence too.
Above all, it's a director's movie. He decides what to come and what not to. The neat depiction of even smaller characters make the story interesting [ including ve.a.murthy, samikannu etc ]. The fight sequence which shows the anger of Kali was the best I have seen with persons rolling in the road. The body language used by Kali was amazing with folding the lungi, buttoning the shirt back.. excellent. Every scene show in the first half gets repeated with the same tempo [ Kali doesn't regret for it - the clerk insulting him, uriyadi game, his work etc., ]. The clash between Kali and Engr is well depicted; they are differentiated right from their skin tone, body language, voice, manners, dress, rich vs poor Kali's house doesn't even have electricity - they both are good but entirely different in expressing the same. The beauty is every minute detail is explained in the visuals mostly and more in sharp dialogues. The good example is explained here by Sudesamithran http://www.uyirmmai.com/Uyirosai/ContentDetails.aspx?cid=915
Balu Mahendra has worked as cinemtogrpaher.. with 35 mm limitation, he has worked out the best, it seems. The good thing for that period is that they used minimum make-up [ Check the powder coated face of Radhika in Kizhake pogum rayil - Saamee ]. Though there were 2 pairs, not even a single duet was formed forcibly - what a relief ! Good that they didn't even use the usual Tamil cinema word kadhal [ except when Kali asks the Engr with doubt .. இந்த காதல் அது இதுன்னி சொல்லி வருமே.. அது....எதாவது.. ? ] - Even the engineer proposes to Valli for marriage very decently - one of the best proposals on screen !
IR played his usual role in BGM and songs. Senthazham poovil, maaniname and Adi penne are the good numbers [ others are inserted ]. I don’t see the connection of tribal people in Mahendran films [ Aasaiyai kaathula in Johny - it's similar to MM ]. He has BGMs for every character and sequence and the best of dolak comes out in the climax. The climax looks cinematic and the compromise looks sudden. I never liked the logic of Villain turning into good. At least, kali says still he didn't like Engr.
It ends with Kali asking
" இப்ப என்னங்கடா பண்ணப் போறீங்க.. புரிஞ்சிகிட்டீங்கல்ல..." [ எப்படி படம் எடுக்கறதுன்னு :) ]. Though it was not intended, I interpret that the film asked the tamil cinema world in that way.
Out of the mighty sports of Aminjikarai, I was fascinated much towards flying kites. Anything related to kite is a form of art and for every sport, there's a season. I remember, mostly the quarterly exam leaves in September was the period, when people choose to fly kites. In Aminjikarai, I stayed in one of the high rise apartments. From our terrace, I could see Chetpet railway bridge, Perumal temple, Pazhaniappa theatre's rear end etc., If I climb the water tank [ Sometimes, I didn't know how to get down :) ], I could spot out Anna nagar tower. Terrace is the actual place for this sport.
There were different kinds of kites - 25 paise ones are the cheap ones [ 1 sq ft size ] and has less life. Bombay kaathadis are medium budget ones with a triangular tail. The highest classic range is Baanaa kaathadi [ looks like trace paper - see the above photo ]. The sound it makes was so majestic, when the kite perces the air. Baana comes in different designs [ ஒத்தக் கண், ரெட்டைக் கண் [ the above photo has rettai kannu baana ] , நாமம், Star, crescent ]. The perfect thread for flying kites was "Maanja". There are different types of threads too [ busku nool [ பார்சல் கட்டுவாங்களே ! ], paai nool, twine nool, maanjaa nool ]. Maanjaa nool is the best form of thread for the expert level of flying kites, but a dangerous one. In Thirukurall, there's a saying about "நூலாருள் நூல்வல்லன்" - Maanjaa is that நூலாருள் நூல்வல்லன் [ காத்தாடிக்கு குறளா .. ஸாமி.. உன் ஹிம்சை :) ].
The sport doesn't end with just flying the kites. We were supposed to get into deal [ kite fight ] and cut off the opponent's kite [ that's the reason we use maanjaa ]. There's a separate gang which runs behind the kite flying off which got cut from the deal. There are kids who just run through the streets just following the kite which goes in 'off'. The folks jump any kind of terrace [ appave parkour :) ]. The most complicated part of preparing a kite was making the 'soosthiram' ; a triangular grip which holds the kite with right balance. [ illainaa side adikum ]. Only experts could do that job [ ணா ணா.. சூஸ்திரம் மட்டும் போட்டு குடுணா ]. Also, the novice fly the kites with tail and the experts don't. We the small kids were like camera assistants just holding the string, when the senior takes a break. [ இத்த புட்றா.. தோ வர்ரேன் ].
The preparation of Manjaa itself is a big process. They get colour powders, glues, eggs, crushed bottle powder [ mostly soda bottles ] and some chemicals. It goes for 2 or 3 days to coat the thread with maanjaa paste, dry it up and roll it. The shape of the thread bowl itself looks majestic and so big to carry. Somehow, I felt using the bobbin [ raatai ] for flying kite as not a native method.
We also had a local gym in our neighborhood where all the teenagers join and looking at the arms most of the times [ For them exercise means dumb bells ]. I had a senior friend named Venkitu. He worked in a local company in night shifts mostly and spends free time with me. I get friendship easily with a person who is hard to get friendship with [ Moody fellows mostly ]. We bought a "Banaa" kathaadi one fine day and started flying it high with manjaa nool. We didn't make Maanjaa but bought it from outside. The whole afternoon and evening we made several deals and cut the opponent kites easily. The practice is that the kite has to be brought down before the sunset so that one can safeguard it. Out of curiosity, we spent more time flying it and it was getting dark at that time. We were about to bring back the lucky kite [ rettain kann baana ]. Those were the days that any terrace was filled up with TV antennas. [ இங்க வைக்கறேன் ட்விஸ்ட்டை :( ]
Somehow, in the dark evening just before landing the kite, it went and stuck to the antenna. It was torn - I couldn't digest that sight; I could have accepted even it went off on a deal [ வீர மரணம் ] . After that we didn't fly kites that aggressively. That was my relation with Bana kathaadis, during my Chennai days.
- To be continued..
என் நெஞ்சை அள்ளுதே..
Can you buy the statement "Murder is the logical extension of business" ? Yes, it's the idea of the protagonist, Monsieur Verdoux. [ ஃப்ரென்ச் சென்ட் பேர் மாதிரி இல்லை ? ]
Verdoux is the name of the skilled hero and Monsieur is just the title to the name [ equal to Mr in English - pronounced "meu ssi eu" ]. I used to come across this word used by traffic police, when I ride in one way or stop beyond the stop-line in Pondicherry [ மிஸ்ஸெ.. எங்க போறீங்க ஒன்வேல ? ]. Why French title ? First reason is that Chaplin movies were banned in US for his political inclination towards communism. Second is that the story is about a real-life serial murderer in France [ named Desire Landru ] and the screenplay adaptation has also France as the place.
I don't remember seeing any of the talkies of Charlie Chaplin. The last film, I saw was Modern times. This film was introduced by SRamakrishnan, almost a year back. The interesting part of the film is that Chaplin is the script writer, protagonist,music composer and the director.
Verdoux is a common man who lives in France, with his wife and kid. He looses his bank job and finds a strange method of making money. He travels frequently across France in different names and lives different roles. His target is any rich widow woman and their unaccounted money. He manages to convince the different ladies of his life at different circumstances. There's a subplot when Verdoux experiments his newly formulated poison on a lonely girl, he finds in streets. Meanwhile, affected people start complaining about him and the detectives get into action. One detective finds our hero, almost. In fact, he arrests him. We expect Verdoux to react aggressively for the arrest. No ! He reacts in a different manner. After all, he is a cool murderer.
Good things don't prolong in life. While he tried to marry the nth rich lady in life, he gets trapped in a situation and escapes. Economy crashes during the world war and Verdoux looses his money and family from him. He meets someone on the road, whom he thought differently in the beginning. Police finds him and what happens is the end.
I found the root dialogue of '"கொலை குத்தம்னா.. யுத்தமும் குத்தம். Isn't it ?!" of Hey Ram. Check this dialogue in this Chaplin's film "One murder makes a villain; millions, a hero. Numbers sanctify, my good fellow!" - In fact it was taken from another 17th century reformer. Do you the root of kurudhipunal dialogue "Everyone has a breaking point " - It's from "12 Angry men". Not only films.. their dialogues also travel across the borders.
All his career, Chaplin did his regular tramp character, edited in fast sequence, type of movies. This movie is extremely unusual from all his earlier works. But he couldn't come out of his character fully in this movie - doing completely a serious role. Sometimes, verdoux's body language changes to Chaplin's tramp character. His characterization involves multiple roles - A calm family man, bank clerk, captain, business man, lover, philosopher, a clever investor and on top the common man who fights against the system to save his family.
Though he gets the money in an unethical manner, he behaves as a perfect family man at home. He never gets tensed. He instructs his kid to be kind with pets. A single sequence is used in this film to explain about his past job - he counts the stolen money at the speed of an automatic counting machine ! . I liked the sequence where he invites a poor girl to his home, for testing his newly formed poison. The sequence that follow was very interesting and the dialogues too.
The way he faces the detective was also an interesting part of the movie. Somehow, he takes the story to a comical one and ends the story with a good note. The boat sequences and the wedding party sequences are enjoyable one [ I laughed ! ]. Interestingly, the dialogue portion is too good as it involves about love, philosophy and economics. I am not sure whether this movie is remade in Tamil - but I recollect that a still of MRRadha [ in the cover of MRRadhayanam book ] resembles the way Chaplin posed for this movie. MRR is the only capable artist who could have done this in Tamil, swimmingly.
One fine dialog to end with.
Priest : May the Lord have mercy on your soul.
Henri Verdoux : Why not? After all, it belongs to Him.
Simple n good movie.