25 YEARS OF MICHAEL MADANA KAMA RAJAN : A CELEBRATION
(Contd. From Part II)
The Wizard of “Oh”s
This was only the second Crazy Mohan collaboration with Kamalahasan (the first one being Apoorva Sagodharargal), and arguably the best.
Crazy Mohan had tried the Paalakkaad angle earlier in his dramas and had a grip of the vernacular which was useful in developing the sequence but nothing full blown had been attempted before in Tamil cinema.
How do you use a dialect of Tamil which does not originate in Tamilnadu, which is not familiar to most Tamilians, which has never been done before and still make a fist of it ? On hindsight it may not seem so but the makers were taking an enormous gamble.
This was the fulcrum of the comedy and there was nothing meaty enough to fall back on if this misfired.
Kameswaran’s first encounter with Thiruppura Sundari (Urvasi) resembles a friendly tennis match with a the protagonists volleying “Ohh”s to each other in this lovely paalakkaad repartee which flows over you like gentle waves in peaks and troughs with a few quick passing shots (“Aaiiii !!”s) inbetween ending in the pun of the century. “ Hmmm ……Graamamum Cukku….Neengalum Cook-ku” in an obvious reference to Kameswaran’s profession.
PAALAKKAAD MEETS HOLLYWOOD
And there was the ubiquitous suffix “aakkum” which was top of the charts after the movie’s release.
Just when you think there is a temporary drought of Paalakkaad jokes, you have Kameswaran remonstrating to Shalini (Khushboo) in response to her urging (“Take me !” ) :
“Nee yenna batchanamaa eduththukarthukku ??!!
Well, not everyone was pleased. My relatives with the thick Perumbavur accent wondered what the fuss was all about.
Like Ilayaraja’s music in Agni Natchathram, ‘Mykale’’s dialogue seemed to have been written in an inspired moment. It seemed as if all the script writer had to do was get out the way because the deluge of jokes was so strong. Masters of comedy swear that they sit glumly through the funniest comic sequences trying to make it funnier but I suspect this one must have been an exception. Even during the falling house climax sequence, looks like Crazy couldn’t resist one for the road “naan vegetarian oliyo balamillai”
Catch my point ?
The movie capitalized big time on Kamalahasan’s post Nayakan shaven moustache-less look with Apoorva Sagodharargal, and now MMKR. He had made a huge comeback after being down in the dumps with a Hindi misadventure and sans his moustache he looked urbane and less rooted, ready to move fast, in sync with the changing tastes of the audience.
For younger viewers, this may seem incomprehensible but the moustache was an integral part of the Kamal persona in the eighties. When the initial rushes of Nayakan were out, believe it or not there was a mixed reaction to his new look. Some reacted as if the actor had grown a wart in the face.
MMKR also confirmed the appetite for full length comedies which was followed up with ‘Sathi Leelavathi’.
The one liners have lasted so long probably because they worked in different contexts and even after 25 years !
Sample this :
A buddy lets fly a superlative phrase which takes his friend unawares and he responds with admiration : “Idhellaam apdee varudhu illay ?“
Link Raju’s reaction to Madan’s casual turn of phrase “Adhu yennamo ingleesla sonniyay ? soakkaa sonnay yaa. Idhellaam apdee varudhu illay ?
A subordinate goes back to his boss the morning with thousand doubts after receiving explicit instructions on how a certain job is to be done.
The irritated boss responds with exasperation. “Naan enna thelunguliyaa sonnayn ?”
Link to the scene at the wedding hall, one of Paalakkaad Mani iyer’s assistants informs him ‘Yelai poattaachchu”. Varudhukutty immediately repeats “Mama yelai poattaachchaam” Mani Iyer snaps at him “Avan yenna Thelungulliyaa sonnaan ?”
An anxious person seeking advice from a specialist, asks a technical question. Pat comes the disclaimer “Yenakku Beemboy Beemboy theriyum. Gangubai Chakkubai theriyaadhu.”
A guy infatuated with a new female entrant in the office chats her up and then discreetly enquires “Shalini Sivaraman-naaa…….Indha Sivaramanungradhu ?”…….(waits for her to elaborate)
Female replies “ Appa !”
(Sigh of relief from the office Don Juan: “HABBBBAAAA !”).
The nuances of each character such as Raju regretting that he couldn’t raise the money to pay back the Pathani shylock with ‘Andha 25a yeppadiyaavudhu eduththudalaamnnu paarthaa….KADAISEE leg-la poiduchchu saar !” or Madan, the England returned MBA always unsure of himself and diffident when uttering slightly complicated Tamil words such as ‘Aalmaaraattam’ and then his mild irritation when learning that Raju was not criticizing his pronunciation of ‘Aalmaaraattam’ but actually referring to his (Madan’s) oft used phrase “Catch My Point”.
The side characters are so well etched such as Michael’s father played by Santhana Bharathi , Thiruppu’s Thiruttu Paatti, Varudhu kutty, Avinaaashi, and the list goes on. In some great films, there are memorable side characters who support the protagonist. In the best case scenario you’d have 3or 4 but FIFTEEN ???!!!
Some of the most memorable lines are uttered by characters with barely 0.85 seconds of screen time . like the duo coming out angrily out of the wedding hall in scene 2 “I mean what I mean…But they cant be so mean !” which is the knock out punch to an elaborate sequence involving a fish which has found its way into the sambhar by accident.
MMKR was released on Deepavali. It takes me back to the days when I was struggling to complete CA Inter. That was my first attempt and I failed. But luckily my family was so busy shifting house that I didn’t get much flak at home. My whole batch had passed except my friend Shyam (yet again, name changed BUT NOT ON REQUEST) and I.
It was the sweltering summer of ’91 and Michael was already through its first run in the Udhayam theatre and was now making the rounds of the B theatres such as Nataraj, Thyagaraja, Jayanthi, etc.
Everyday after dinner Shyam would motor down to my house on his scooter and we’d do some joint study interspersed by breaks to watch some TV or listen to songs on our cassette collection. Then around midnight we’d step out for a walk from my flat at Gandhinagar 2nd Main Road to Adyar junction, LB Road at midnight for a cup of tea at the tea kadai – (yes in those days you still had tea kadais on LB road before Real estate prices made them unviable). Along the way, he’d catch a poster of MMKR stuck near the bus stand and exclaim “Dei ! Machee MYKALE Daa !!!” (you will recall MMKR was always referred to among the faithful as Mykale (sic) ). With great effort I had to restrain him “Dei Irudaa ! Exam mudiyattum Apram paakkalaam” (Wait , let the exam get over then we can see it again). Yes, we did get through the exam and sure enough watched it again.
Each time we saw it we savoured different facets of it.
If you’re still curious, the snatch of dialogue which Srinivasan found (Part I of this article) after 20 years was by Michael s father (played by Santhana Bharathi). Its in the final Act when Michael and his father land up at Madan’s bungalow for the grand finale to steal the money from Madan’s safe. Santhanabharathi grabs a rifle from the various show pieces displayed in the huge living room and an irritated Michael comes down hard on him. “Indha gunna vechchu estatela Panneeya sudalaamnnu paarthaa…. vida maattayngraan” (Michael’s father grumbles and mutters under his breath).
Come to think of it – I take back my words that the movie doesn’t contain “sentiment”.
An innocuous , throwaway line in the movie made me sentimental.
When Shalini and her father (Venneer Aadai Moorthy) are in a dilemma as to how to get to Bangalore from Madras (Moorthy’s thought process “Vaygamaa Woadinaalum Moonu naal edukkum”), Raju (now in Madan’s garb) is delighted to come to the rescue and offers “Vaanga Naan azhaishindu poarayn – Foreign car la poirkkeengla ? A.C irukkum”.
Even in 1990 only foreign cars had airconditioning. These days can you think of a car without A.C ? it would be worse than travelling in a bullock cart.
CATCH MY POINT ?