May 27, 2010

Alaipayuthey – Waves of Feel-Good Romance (My first PFC Post)


“Originally published on”

This was a post published on Passion For Cinema (Broken Link), one of the websites which aims aimed at spreading awareness about good cinema.
In 1984, a genius director Mani Ratnam made his debut in a Kannada movie called Pallavi Anu Pallavi. In that movie, he embarked on a new journey with an entirely different genre of filmmaking. He ventured into the waters of Tamil cinema and made everyone turn around with his simple and subtle Mouna Raagam. As the name suggests, it is a ‘silent melody’, and this sure holds good as an adjective for Mr. Ratnam too! A brilliant post on the movie was posted on PFC recently. A short but effective romance segment in Mouna Raagam (a few bits borrowed from Pallavi Anu Pallavi) showed this man’s taste for romance. Without going overboard, he handled the romance in all of his films really well. Here’s mentioning a few more of his movies that had a very different and memorable approach romance segments: Roja, Kannathil Muthamittal, Nayagan, Bombay, Dalapathi, Geethanjali, Aayitha Ezhuthu/Yuva. Though, romance was not the main premise of most of these movies, these segments can be regarded as a few of the best-handled romance segments in Indian films.

In 2000, the ace director came up with an out and out romantic movie called Alaipayuthey (remade as Saathiya by Shaad Ali in 2002). With movies with heavy subjects such as Bombay, Dil Se and Iruvar being his past outings, this movie came as a surprise to everyone. I first saw this movie as a 15 year old, and I repeatedly watch it, and each time I watch it, this movie gives me a different perspective, even ten years after its release. A tribute to this evergreen movie follows, with the disclaimer that no amount of applauding will suffice for this brilliant effort by Mani Ratnam.

Alaipayuthey is initially the simple story of Karthik (Madhavan) and Shakthi (Shalini), who meet, fall in love, get married without informing parents and live separately with their parents. This is probably where a regular Tamil/Hindi cinema would end with the couple uniting. But, Alaipayuthey goes on to discover what happens when the couple moves in together, how the romance changes post marriage and times get strained too, and finally how the couple re-discovers the love that is lost between them.
The Mani Ratnam in this movie is definitely the hardcore romantic, and as always pays attention to the simple detail in day-to-day life. A movie based on war/politics maybe difficult to make, since it is really hard to imagine on that large scale and portray the same effect on screen. But what is more difficult is to compile casual happenings of everyday life, and present it in a way that the audience is not bored, but instead remark saying ‘Hey that happened to me too!’, ‘Why did the girl behave this way?’, ‘We faced similar troubles too when we ran away from home and got married!’ etc.

The romance segment, creative as it could ever be, took place with mostly the Chennai electric train stations and trains as the background. Karthik’s character is almost carved out of the same mould as that of Mouna Raagam (Karthik) in Mouna Raagam. His playful attitude when Shakthi first spoke to her, screaming ‘Yay, Ava Enna paatthu pesita’ (Yay, She talked to me), is probably the reaction of every guy in his late teens or early twenties. The responsibility he showed (within that childish nature) was well demonstrated by the fact that he introduced her to his parents in a house ceremony, with some comical moments. Waiting for his wife for two hours immediately after marriage was bliss to him, but eventually that changed, probably thanks to the boredom setting in after wedding. The final moments of the movie where Karthik talks to Shakthi while on her hospital bed are probably the cutest and the most romantic segments in the entire movie. Karthik appears as the caring husband just waiting for his wife to talk them. Madhavan scores a hundred percent in that scene.

Shakthi on the other hand is this simple homely girl, who definitely longs for Madhavan, yet hides it within herself due to familial pressures, but later succumbs to the love with Madhavan, asking him to marry her. A similar character portrayal was seen in Bombay, Saira Banu (Manisha Koirala), but it is definitely not right to compare the two characters in entirety. The transition from the pampered and playful girl to the girl-in-love and then to the ‘almost’ neglected wife is so very well very ‘lived’ by Shalini. The scene were Shakthi hands over a burning newspaper to Karthik saying, ‘Indha chuda chuda news’ (here’s your burning hot news) was one among the many interesting post-marriage scenes. She should definitely be proud of her performance in this movie, which was her swan song too.

Every form of relationship along with the relationship between the lead pair was very well developed and portrayed realistically. Whether it was Karthik’s father pointing at his carefree and careless attitude, Shakthi’s mother talking to her and sister Poorni during breakfast, or the girly talk between Shakthi and Poorni at bedtime, each of these seemed so natural and unforced into the movie. A few memorable scenes also include, the marriage registrar asking one of Karthik’s friends if this is a marriage without elder taking part and saying there is a different thrill in that too, the lady in the bus that conversing to Madhavan and Shalini saying she is married for 15 years, or Shalini’s potential suitor ‘Evam’ Karthik voicing out his reaction after his father decided to ask for Shalini’s hand in marriage for his son. In addition, the interactions between Madhavan’s friends were something we would have definitely seen at some point of time in our lives.

A few characters might have got very little screen time, but each one of them definitely captured our attention. Each of the supporting characters SwarnaMallya, Vivek, Ravi Prakash, Jayasudha, Sukumari, Pyramid Natarajan, KPAC Lalitha alongside the other characters including Madhavan’s group of friends, all of these people have contributed in their might to this legendary movie.

The tribute to this movie will be incomplete without the mention of the contribution of the off screen technicians. A.R.Rahman had one of his best soundtracks in this movie, and the songs are a favorite even to this day. These included the soulful Evano Oruvan, where Shakthi yearns for Karthik’s presence, Snehidhane where Shakthi meets her ‘secret friend’ Karthik, the chirpy wedding song Yaaro Yaarodi, the colorful Pachai Nirame, and the mischievous Kadhal Sadugudu. The background score was effective, and contributed to the theme of the movie so very well. The cinematography by P.C. Sreeram was out of the world, especially in the song ‘Pachai Nirame’, where he brought colors alive on screen. This cinematography has been adapted by a lot of movies, even 10 years later. Crisp editing by A. Sreekar Prasad ensured that the segments were all short and effective. The movie had a non-linear screenplay, with flashbacks interspersed between current happenings, and this surely was one among the first Indian movies to adapt such a technique.

All in all, no amount of writing would do justice to this magical masterpiece of Mani Ratnam. Such romantic movies are not made everyday. Even if they are made, they do not cause an impact, like Alaipayuthey! Not even its remake Saathiya!

Cast/Crew of Alaipayuthey:

On screen:
Madhavan, Shalini, Jayasudha, SwarnaMallya, with special appearances by Arvind Swamy and Khushboo.

Off screen:
Mani Ratnam  (Direction), Mani Ratnam and R. Selvaraj (Writing), A.R.Rahman (Music), P. C. Sreeram (Cinematography), A. Sreekar Prasad (Editing).

May 11, 2010

Amma - To my mother

For a mother, every child is special. And for every child, its mother is special. The first of the many people in my life, my mother always has a special place for everything that she did, is doing and will do for me. Every mother is perfect in her own right, and the best mother that child could have got. I am writing this as a tribute to my ever-caring, ever-loving, and ever-forgiving mother. This blog post is for the Mother's Day contest on, but as always I'd stay content just with this opportunity to write a tribute to my mother.

In many language

In many language

For every mother, sacrifice begins with childbirth. A mother will go to any extent to ensure the child's happiness and well being. Right from the time at the labour table to the admission at a kindergarten school, a child spends most of its time with its mother. When a child leaves for kindergarten school, the slight concern on every mom's face is a witness to how much they care for the child. Following this entry into school, many people including teachers, friends, inspirers and motivators come into the life of a child. But one cannot deny that a mother is, all of these things, put into one.

My mother is my first teacher, best friend and a constant inspirer and motivator. For the fact that I could begin my schooling early, she took a transfer to a different city, and was away from my father for a good two years, managing her life and my initial years brilliantly. The family would be re-united every weekend, thanks to the innumerous trips, my father or my mother and I would make. As a single child for 4 years, I yearned for the company of a sibling, and that was the sole reason for my mother to give me the much-needed company of my life, my sister Nikila. I will always be thankful to her for giving me this yet another important person in my life. Not to mention the complications she had during my sister’s birth and a few devastating happenings in life following it, my mother has risen past all odds and continues to do so.

One of the very few ladies to ride a two-wheeler back in the eighties, she has always been the independent woman, which every young woman of today would take inspiration from. A lot of my female friends say that they look up to my mother and seek inspiration and advice from her on how to lead a successful professional and personal life.

As a high school teacher, she has seen every type and stage of adolescence right from the early eighties till now. And this has made my growing up process very simple. At every stage of my teenage and now during my early adulthood, my mother has been the person who spoke to me about the most delicate matters, which any one else would hesitate to talk about. A few things cannot be talked even to the best friend; but to my mother, yes.

Though, I am surely the pampered and the spoilt kid even to this day, I definitely had a few restrictions in life, which probably made me cringe at that point of time, but definitely appreciate my mothers efforts for keeping it that way. Compared to my other friends who had a lot of independence from their parents (read mothers), and eventually went astray, I can probably say I was given the right amount of independence, and this indeed has helped me become a bit more responsible and an independent individual now.

It is after coming to the US for my graduate studies (almost 5 years back), that I was able to see how big a role she played in my upbringing and how well she had groomed me to face the real world. I might be the childish person even now, but I now see how my mother hid my childishness into the mould of a responsible adult, such that the responsibility surfaces whenever required. This was specifically pointed out by a few of my friends’ mothers and this definitely made me feel really blessed to have such a mother.

To end this post, I not only salute to my mother for all the sacrifices she did in order to ensure a better life for me, but also to the many other mothers who were a part of my life during different stages in my life. This blog post is also dedicated to every single lady teacher in my life, my first employer at ASU and my PhD research advisor at ASU.  You all have been instrumental in making every aspect of my life a successful one.

Quoting from a song in the Tamil film 'New',

‘Imai Pol Iravum Pagalum Ennai Kaatha Annaiye, Unadhanbu paartha pinbu adhai vida vaanam bhoomi aagum siriyadhu’
‘You protected me like an eyelid all day and night, seeing your affection even the sky and earth are belittled’

(All rights of the song rest with lyricist Vairamuthu, composer A.R.Rahman and the film maker S.J.Suryah)