K Balachander, Tamil Movies

K Balachander Movies

I guess I have seen only a few of his movies but they are enough to convince that he was a wonderful director. A few of things that I have often noticed in his movies and only in his movies.

1) He took the high-brow stuff to the middle-brow audience. In “Unnal mudiyum Thambi”, Gemini accuses Kamal of using “Asutha Dhanyasi” for singing to the labourers. But KB did that repeatedly too. He introduced Carnatic Music and made it look less intimidating to the rest of us. Surely the songs that are shown in the sabhas (in Aboorva Raagangal, Sindhu Bairavi or Unnal mudiyum Thambi”) were made easier for an average cine-goer to enjoy, but he also did it without pissing off the real Carnatic people. Rajini’s question to Thengai Srinivasan and the “Enna Samayalo” number also bring out a fun version of this much intimidating art form.

2) The same could be said of the apt use of Bharathiyaar Kavithaigal in his many movies. There is something intimidating about reading poetry, but the use in KB’s movies does a marked service to the audience.

3) KB’s older movies were more about lower middle class and in the 80s and 90s he started to depict the upper middle class too. I think this started around the time he himself had more money than he used to. He neither treated the richer people with contempt in his older movies, nor treated the poorer people as non-entities in his later movies. Like Actress Bama of Bama Vijayam being friendly around the common people next door and the old man who plants plenty of trees in U-M-Thambi. The relationship the domestic help has around their masters is always shown and their personality is always touched upon lightly. For some reason, this is a rare thing in the works of other directors.

4) As an extension of point 3, Sowcar Janaki’s character Meenakshi Doraiswami(MD) is depicted as a socialite. As she herself later says “Enga Party nnu alaiva”. Her quirks like taking a photographer to capture her moments with celebrites are touched upon affectionately but never looked down upon. She is such a loveable personality and surely the only lovable socialite I ever saw in Tamil Cinema. Also, there is a scene where she goes and visits Uma to gift her a saree. Apart from showing that their relationship has gone beyond acting before Thengai Srinivasan and is truly affectionate, it also makes the movie pass the Bechdel Test. Both of them are named characters who talk to each other about something other than a man.

5) He also had the habit of never showing certain characters on screen at all. From Irumal Thatha to Malgova Maami’s husband. Such impact these characters have on the story.

6) When he made a mistake, he was willing to acknowledge it. He had the lovers commit sucide in “Ek Duuje Ke Liye’ but started the story of a failed suicide attempt in Punnagai Mannan and argued against suicide as best as he could. Later he made Vaanamea Ellai to analyse the topic more deeply. It was a preachy movie. Still.

I am planning to watch a few more of his movies and know about him better. For what is the use in complaining about popular tamil directors do not do justice to their subject matter, if you do not sit watch the ones who did a terrific job during their time?



Tamil Movies

Mouna Raagam vs Raja Rani

One day when I was watching Mouna Raagam as a teenager, I heard my mother remark “But when Revathy plays all these pranks on her Anna and Anni, she is basically a sad soup girl?” I defended the movie saying that of course a person need not be moping all the time just because they have a personal secret. In fact, it becomes her that she goes on with her life seemingly normal inspite of it all”. But from then on, I actually saw Mouna Raagam a little differently. I removed Karthik’s character from the story in my mind and realised that the story stood very well with out this extra attachment(No offense to Karthik here, really).

So imagine my happiness when I realised that that is how Mani Ratnam intended it in the first place? It was just Revathy’s unwillingness to marry a stranger and face the unknown in the name of tradition. And who can blame her?

I then started having one major problem with the story. This being the fact that Mohan marries her after she expressly informs him of her desire of not wanting to marry him. That is seriously a crappy thing to do. I realise that the story can not happen without this particular flaw. And for this reason I am willing to let it go.

Years went on and then came in Raja Rani. It gained popularity as the “Pudhu Mouna Raagam”. I can not tell you how much this pisses me off for Raja Rani is nothing like MRaagam in what makes it a true classic. Take a few points.

Why do they get married?

Mohan marries Revathy because he truly believes that this girl is the one for him. Her personality seems to contrast against his more sober demeanor and he really digs that. He believes that after a few ackward initial days, they will be fine as a couple. He seems to be happy (initially) to marry this ball of fire. He is a believer.

Yes, Revathy marries Mohan as there is family pressure, father’s health, younger sisters etc etc. But then she also marries him because the guy did not take no for answer. She does warn him that she is not marriage material. She does not bait him deliberately, she gets captured into this trap by her circumstances. She is a sceptic.

Arya and Nayanthara marry each other for good old “I want to change my FB status to ‘married’ and I do not give a damn whose life I will be screwing up in my mission” reasons. They come across as horribly shallow people.

How do they decide to deal with it?

The way Mohan and Revathy decide to deal with the situation is very true to life. She asks for a divorce and it is not just to spite him. She really wants her old life back and she is willing to go for it. She has to remain in the house for the rest of the time and she wants to be polite until the divorce comes through.

He gives her a different room to live in and does not use favours from her like accepting her coffee as he should not get used to her presence. He consiously decides to not be polite to her parents as he believes that it will help her in being accepted back into her old home. They thaw eventually to each other and that is the main part of the story. It is a believable story.

Arya and Nayanthara hate each other from the word go. They do not for a moment think “I married this person for selfish reason. But what is going on in my spouse’s brain?” for one nano-second. They both share a same thought “I hate you for being my spouse”. They sleep on the same bed and there is zero reason why this should be so. There must be a guest room in such a big apartment. One of them can opt for that. When a friend asks about the prossibility of a divorce, Nayan says that she will never contemplate that as it might kill her father. But if she continues to pull a long face with Arya all the time, then it is equalent of begging for a divorce, right? Neither of them have personalities that have been thought through.

Why do they fall in love?

Mohan falls for her personality that is so in contast to his own, the way she is lively and daring in her own girlish way. Revathy falls for him as she sees his calmness in dealing with the problem, the way he accepts her decision stoically and without blame throwing and for considering small long term implications like deliberately being rude to her father and taking the blame of divorce on himself.

Both Nayan and Arya decide they have fallen in love with the spouse just because the other person used to have a BF/GF. Is that not lame?

Arya already knew that she was in love with someone as she used the other name in the marriage vows.  Why did he act as if he was glad about that? Does that mean he wanted the wedding to be called off? Will his parents not find another bride then? What is the point, really?

If you liked this movie can you explain why?