Monday, March 26, 2007

Dial T for Tamil Nadu, Part IV

I watched a number of Tamil movies. Looking for quality, I did not find much, so settled for fun. Tamil movies are of extremely low quality I should say. I am not talking about recent movies, but spanning the past 4 decades, I could not see how systematically poor screenplay, acting, and direction could have made success. Decade after decade of decadence.

I saw a very old Tamil movie called, "Maya Bazaar". It was a Telugu movie first, but I could appreciate how well the script was rewritten in Tamil. A fictional play, set in pre-kurushetra Mahabharata. The characters were not perfect, but they are shown to be what they are. Ranga Rao as Gadothgajan (Bhima's Son) is the most august figure I have ever seen on screen. The young Savithri in one scene acts like Gadothgajan, and wow, the transition was seamless, hilarious (as intended) nevertheless. You must have heard the "Kalyana Samayal Saadham" song. The only song where the laughter sets the rhythm. And the literary effort makes the movie on par with Kamba Ramayanam. Where is that kind of Tamil these days?

I will not pick on T. Rajendar's limericks like "Vaada en machi, vazhakkai bajji!", but something that people normally consider as the norm, like Vivek's humor. Somebody please inform T. Rajendar that there are many forms of Edhugai and MOnai. If you did not know, Vivek's is out of ideas and copies from equally lame Hindi movies. Even the bestest tamil writer's vocabulary is appalling. I think Bharthiyar is to blame. In order to sell his Swadheshamitran, he bribed the masses with a reduced day-to-day vocabulary in literature. Kannadasan was no good. His only advantage was being born in celluloid age.

In all this drought, I saw "Imsai Arasan, 23rd Pulikesi". The humor was new and refreshing. Excellent Tamil. I loved it. If you had missed the originality, probably you were not looking for quality. Again, a fictional South Indian sittrarasan's (King of a small kingdom) fight against the British.

There are reasons for cribbing. The language carries the burden of spreading the culture too. The Tamil diaspora, bringing back the goods of the international trades, infuses a sense of stupidity in the traditional values. Competence during bachelorhood is proven among the peers by having the most attractive boyfriend or girlfriend in college. This is blatant in the movie "Anbe Aaruiyire". In this movie Surya basically lives with a girl friend, a non-committed live-in relationship. His mention of Nixon's disgraced exit from the White house, is implying his knowledge in Western's history and thus a "learned" image.

This is not the case. In Tam land, we have something called "karpu", which the we folks pride ourselves. "Karpu" is not exactly virginity as most people believe. It is a feeling of faithfulness, of righteousness, of purity, of innocence. Karpu is self respect, to respect one own body and mind. It has no exact English translation. I am not a politician and so I do not need to be politically correct or even try to made the truth palatable. In Chennai, people do not live together before marriage. Yes, we do fall in love before we marry. A lot. But live-in relationships are not common. People might be interested in live-in relationships, but it is not the norm as this movie shows.

I am not judging the youngsters, but a knowledge of the Tamil literature, history and culture would not hurt either. Shaivite devotion is one of the most important part of Tamil literature. Stories from the 63 Nayanmars, given here. You don't have to be Hindu to appreciate the Shaivite devotion and Tamil literature.

To end this article, I would like to quote Vairamuthu in Aalavandhan. A short poem that was almost which gave me an unearthly vibe:
Pennai nambi pirakkum boedhe thoppull kodigal arupadumae
Mannai nambum maaperum maramum seerum puyalil verarumay
Unnai nambum uruppugal kooda orupozhudunnai kaividumae
Ithil pennai mattum nambum nambagam pina naal varayil kaivarumo?

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Blogger The Kid said...

This post is weird. You started with movies and then went on to preach about western lifestyle. Did you join RSS ? :)

I think there have been quite a few talented writers and literally worthy tamil movies since "Maya Bajar".

Living together is not too bad, if the people involved are comfortable.

Regarding Nayanmar tales, I would really love to read them. That was a good point. This generation lacks a lot of knowledge of the Bhakti Cult.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007 at 11:22:00 AM CDT  
Blogger rads said...

Maya Bazaar is a legend. It's probably one of those that can be appreciated among all ages and across all times!
I don't watch too many tamil movies, but I totally relate to the casualness of the language. I guess it's one of those times when "art imitates life"?

Regd living-ins - it seems to be the "hip and trendy" thing to do these days and I hear its more so back home than out here [usa].
As a matter of fact, I don't see it as a norm either...

Tuesday, March 27, 2007 at 5:59:00 PM CDT  
Blogger itchingtowrite said...

dont know abt the movies but there is a clear difference in the writing style and content of pratap & aarti.. though ..ahem.. both of u r cynically similar.. so r u the same people.. krishna & radha type???

Wednesday, March 28, 2007 at 1:30:00 AM CDT  
Blogger Deepa said...

I can't believe you said Pulikesi tamil was "excellent". I hope you were being sarky. None of the characters could pronounce "zha" or "La" and it was always "la".
Maya Bajaar was an epic movie. I was pleasantly surprised that the post was initally about that movie because I watched it 3 days ago.

Thursday, March 29, 2007 at 3:17:00 PM CDT  
Blogger Archana said...

Ah, the "kalyana samayal sadham" song used to be a super-favorite childhood song - I still laugh when I see the visuals :-)!

I totally agree - this "living together" concept is something which I am not able to quite digest - I found Salaam Namaste quite undigestible mainly for its concept! Maybe I should have been born some 50 years ago :-)!

Thursday, March 29, 2007 at 11:06:00 PM CDT  
Blogger Archana said...

In the past four decades you missed Maniratnam? And I am sure there are others too. Thenali was excellent humour. I believe Tamil cinema of the 80s were quite good. Again I wish I knew more to cite examples.

I haven't seen old Tamil movies. Since they are pure Tamil it is hard to understand. And I remember the comedy being slapstick. But you know Tamil better.

Monday, April 2, 2007 at 5:43:00 AM CDT  
Blogger The girl said...

Rads: I did not know it was becoming popular in India. Is this region specific? I am sure TamilNadu is different from Bombay/Delhi/Blore, but not sure in what way.

Itchy: Yea.. we have similar tastes... but now that you mention, Pratap is really enraged about the Krishna reference. You will see :)

Deepa: I completely agree. Many actors were not able to pronounce "zha". That was cruel, actually it was funny. But we cannot really pick on the actors if they really cannot pronounce it, right? The script itself was meritorious.

First Archana: I am glad we are in agreement.

Second Archana: Welcome to this blog. As you see, I am the co-author of this blog and Pratap is the other. Mani-ratnam is complex character. His work is very different, and that is why I had completely avoided the topic. His story, screenplay, and social relevance are unparalleled. But the language itself is not his forte. "Iruvar" of course is a literary masterpiece, because of the Mani Ratnam + Vaira Muthu combination. His Mouna Raagam, Geetanjali, Alaipayuthae all love stories, makes us wish our lives were a character in his movies.

Definitely, like Naseerudin Shah said, Indian cinema is not of world class quality. You should know it Archana, you have seen "children of heaven".

Tuesday, April 3, 2007 at 4:48:00 PM CDT  
Blogger Archana said...

:)... thanks for the welcome... I agree, we are still to go a long way in the scene of world cinema...
Also I really wish I understood what you said... will try to go see Maya Bajar

Wednesday, April 4, 2007 at 7:03:00 AM CDT  
Blogger rads said...

girl - All my knowledge is pure hearsay so yes, my sources are not that trustworthy, but more than the real fact of living together - it's the casualness of the concept among youngsters back home that's a little jarring.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007 at 5:31:00 PM CDT  
Blogger Deepa said...

But, girl, I thought you said the Tamil was excellent.

Sunday, April 8, 2007 at 7:22:00 AM CDT  

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