25 YEARS OF MICHAEL MADANAKAMARAJAN : A CELEBRATION – PART I

Srinivasan (name changed on request) reached the office and logged in purposefully in the morning. Things weren’t great at the office, more work piling up, more pressure, more uncertainty at the workplace, more conflict, his son close to finishing school and on the threshold of college. But for this morning all this was scrubbed out of his resilient mind.
His pulse raced, he was elated, he’d struck a small amount of pay dirt, he’d discovered a NEW JOKE in Michael Madana Kama Rajan -MMKR for short – or “Mykale (colloquial for ‘Michael’ as it was lovingly called back then) !

A treasure trove of gags, one liners, and belly ache inducing comedy sequences, he had watched it more than 20 times and knew all the jokes packed in every nook and cranny, or so he thought until he discovered yet another one quite by chance.
Sirisha (again name changed on request) had logged into her school batch WhatsApp group about 40 minutes into a euphoric exchange of posts on Mykale’s hilarious one liners. One male member had posted a line from the film “aambala kettaa verun adhyaayam thaan ….aanaa pombala kettaa pusthakamay poatturuvaa” (loosely translated to mean that if a man commits a peccadiloe he can continue with life as before after negotiating a small period of acrimony but if a woman commits a similar indiscretion her life is pretty much finished). Sirisha responded lightheartedly to the post with “is that hearsay or experience talking ?”.

Immediately all the MMKR afficionados were all over her like a cheap suit. She was dubbed an oddity – someone who had seen the film but didn’t remember any of the dialogues. And even more, this was not just a movie………. this was an experience !

At its very least, Michael Madana Kama Rajan was one of the few out and out comedies of Tamil cinema upto that point, a tamil movie genre, the constituents of which you could count on the fingers of your left hand, with not a moment of typical tamil film ‘sentiment’ (read emotional gymnastics). The tamil movies of the eighties were more like an assorted L.I.C Moneyback policy offering an unfathomable mixture of life insurance cover, investment returns, return of principal and not enough of anything. Possibly due to the lower income levels and the attitude of more bang for buck, a film production had to contain myriad elements to cater to different sections of the audience or different wants of the same section in one sitting. Movies like Kanni Raasi which started out very well with a great comedy track meandered to a melodramatic whimper. MMKR would have none of that. Apart from the delicious comic lines which flowed from the very essence of who the characters were at the core, the slapstick sequences had ace choreography – from the Peyar Vechchaalum song to the final collapsing house sequence on the hill.

Released in 1990 on Deepavali, it was a beacon of light in what was a forgettable, dry year for the Tamil film industry which included a lukewarm response to Mani Ratnam’s Anjali and damp squibs like Rajnikanth’s Adhisaya Piravi and Karthik’s Idhaya Thaamarai.

Rear Window 1C

(This is a RED HERRING)

http://www.amazon.in/Rear-Window-James-Stewart/dp/B00CXLHDMW/ref=sr_1_2?s=dvd&ie=UTF8&qid=1451237136&sr=1-2&keywords=REAR+WINDOW

 

It didn’t create much pre-release hype or even anticipation beyond some polite curiousity about the same actor doing 4 roles- unlike Aboorva Sagodharargal where the anticipation of seeing Kamal playing a dwarf pre-sold the movie to a large extent. Triple roles were perceived as having been done before and done well by Sivaji in films such as Bale Paandiya and Navaraathri. Double and triple roles were after all nothing new in Tamil cinema………… but all that changed when the Oliyum Oliyum telecast on Deepavali carrying the song ‘Sundari Neeyum’ with its class picturization, zapped the audience out of their living room chairs similar to what the ‘Rajaadhiraajan Indha Raajaa’ song did for Agni Natchathiram.
Sundari Neeyum, is an example of perfect fusion – a total Carnatic tune in the foreground and a totally Western background. The intersection is magical. It conclusively proves that so called fusion never works unless both the classical and modern forms maintain their integrity.

Cars were starting to be fitted with sophisticated stereo systems at that time and it wasn’t uncommon to find youngsters playing the opening percussion beat of the song umpteen times on their car sound systems.
I recall my friend’s father getting a special pass for the Income Tax Commissioner for a pre-release show and word soon got out that this was a laugh riot that was not to be missed.

(To be Concluded)

#Michael MadanaKamaRajan #Kamalahasan #Crazy Mohan

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sravishanker1401gmailcom

Chartered Account by day, cartoonist and Writer by night, passionate athlete at twilight and dutiful householder on weekends  There are people who make things for the Western markets and those who do the same for the Indian market. I make cartoons for an audience who are rooted culturally in India but who are spiritually agile enough to assume Western sensibilities - who swear by Quentin Tarantino AND David Dhawan / Bharathiraja in the same breath - I make cartoons for this audience - the INDIAN diaspora in INDIA !

8 thoughts on “25 YEARS OF MICHAEL MADANAKAMARAJAN : A CELEBRATION – PART I”

  1. Ravishanker – very nice series of posts on one of my favorite comedies. I’ve had this question gnawing at me for a while now – was MMKR a true box office success (at the time of release) or not? You seem to have a lot of active memories of that period. (I was only 9 then.) I have heard some people say that Kamal and Panchu Arunachalam (the producer) had a fallout and that Panchu didn’t publicize the movie much. Did it actually do well?

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  2. Ram Murali – Many Thanks for going through my MMKR memoirs ! You’ve posed a difficult one. My sense is that it did well in the A centers and returned well over its modest budget. The Udhayam theatre was jam packed for sure well past its 50th day when I got to see it after the CA exams.

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  3. Thanks, Ravishanker. I think it’s a measure of how much affection people have for the film that we are getting happiness out of making and seeing statements like “returned well over its modest budget.” 🙂 Enamo Panchu Arunachalam nambala kooptu oru share kuduka pora madhiri! 🙂

    Your posts brought back a lot of pleasant memories of that time. On a related note, I actually thought that Anjali was a successful film. Didn’t know that the response was tepid.

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    1. Ram Murali : “Enamo Panchu Arunachalam nambala kooptu oru share kuduka pora madhiri!” LOL. The drawing of the movie in the article (Rear Window) was also a flop on first release but is still going strong. Maybe there’s an inference to be made here.
      Thanks for your comment on bringing back pleasant memories – because that was the whole idea of the 3 part series – -to take you to the place where your pleasant memories reside – a “Celebration” not a review – I’ll leave the reviewing , the energy and the passion to young turks like yourself :)). Intend getting back to your Srividya and Thanga Magan articles after the first week monthly closing madness at the office is over.

      Re: Anjali – You’re right. Personally, I loved it at that time but despite some bravura shots and moments I’m not sure it has aged well – ofcourse Raghuvaran is a personal favourite .

      Keep commenting !

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      1. Re: Raghuvaran, oh yes. He was such a fabulous performer. My sis and I are crazy fans of his acting. I don’t know if anyone else could have essayed the CM role in “Mudhalvan” like he did or the brother role in “Mugavari.” So fabulous. But such an unfortunate, short life he lived 😦

        Thank you for your comment on the Srividya article in my blog. Much appreciated. If you find time, do read other write-ups in my blog and let me know your thoughts. My two favorite pieces are my story titled, “Amma, I understand you” and my write-up on Vasanth. Both are in my blog.

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