Wednesday, December 23, 2009

M.G.Ramachandran's Film & Political career - A Critical assessment

M.G.Ramachandran's 22nd Death Anniversary Special

24th of December ... Exactly 22 years earlier, Tamilnadu was a ground of uncontrollable grief and social & political unrest of huge magnitude. The entire state came to a standstill as people were aghast with shock on the death of their beloved Chief Minister, M.G.Ramachandran (MGR). The response was genuine and highly emotional to the extent of a large number of reported self-immolations.

Dinamani dated 25th December, 1987 - Carrying the news of MGR's death.

The following article is a recap of, what MGR was to tamil filmgoing audience and tamil people, in general. Most of the facts presented were borrowed from various media and the output is a result of my understanding of the various inputs I received. The article will try to assess the cinema and political career of MGR and I generally will try to avoid the flowery descriptions that he always gets from any media, print or visual.

MGR starred in his first major film role "Raajakumari (1947)" and for a larger part of his film career spanning 30 years till "Madhurayai Meetta Sundarapaandiyan (1977)", he was the reigning superstar of the tamil filmdom. MGR's popularity as an actor was well pronounced and more readily seen after his own production & directorial venture "Naadodi Mannan (1958)" broke and set new box-office records.

If you leave aside his most obvious box-office capabilities and success, what were his contributions to Cinema, as such ?.

Actor Vs Director
Early 50s were a crucial period for tamil cinema as this period saw the emergence of a large number of films with social themes (transition from Mythology based movies). If not for the star system (MGR & Sivaji Ganesan) that developed during this period, the control of the cinema would have rested with the directors instead of the lead actors. MGR paid ample attention in moulding his on-screen persona and encouraged hero worship. In MGR's case, it is said that, he would interfere in each and every department of his film and that lead to the sidelining of the actual creator of the movie - the director, forever.

The Hero
MGR rewrote almost all the prevalent notions that defined a film's lead actor. In tamil popular culture where moustache is seen as a macho-symbol, MGR never acted with his original moustache. Also, when he made his way into the cinema, the lead actor should be in a position to lend his voice for the songs also. Playback singers weren't popular that time. MGR acted out what a film-hero should and shouldn't do on-screen. He was a definite milestone in tamil cinema's history and even today, actors like Rajinikanth, Vijayakanth and Vijay just follow him. The image of Robin Hood that he left behind was picked up by later generations of actors.

 Enga Veettu Pillai 

Masala Cinema
There is a very common term that we use these days, Masala film. What is a masala film ?. The film won't have a great plot ... The story never stands on its own but on entertaining scene sequences, good songs and stunts. I think MGR institutionalised and popularised this concept ... Sword/Silambam fights, romantic songs with attractively dressed ladyleads were almost universal in his later movies. "Enga Veettu Pillai", "Ulagam Sutrum Vaalibhan" etc offer grand examples of how a masala movie should be made.

Philosophical Songs
One good thing that formed a part of each and every MGR movie is his introductory / thathuvam / philosophical song. They really educated and inspired a generation of audience. Again, the credit for the song was never given to the lyric writer or the singer but to MGR. Even after the defect in his voice (M.R.Radha shot MGR at his throat, 1967), people discussed, "Vaathiyaar paatellam nalla dhan paaduraaru, dialogue pesum podhu dhan prachnai pola", which means, "MGR is able to sing the songs properly but only while delivering dialogues, he has the problem with his voice".

MGR and Latha

MGR never looked at cinema as an art. For him, it was sheer business. For producers, he was the most reliable brand available, MGR would stand for Maximum Guarantee of Returns for them. People never complained or expected real performances from him. They just wanted to watch him on-screen and whistle at his gimmicks for three hours. Interestingly, the MGR fanatics were referred to as "Whistleadichaankunjugal" (விசில்அடிச்சான்குஞ்சுகள்). MGR's films, in a way desensitivised the film-going audiences in Tamilnadu and made them very mediocre. On the other side, if you speak of monotonous performances, even Chaplin did the same. Entertainment is what people looked at and they got it in him. That's how it went !!!

Let's have a look at MGR's Political career.

It was a complete underestimation of MGR's potentials on Kalaignar's part that brought MGR into the political arena of Tamilnadu. Once he was in, he never turned back and was outrageously successful. MGR was never a serious politician in his beginning years or till the death of C.N.Annadurai in 1969. Annadurai called MGR his "Idhayakkani" and he was generally used by the DMK to mobilise people for political rallies and meetings. Annadurai has once openly commented on the vote-garnering capability of MGR. Out of DMK in 1972, MGR starts his own political party AIADMK and won the state assembly in 1977. What are his political achievements ?. Lets have a look ...

Anna and his "Idhayakkani" MGR

Tamilnadu on a back-foot
MGR's rule during 1977 to 1987 resulted in an apparently visible setback in terms of Industry & Commerce infrastructure and performance of Tamilnadu. The Economic indicators of the state were on a rampant back-foot during his governance. The development activities only slumped during his regime and this should be seen in light of the fact that MGR's party enjoyed a real continuous reign of the state, close to 11 years except for a brief period in 1980. Single party, Single administrator and hence uniform policies & governance should have only elevated the growth of the state, which sadly didn't happen during his period.

 MGR - Jewel of the masses

MGR was straight from the studio sets of "Madurayai Meetta Sundarapandiyan" to the Chief Minister office and hence his administrative capabilities were below par, atleast during his first term. His government always concentrated on the populous schemes like the mid-day meal scheme etc (Which would keep his votebanks intact) rather than Infrastructure oriented schemes which should have put the state in a good shape in future.

Faction Politics
MGR is credited with setting up a faction-ridden AIADMK and factionist politics saw its peak during his regime. A large degree of misuse of powers and government funds was reported and this only deepened the economic disparities in the state. If it was DMK under M.Karunanidhi which introduced corruption into the state, ADMK under MGR institutionalised and mastered the course. His fans and devotees used to dismiss these facts with a simple explanation, "It is the people around MGR who do all these and that he isn't aware of things around him". Even if that is the case, Can it be called a good governance ?

Glamour Politics
MGR was very much aware of the saleability of his brand and was very consciously preserving his image. He was heavily made-up in all his public appearances. His fur cap and black glasses were only hiding his balding head and sunken eyes - signs of ageing. He never let people knew that he was ageing, for them he was still the same young man romancing with youthful ladies in cinema reels. MGR's brand of politics, the so-called "glamour politics" only set a bad example in the state that almost every actor in this state nurtures political ambitions just after delivering a box-office hit. I completely admit that the filmstars are also part of this democratic system and hence own every right to contest elections and lead people. But "Right" doesn't provide an automatic implication of administrative efficiency, which many of them lack at the outset.

The MGR Phenomemon
His politics never projected AIADMK as a party, it's policies or its plans / manifesto for the state and MGR remained the sole cynosure for AIADMK and its political propagandas. Whenever questioned about the policies, agenda and manifesto of the AIADMK party, MGR never came up with a concrete or complete explanation. He used to blabber Annaism, democracy, socialism, "Naadodi Mannan" etc. Apparently, In AIADMK's political entry and succeeding electoral duels with DMK, the wholesome attention is paid to the MGR Phenomenon only. Interestingly, the then Tamilnadu Food Minister Tirunavukkarasu once said, "We all are zeros.We gain our value because of the number one before us.The number one is MGR". In all the 200+constituencies, people always believed that they were casting their vote for MGR as they punched their ballots on the two-leaves symbol.

Leaderless AIADMK
By the fag end of his political career, MGR was largely sick and was unable to deliver his duties effectively. The party was in dangers of disintegration and there was an apparent unrest among the partymen. As long as he was alive, he successfully kept the party intact but left behind a chaotic and leaderless AIADMK. Lots of turmoil followed before things fell into place under Jayalalitha. This is a more serious blunder on the part of the leader of a party. Literally, the second rung was absent in AIADMK during his premiership of the party and AIADMK still remains so under Jayalalitha. For all these partypeople who call themselves patrons of C.N.Annadurai, Anna was a magnanimous leader who encouraged a second rung leadership in DMK and fondly called them "Thambigal", meaning younger brothers.

That's a lot of criticism. So, What has his government given Tamilnadu. My father gave me the following information and when I asked him, "Is that all ?", he said, "That's it". He was of a firm opinion that, even if MGR would have lived more, his party would have been defeated in the next polls because of apparent administrative negligence on his part and corely corrupt-head politicians of his party.

- Housing scheme for Harijans or the untouchables.
- Good Transport network or town bus facilities to small towns.
- Immensely popular Chief Minister's mid-day nutritious meal scheme.

Mid-day meals scheme
His Mid-day meals scheme has been analysed and applauded worldwide. In 1982, MGR started the noon-meal scheme for children below five years which was then expanded to include pre-schoolers, all primary school children, children up to 15 years of age in rural areas, old age pensioners, the destitute, widows and all pregnant women. The noon meal scheme has had a long run in Tamilnadu with a wider coverage and as a result various indicators of malnutrition showed a downward trend in Tamilnadu during the period.

Summing up, The relationship that MGR and DMK had before the formation of AIADMK was a symbiotic one. MGR required the party's light on him for a successful cinema career and also, It was the DMK's propaganda cinema and DMK's script writers who provided a kick-start for MGR's film career. DMK also took his services for adding glamour to the party and nobody can deny the importance of the sympathy wave (MGR was shot at the throat, 1967) that put DMK on the political saddle. Later MGR-MK fallout and the formation of AIADMK produced a wholesome shift in the state's politics. MGR's administrative capabilities and his political successes only seem to be an oxymoron, for me.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Nostalghia - Retro Images

Just for the sake of a revision of our entertainment evolution ...
Probably a pointless post to flaunt my Image collection and Memory ..

Pictures with tweety notes ... Recall and have fun ...

"I am a Complan boy ... I am a Complan girl" - Classic Complan ad. Hats off for anybody who will identify these two little stars who later became Bollywood actors. [Answer at the end]

Madhubala on Stamps.
Madhubala personified an Innocent beauty and won millions of hearts with her smiles.

Mandakini on Filmfare cover.
Raj Kapoor's 1985 movie, Ram Teri Ganga Maili which has acquired a cult status now, got famous for this bath sequence and carved an instant celebrity status for Mandakini.

Ramayan telecast in Doordarshan (1987)
After the Sagars discovered Arun Govil's beautific smile and the power of televisual religion, Sunday mornings were never the same again. Nor was India, with Sagar's miracle-a-minute amalgam of 14 different versions of Valmiki's epic, keeping pace with an aggressive and unapologetic Hindutva that swept the nation. [Excerpt from India Today]

 Sharmila Tagore on a Lux Print Ad.
Yes, I am Sharmila fetish ..  like millions of Indians. From Ray's Apur Sansar to the jury at the Cannes ... Her's is an Illustrious ride.

 Milind Soman in Captain Vyom.
My schoolpals liked Shaktimaan and I liked Captain Vyom. I Used to travel to my friend's home to admire his Sci-Fi gimmicks every sunday .. I guess the time slot is 10:30 AM.

 Malgudi Days
Timeless, Classic ... RKNarayan, Period.

Mukesh Khanna in Shaktimaan .
Parle-G's Business strategy was one of the best this country has ever seen. Shaktimaan stickers with the Rs.3/- Parle-G packs was a business blockbuster, then.
Children reportedly jumped off from the terrace expecting a saviour in Shaktimaan.

Madhuri Dixit on Illustrated Weekly cover. 
Madhuri was the Indian face of beauty before Aishwarya Rai took the honour. Madhuri was so famous in Pakistan that there was once a poster in Lahore stadium declaring, “Madhuri de do, Kashmir le lo (Give us Madhuri, take Kashmir)”.

Durga of Pather Panchaali.
Ray's Apu Trilogy completes 50 years in November, 2009. Durga was my favourite character in "Pather Panchaali" outscoring the title boy Apu.

Complan Kids: Shahid Kapoor and Ayesha Takia.

So, How was it ?

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Antichrist (2009) - Incomprehensible !!!

This is not at all a review !!!
No one can review this Lars von Trier film, as the film would, I am sure, convey different things to different viewers in succeeding viewings.

 Some random thoughts ...

- Intensely horrific - the film stars only two characters (yes .. Absolute two), the fear or horror evoked is based only on the fear of being lonely or solitary. As far as I am concerned, it was genuinely horrific and definitely not a B-Grade exploitation. The viewer would naturally transcend himself/herself into the shoes of the protagonist and hence will feel engulfed with the fear of being lonely, under the circumstances portrayed.

- Very less dialogues - The film almost conveys everything via images and brilliant cinematography. Cinematography & the powerful imagery is the acute strength of the film and it almost single handedly carries the film forward. It was a real treat to get lost into those vivid images and I am sure the film's camera work would require a thesis-long analysis to comprehend the techniques and mastery exhibited.

- The film will evoke a lot of confusion and chaos in the minds of a viewer, atleast in the first viewing. Many shots and still images - I am sorry, I haven't comprehended them yet. Probably, a copy with the director's commentary audio track would help.

- Like Tarantino flicks, The film's narration carries a chapter structure. But the focus is linear and no flashbacks,  no other characters - Lucky that way... Or else, it would have mounted even more incomprehensibility in the viewer.

- The film has in it, a lot of grossly violent sequences and really disturbing images. They just add up the confusion and more importantly, since the grossness is concerned with male and female genitalia also, I don't know .. If the film is suitable for all categories of audience (among adults only).

- Without spoilers here, the film, I guess, should be about  the evil-ness that rests 'within' one's self, here in this case, within a female. By looking at the controversial critics the film has managed to receive, I guess again, the film is trying to question a few Biblical stuff. Due to non-acquaintance with Christianity or the Bible, I have no comments on that front, actually.

- Google out the meanings of the terms "Misogyny" and "Gynocide" before starting with the movie, if you aren't already aware of them. The film, quite heavily discusses them.

- It's quite unable to classify the film's genre ... IMDB calls it Drama & Horror. The film has a lot of surrealistic elements, helped accordingly by the camera. 

- The film premiered at the Cannes 2009 and was nominated for the Palme d'Or and the film's ladylead Charlotte Gainsbourg won the Best Actress honour for her fine performance.

- The film, with some of it's gore and sexually violent images, will haunt you and it's very easy to call it bad or uninteresting on those grounds. But, on an under-layer, it has quite a lot of artistic or auteuristic nuances that are all open for your imagination, interpretation and appreciation. The film, I am sure, will be hailed as a classic and would attain a cult status in future.

- Not for all, definitely and not a must-watch also .. It has something very very different to offer ... You have the inclination ?? Start with it and no disappointments, I guarantee.

And a photo essay here, solely to highlight the mastery of the film's Cinematography ... 

Black and white imagery - It has its beauty always !

Gross !

Lighting !

 Believe it or not ! - It's Graphical ...

Surreal Love 

 One of the confusing still shots in the movie

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Iruvar (1997) - Six Events that shouldn't have been skipped

Mani Ratnam's Iruvar (1997) remains the only movie in Tamil Cinema that offers a panoramic glimpse into the glorious Dravidian Movement of Tamilnadu.The biopic presents a chronological view into the lives of two of the greatest personalities of Tamil cinema and Tamilnadu's politics, Mu.Karunanidhi and M.G.Ramachandran.

You can only laugh at this disclaimer...

There has been a general consideration that movies are the mirrors of the social, economical and political conditions of a country during a period, but this has never been true in India, I feel. Even during periods of political turmoil like wars, Emergency, Anti-Hindi agitations etc, Our cinema has never chose to speak about them.

Hence, Iruvar being the only torch-bearer that tries to pass the history or legacy of this political and social churning to the next generation of young viewers, We (or rather, I) expect it to be factually exact. Iruvar is a cinematic wonder, no doubt .. The movie's period touch, excellent art direction, lyrical dialogues, brilliant acting, wonderful direction - No flaws, absolutely. It is one movie, I would always like to boast and discuss about when it comes to cinematic quality. But, Factual flaws - ?. There's a huge list of them ... The movie, of course takes care of tiny aspects like Veluthambi's Dhoti wearing style (Annadurai used to tie his dhoti improperly), Anandan's dance movements in songs (A very good replication of MGR's movements), Senthaamarai's bindi etc. But, there is a huge list of misrepresentation of political events and I chose to list only a few of them. I understand that this is a feature film and not a documentary and hence the director owns every right to manipulate around with the screenplay but still ... !!!. I wish he creates a documentary on this by making use of the already-done-extensive-research on the topic.

Please click on the images for a magnified view.

1) The Split in the Dravidar Kazhagam (DK) and the Birth of Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) (1949)

There were many instances in the movie where Veluthambi (Read C.N.Annadurai) is addressed  as "Ayya" but E.V.Ramasamy (called Periyaar) has always been the "Ayya" and C.N.Annadurai was fondly called as "Anna" (meaning Elder brother) by his followers and the public. This way Mani Ratnam probably wants to convey that Veluthambi is both the "Ayya" and "Anna" and thus he creates some comfort for him, for the non-inclusion of Periyaar's character in the DMK's saga. Thus, the movie quite misleadingly refers to the birth of Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) without any reference to Periyaar and the parent party - Dravidar Kazhagam (DK).

2) Anti-Hindi Agitations (1965)

The most important political and social event in the post-independent Tamilnadu's history should be the Anti-Hindi Agitations of 1965. And, it was a grave injustice that there is absolutely no reference to this radical movement that shook the country during the 60s. The Secessionist politics of the DMK and the original demand for a separate "Draavida Naadu" were also carefully overlooked or ignored.

The only related event that featured in the movie is Karunanidhi's "Kallakkudi Struggle" which in original was organised for the renaming of Dalmiyapuram Railway station as Kallakkudi. But, the movie presented a revolutionary Tamilselvam (Prakash Raj) conducting the demonstrations for the sake of Reservations. And, the punch of the protest was further mitigated by the romantic encounter between Tamilselvam and Senthaamarai (Tabu), in the midst of the turbulent agitations.

3) C.N.Annadurai - The Chief Minister of Tamilnadu (1967)

C.N.Annadurai taking Oath of office after DMK's stupendous success in the 1967 Assembly Elections.

DMK rode the wave with an overwhelming electoral victory in the 1967 Assembly elections capitalising the Anti-Hindi agitations of 1965 and MGR's near-death encounter as he was shot in the throat by M.R.Radha. And, C.N.Annadurai - the then General secretary of the DMK became the first non-congress Chief Minister of Tamilnadu. In the movie, Veluthambi (Nasser) expresses disinterest on heading the state and Tamilselvam becomes the CM with Anandan's (Mohanlal) support. This way, the events that actually took place after Annadurai's death in 1969 - Mu.Karunanidhi becoming the CM with the support of MGR, were pushed ahead by approximately two years.

4) The Birth of Anna-DMK (1972) & The Dindigul by-election (1973)

The cinema entry of Mu.Ka.Muthu (Karunanidhi's son) as a competitor to an ageing MGR, created well-pronounced rifts in an already diminishing MGR-Karunanidhi relationship. Though the magnitude looks small, Mu.Ka.Muthu's "Pillayo Pillai" is still considered an immediate impetus that gave birth to the MGR's Anna-DMK. Thus, Maniammai (Periyaar's mistress) and Mu.Ka.Muthu hold a very important place in the state's political history - the former leading to the birth of DMK from DK and the latter leading to the birth of ADMK from DMK. Both find no mentions in Iruvar.

The Dindigul by-election (1973) - MGR floated his political party ADMK in 1972 and was on a eager wait to prove his political mettle. The first oppurtunity came to him in the form of Dindigul by-election and ADMK's candidate Maayathevar defeated both the DMK and the Congress by a comfortable margin. The victory marked a decisive shift in the politics of Tamilnadu and more importantly, heralded the arrival of MGR in the political scenario of the state. Interestingly, MGR's "Ulagam Sutrum Vaalibhan (USV)" faced a lot of troubles from the ruling DMK at the censors for its release and MGR emerged successful with both actually ... May 12,1973 - Release of USV and May 20, 1973 - Dindigul elections.

These events were absolutely absent in Iruvar, though there has been a small mention about this before "Kannai katti kolladhe" song but Tamilselvam lets the movie through with a criticism of his rule of the state.

5) MGR at Brooklyn and AIADMK's Third Electoral Victory

Operation Bluestar, Indira's Assasination, Anti-Sikh riots (Yeah, in that order), Bhopal gas tragedy - 1984 was arguably the worst year in India's history after independence.

Dialysis, Apollo, Brooklyn - the most discussed words in Tamilnadu in 1984. The entire state was in a prayer mode conducting group-prayer sessions for the good health of their beloved Chief Minister, MGR. MGR was sick and was admitted in the Brooklyn hospital, United States and Jayalalitha Jayaram, R.M.Veerappan and Panruti Ramachandran were on the election campaigns. Apparently, people only required some proof that MGR was still alive and AIADMK used MGR's videos and photographs extensively during the campaign and the party comfortably packed another punch with a decisive third consecutive victory in the assembly elections. MGR came back in 1985 and was sworn in as the Chief Minister of the state, the third time.

Again - No reference.

6) Jayalalitha Jeyaram - MGR's Political Heir

There was a lot of drama in the AIADMK after the death of MGR in 1987, regarding the party premiership - MGR's widow Janaki Ramachandran on one side and his favourite lead lady in the cinemas, Jayalalitha on the other side. But Jayalalitha, with her charismatic personality and iron will was able to win the support of the party and has held the party intact since then. Jayalalitha is by far the most controversial political figure of the state and Iruvar chooses to erase this off the history books - Aarghh !!

Hope you enjoyed the history ride !!!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

20 Iconic On-screen Couples of Tamil Cinema

The list is not arrived at after a comprehensive survey of the entire film history and is only a reflection of the author’s tiny acquaintance with the cinema of the region and hence the list is undoubtedly personal.

It’s real sad that none of Gemini Ganesan’s (hailed the “Kadhal Mannan” aka “The king of romance”) movies could make it to my list, the only reason being ... I haven’t watched any of his films except “Then Nilavu” and that too as a kid. And, some of the iconic couples who won’t be seen in the following post for the same reason are, MGR – Saroja Devi, Sivaji – Padmini, Gemini – Vyjayanthimala, Gemini – Savitri etc.

And, No prize for counting the number of times, the word “Chemistry” is used in the post.

So, What’s this Iconic couple stuff, anyhow ?
- Ever since cinema dawned as the principal entertainment medium for people, “Love” seems to be the one common aspect that both the film makers and the audience are obsessed with. From the days of MKThiagaraja Bhagavathar & PUChinnappa till “Vaaranam Aayiram”, romance-themed movies have always had a remarkable shelf life and entertainment value. And naturally, when a film captivates the audience, its protagonists or the lead actors stay with us. Art imitates life or life imitates art ... No, not a debate ... but there shouldn’t be any ambiguity on the fact that beautiful stories inspire lives (Be it any form of artistry – poem, novel or cinema). So, the following lengthy write-up is a result of my decision to relive and revive some of the wonderful on-screen couples who entertained us all these years.

Musicals - Our brand of cinema is very different from the other world cinema in a way that almost all our films are “Musicals”. Yeah, you can count the songless films in our film history, probably with the fingers of your hands. Songs are always seen by the west as needless hindrance to the flow of the movie – but honestly, there’s no underestimation of the importance of songs to our cinema. Our culture is distinctively different that, stage-plays and “Therukkoothu” were a part of our lives earlier and so when cinema took over at later stages, songs can’t be ruled out. There were instances when our cinema had more than 70 songs and that almost whole of the narrative is expressed via musicals. But on a purely personal note, item numbers and introduction songs are something that should be shown the red-card, I feel. So, why is this all said now ? ... Look down the following list and you will realise the importance of the melodious romantic songs and catchy duets in substantiating whatever is not said via the dialogues.

So, Into the list now ... (In no particular order ... The numbering is done only to provide an ordely view).

1) Moondraam Pirai (1982) – Kamal and Sridevi

Kamal and Sridevi – should be the favourite movie couple of any 80s film viewer. Starred in more than 20 movies together, they define everything related to this topic – attractive, elegant, alluring, charismatic and what not. “Varumayin Niram Sigappu” and “Meendum Kokila” offer good examples but there’s not a better example than “Moondraam Pirai”. Still considered a dream-role for any heroine, Sridevi’s performance was mindblowing. And then there’s the famous climax sequence which fetched Kamal a national award. The song “Kannae Kalaimaane”, the last one penned by Kannadasan, should summarise everything about the film.

2) Idhayam (1991) – Murali and Heera

They never looked into the eyes, they never sang duets, they never proposed and above all ... they barely talked to each other in the movie. Yet, the impact this on-screen romance created is still unparalleled & fresh and will continue so, across generations of viewers. While Murali’s “Unproposed love” is referred to in a lot of later movies, Heera created a style statement by placing the rose at the side of her banded hair. Ilayaraja’s BGM let romance flow throughout the film.

3) Mouna Raagam (1986) – Mohan and Revathi

Mohan represented the elements of an ideal husband with all his good-to-be behaviours and Revathi was caught between her old love & the new marriage. The portrayal of their love boiling down towards each other was awesome. Also, the Karthik – Revathi track in the flashback narrative featured an implicit & natural chemistry between them. The later is a “Haikoo” while the former is a charming "poetic nebula". Ask your mom her favourite movie and there will be a very good probability that the answer is “Mouna Raagam”.

4) Sillunu Oru Kaadhal (2006) – Surya and Jyothika

The movie premiered on the day of their wedding and this was the last time we saw the pair together on-screen. Thanks to a lot of movie appearances of the couple before this film that they appear to have a natural affinity and the chemistry appeared near-intrinsic. The Surya-Bhumika track in the movie will try to over-shadow this one but not so convincingly.

5) Sindhu Bhairavi (1985) – Sivakumar and Suhasini

Driven by desperation to share & discuss music, JKB (Sivakumar) finds an ideal companion in Sindhu (Suhasini). Suhasini’s performance with all her proactiveness, enthusiasm and genius of music, always looked deserving the National Award she won. This is not about love and bond – but about companionship. Though not completely platonic, the movie travels through a very thin line between professional companionship and personal intimacy.

6) Paruthi Veeran (2007) – Karthi and Priyamani

Can very well be hailed the biggest debut movie for an actor after Sivaji Ganesan’s “Parasakthi”, Paruthi Veeran launched Karthi on a real grand scale. Being truly regional, the film won numerous accolades at National (Best Actress – Priyamani) and International film festivals as well. The film can be justifiably compared to the arrival of “16 Vayathinile” in 1977 for its freshness and cult value. The film was a box-office blockbuster that the audience could feel the smell of the red soil and the intensity of a very raw romance in the A/C cinema halls. Toned camera work and beautiful serenades – the film definitely produced a perennially romantic couple in Veeran and Muthazhagu.

7) Mudhal Mariyadhai (1985) – Sivaji and Radha

Practically speaking, Sivaji Ganesan possessed every material in him to become a world class method actor. But our cinema only fed him with roles that demanded loud deliverance of lengthy monologues and groomed him into a overacting thespian. And, a few exceptions of this would include “Mudhal Mariyadhai” and “Devar Magan”. “Mudhal Mariyadhai” portrayed a platonic relationship between an aged village man and a young boat rower. Legendary Sivaji Ganesan just presented his character without any overacts and flamboyant Radha proved her acting prowess in the midst of iconic Sivaji. The songs “Vetti Veru Vaasam” and “Poongaatru thirumbuma” did ample justice in the build-up of this beautiful relationship on-screen. The movie’s songs found mentions in many later movies whenever a mature man-young girl relationship needs to be portrayed.

8) Rhythm (2000) – Arjun and Meena

This is one of my favourite movies – An unsung movie it is, it’s all about relationships. All the three romantic tracks involving Arjun & Jyothika, Ramesh Arvind & Meena and then Arjun – Meena were interesting. The movie’s song tracks had a uniqueness in the way they were written, covering all the five elements of nature – Water, Earth, Fire, Sky and Air. The protagonists were absolute strangers and the way they were drawn towards each other – poetic. The movie in its course portrayed various stages of a relationship starting from absolute outsiders through companionship, friendship and love.

9) Panneer Pushpangal (1981) – Suresh and Shanthi Krishna

Panneer Pushpangal, very boldly treated a usually overlooked but eternally present phenomenon – High school romance. The movie brilliantly delineated the hostel life at a convent, pointless puerile jealousies and the most characteristic aspect of the age – Immature mind and Infatuation. The movie didn’t actually required a chemistry between the lead actors and hence naive performances from Suresh and Shanthi never looked bad. After all, they were playing school kids in the movie. Prathap Pothan played a school teacher and his performance is quite acclaimed. “Anandha raagam” and “Kodaikkaala kaatre” were brilliant tracks from the movie.

10) Hey Ram (2000) – Kamal and Rani Mukherjee

This particular sequence involving Kamal & Rani is very short in the movie – less than 20 minutes considering the length of the movie that runs for over 200 minutes. But that couldn’t resist me from including this in my list. The scene opens with Rani’s eyes through the door-lens, the way she speaks tamil, the piano with a Kamal - Rani picture over it, the Bengali poetry and last but not the least - “Nee Paartha Paarvaikkoru Nandri”, an absolute musical gift from Ilayaraja - Everything you see and hear is romantic. And, I have seen this in many a movies - The piano - whenever it is shown, will be a metaphor for love or a romantic relationship. Catch this at Nammavar’s “Poonguyil Paadinaal” also. So, the next time you see the lights on a piano – Expect a romantic tickle there.

11) Johnny (1980) – Rajini and Sridevi

Wielding the angry young man looks and image, Rajini’s film career is mostly studded with action oriented mass entertainers. Mahendran offered a glimpse into a very different Rajinikanth – soft and lovable. Sridevi is a singer and Rajini likes her music and loves her. “En Vaanile ... Orey Vennila” – the way the song unfolds and progresses leaves you mesmerised. And Yeah, there was a piano here also – Read the “Hey Ram” description above.

12) Kadhal Kondaen (2003) – Dhanush and Sonia Agarwal

One of the rare kind of movies that explored relationship complexities. Vinodh (Dhanush), out all afresh from his church school couldn’t quite identify the affiliation he has with his classmate Divya (Sonia) at college - Is it friendship, love or lust ?. Divya looks at him as a friend but Vinod, driven by possessiveness just couldn’t let her go off him. Dhanush with those boyish looks and insane behaviour, made full use of the acting opportunity and won a lot of acclaim for the performance. And the movie brought the gorgeous Sonia to the tamil screens.
தாயாக நீ தான் தலை கோத வந்தால் உன் மடி மீது மீண்டும் ஜனனம் வேண்டும் ...

காதல் இல்லை, இது காமம் இல்லை, இந்த உறவுக்கு உலகத்தில் பெயர் இல்லை ...

The lyrics of "Nenjodu Kalandhiru” pinpointingly presents the confusion and complexity of the relationship. The tracks were chartbusters and provided an elevated feel of the film.

13) Oru Thalai Raagam (1980) – Shankar and Roopa

T Rajendar’s first directorial venture, the film depicted “One sided love” in all its colours. Though the lead actors weren’t noticed much, the film and its songs were very famous for the way it treated the tragic face of a romantic relationship. Set in a college backdrop, the film will only present a boring endeavour to an audience of our generation, the only reason being the dismal performance of the lead actors. No emotions, No modulation in dialogue delivery – they just speak the lines aloud. Nevertheless, “Oru Thalai Raagam” is a very important film for two reasons – One, the film is still used as an image of “love failure” and two, its proven boxoffice abilities. The film’s soundtrack featured seven songs all sung by the male protagonist.

14) Vaaranam Aayiram (2008) – Surya and Sameera Reddy

Considered the most personal movie of Gautham Menon, Vaaranam Aayiram provided the much needed freshness in our cinema’s portrayal of romance. Invariably liked by everybody, the Surya – Sameera conversation in the train, Surya’s meeting at Meghna’s (Sameera) home and then the crispy US narrative – the sequence provided an eventful and memorable romantic presentation classily different from the usual dull & routine depictions. The fervour of the on-screen romance was so deep that the film could successfully connect both the ecstatic romance of the couple and the excruciating pain of love, to the audience. Credits are due to Harris Jayaraj for the magic this movie created.

15) Pudhu Pudhu Arthangal (1989) – Rahman and Sithara

For the most part of his career, K Balachander remained an iconoclast and always seemed interested in blasphemic and taboo breaking relationships. This particular relationship portrayed in “Pudhu Pudhu Arthangal” was very interesting that it will just begin without a basis, proceed seamlessly driven by a wild passion - more like a oarless boat before it will face an abrupt end at the climax. But, the flow was poetic and the relationship was lyrical. Accompanied by mellifluous Ilayaraja numbers (especially “Keladi Kanmani ... Paadagan sangathi”), the movie’s song picturisations were engaging.

16) Kushi (2000) – Vijay and Jyothika

This S J Suryah venture still remains the prototype of a lot of later movies that present “Ego in romantic relationships”. It had a very clear screenplay expressing one of the most easily-seen but complex-to-explain facets of any relationship – ego. Screenplay played the hero of the movie but Vijay-Jyothika sequences had a pleasant substance and that material undoubtedly carries the film forward. The very famous “Jyothika Iduppu” scene and Mumtaz’s presence provided an enjoyment stimulus and electrified the audience.

17) Chinna Thambi (1991) – Prabhu and Khushboo

Perennially occupying the gossip pages of every tamil magazine during the early 90s, their on-screen romances as well as off-screen antics received a lot of attention and media glare. Prabhu’s performance with his well enacted childishness & ignorance was received well and the movie was a big-break for Khushboo – and the couple undoubtedly had that enviable sizzle associated with them. The movie’s boxoffice success was phenomenal and Khushboo’s arrival to the fore paved the way for the import of a lot of fair-skinned ladies from the North (to be cast as heroines) during the later stages.

18) Alai Paayuthe (2000) – Madhavan and Shalini

Dreamy and delightful urban romance, Alai Paayuthe launched Madhavan as a sensational lover-boy to the tamil cinema and Shalini, with all her unpretentious girl next door looks and homely behaviour - the couple shared an instantaneous chemistry. Definitely not the typical Maniratnam style movie, the film had a non-linear narrative structure and Rahman’s wonderful BGM & songs were instrumental in providing a wholesome romantic experience. The conversations between the two lead actors, specifically the one at the local train ("Aana idhellam nadandhudumonnu bayama irukku") were very engaging and memorable.

19) Guna (1991) – Kamal and Roshini

Guna is the story of a man mad(e) in(with) love. It presented a celestial love story where the male protagonist treats his lover, equivalent to a goddess (Abhirami). It had an ugly-looking Kamalhaasan in love with the angelic Roshini (real sad that she is not seen on-screen after Guna). It had a very different perspective of love – It’s depicted as a supernatural feature and a lustless bliss. “Kanmani Anbodu” and “Guna caves” still speak the impact, the movie created. But, the film which opened on the Diwali day met “Thalapathi” at the boxoffice and had a very poor run across the state.

20) Kadhal Kottai (1995) – Ajith and Devayani

Love seems to be the only impetus that manoeuvers our cinema ahead from time to time. “Every kind of love has been dealt with ... I should come up with a radically new and creative depiction of love” thought Agathiyan and the result was “Kadhal Kottai” - which had the lead actors who haven’t seen each other, in a romantic relationship. The idea was novel, the movie was a grand success and Agathiyan was gifted with the “Swarna Kamal” for the best director (National Award). When there’s no scope for dialogue deliverance across the couple and duets together – how to convey and reciprocate love ? ... Letters did it and the sweetness of the song “Nalam Nalamariya Aaval” conveys a lot. When Surya (Ajith) and Kamali (Devayani) meet at the railway station (yet again !) at the climax, you exhale in relief and send out a happy sigh.

Some other entries that narrowly missed the list are, Jeans – Prashanth and Aishwarya Rai, Bombay – Arvindsamy and Manisha Koirala, Alaigal Oyvathillai – Karthik and Radha, Keladi Kanmani – SPB and Radhika, Kilinjalgal – Mohan and Purnima, Poo - Shrikanth and Parvathi, Pudhiya Paadhai - Parthiban and Seetha, Idhyathai Thirudathey - Nagarjun and Girija, May Madham - Vineeth and Sonali.

So, the cruise gets over here ... Get out of the stream. Pour in your comments on the post.