cinema cinema:tamil

Siri On You Crazy Diamond

Crazy Mohan: A Remembrance

“Margazhi thingal!

Adutha line enna?”

“Margazhi sevvai”

I think my life changed when I picked up a cassette of Crazy Thieves in Palavakkam (CTIP) in a basement book store..

Ok strike that that out, life did change really and I would never be able to listen to Thiruppavai without a chuckle.

The golden age of Tamil Drama was well behind me, I have heard only stories- the ones I had listened (not seen) by that time featured Sve Shekar.

 Natakhapriya cassettes would be bought, to be exchanged with another friend who could recite “Alwa / 1000 Udhai Vaangiya Aboorva Sigamani” at will, when teachers looked the other way. I marveled at his ability.

But this Crazy Thieves in Palavakkam cassette was something different; it did feature Sve Shekar but claimed to have been written by Crazy Mohan. I never knew, honestly- a rare and perfect combination- the timing of Sve and the dialogues and situations of one Mr. Mohan, who I had known from multiple collaborations with Kamal.

By this time MMKR was curriculum.

Perfect because of the coming together of talents.Rare because this is the Tamil comedy drama equivalent of Eric Clapton playing with the Beatles and like ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’ it was pure gold; there was a joke in every line, hell there was a joke even when there were pauses. It was that good.

Within 5 minutes I knew that this would trounce”Alwa” or such in any discernable comedic aspect and I took it upon myself to memorize it and became a quoting repository.  Despite the cassette being a live scratchy recording complete with a wailing kid and continuous laughter probably from the seventies!

I didn’t know it was Mohan’s first play and I didn’t realize its importance, then.  

Oh I love the movie dialogues, don’t get me wrong- but I believe everything started from this heist comedy at Palavakkam. Mohan had the ability to begin with situations that seem quite normal – like for example the perpetually jobless hero (Uppili) but add increasingly crazy elements to it.

In Crazy Mohan’s world situations are more important than the story, the situations that are formed in his head knows no bounds because imagination does not come with an input cost.

A character reading the newspaper is his favourite and I know translating into English won’t help, but nevertheless will attempt.

<Situation: Kuppusamy is convincing Sudarsanam to purchase a house in the outskirts of Chennai and asks his son, the foolish Uppili to read aloud a particular advertisement from the newspaper>

Kuppusamy: Uppili come on read the advertisement from the paper’s 4th page


Kuppusamy(dissing his son) : Do you know number 4? It is the number that comes after 3

<Mild laugh>

Uppili: OoooOooo number 4? I thought the one that comes before 5

<Still more laughs>

Uppili continues: Nonsense Appa, do you think I don’t even know 4.


I have studied till SSLC


I can count till 10

By this time the whole auditorium is laughing. Also count me giggling with my Walkman on multiple train journeys, this was my Hamlet. I should internalize it.

 Uppili then goes on to read murder stories and inappropriate advertisements for the next five minutes till they come back to the situation of buying the house.

Uppili continues to my greatest hero- he says the most random things-makes insane movie references- and is a master in irritating others and doesn’t really want to work. It’s probably Sve’s best role and he carries the persona into his other plays, but albeit without Mohan’s situations and the dialogues.

Personally, CTIP is worth obsessing over for a lifetime(again, my Hamlet). It features kind thieves- a kidnapping gone wrong- deaf assistants and literally a Vinayakar Ex Machina and countless jokes in between. The fact that Uppili thinks Sholay is a Malayalam film is absolute looool material.

Mohan would also take many things with him from CTIP to the movies, including ‘Ekalyvan’, a reference which would continue till his last collaboration with Kamal(Vasool Raja MMBS). It is a work which will sow the seeds for many Crazy variants.

Has there been a more fruitful writer-star combination (well Kamal is not just a star) than that of Kamal and Crazy?

There have been and will be too- many impactful working relationships, but I doubt if there would be anything that would reflect the quality with which Kamal and Crazy would produce.  All 11 of them gems, designed to appeal to different types of humor seekers; there can be no one clear favorite.

Come to think of it, most of the stories that Kamal would have pitched Crazy are inherently sad ones and heavy drama material that could on any day fit Kamal’s serious part of the filmography

  • Panchatantiram: hero is unable to overcome the separation from his wife
  • Avvai Shanmugi:  hero somehow wants to win back his child
  • Kadhala Kadhala: two orphans must succeed in life to help other orphans
  • Thenali: hero is unable to come to terms with the reality of losing his homeland

Amazing how they developed situations over each of these- they throw in some Wodehouse-there’s some classic Hollywood screwball- and some Keaton/Lloyd/Chaplin-there’s some Nagesh too. It’s a professional relationship made in comedy heaven. They literally completed each other’s sentences.

Mohan would continue to be one among many of the crown jewels at Kamal’s RKFI court contributing to other movie discussions.  

Just a crazy thought/prophecy: MMKR will live forever and when the future cineaste digs up the others in the list is bound to be surprised.

“They made MMKR and made these too? Mind-blowing”

A body of work which is also a gift that keeps on giving (laughs).

Will we find someone crazier?

 But that how do I know sir?

Thank you Mohan for being Crazy.  


What Kamal Could Do Next? Episode 1

Series Introduction

Late careers are definitely problematic. Especially if you have had a long filmography that carried much prestige, you really can’t take any movie that comes your way. But that has been done too, great actors have taken up roles just to collect the paycheck. Readers of the Lowly Laureate are well aware that we are a publication that cares about the career of this actor called Kamal Haasan.

We don’t really know politics and this might seem like much of a wish-list (trust us it isn’t), but Kamal surely will not abandon films. Yes, we are also aware that Kamal does not really need career advice. He has done well for himself in the fifty odd years.

This is not a wish-list, this is not a late-career planning crash course, this is just a way to shoe horn Kamal Haasan, the greatest living Indian actor into films that we get to watch from time to time. We enjoyed writing this series (otherwise we wouldn’t be writing it); hope you enjoy it too. Rephrasing Dasavatharam’s KH, these are not movies done by Kamal, but if he could have done it, it would have been nice.

Episode 1: A New Leaf (1971)

A popular comment for this movie on Letterboxd, the social network for movie lovers goes as thus : ” if i ever read a bad review of this, i’ll probably set myself on fire”; we wholly subscribe to this observation but although we would not take the extreme step of immolating ourselves, we have got a blog company to run. But, God knows it is true that this is one of the most perfect movies ever made. Heavens!

Walter Matthau plays mean millionaire Henry Graham, who has spent away his considerable fortune and has six weeks to find a rich wife because he cannot see himself become poor and doesn’t want to stop at just that. Prepared for every trick, Henry is a true gentleman villain.

Elaine May, the writer-director of this piece plays the innocent object of his desire-a luxurious solution to all his life’s problems-a fumbling fern focused botanist Dr. Henrietta Lowell.

Scenes move with the breeze of a page turn and the dialogue is genuinely funny; a modulated dark screwball comedy for the 70s mixed with the kindness that could be found even in the darkest of hearts. Heavens! This is a great movie! Don’t worry we won’t say more. Heavens!

How Would Kamal Do It?

Oh! KH is perfect to play the currency focused curmudgeon. This is actually a cheat, as through this series you will see that we will say that Kamal can play any role (but then he really can). Also it’s been a while since he has played a mean character, wasn’t Michael from MMKR the last one?

Do not forget that the dialogue heavy comedy is one of the well oiled arrows in RKFI’s quiver (Raj Kamal Films International) . Nasser (of course, but who else) could essay Henry Graham’s butler turned conscience keeper, although we are missing Nagesh on this one. Kamal-Crazy (our own Wilder-Diamond) can co-write and it would be welcoming to see Singeetham Srinivasa Rao direct. Damn, now this is seeming like a wish-list (but it really isn’t).

Although the story is driven from Henry’s POV; the movie is successful because Elaine May makes Henrietta outrageous yet grounded and the gags are excellent; we would like exercise caution before we suggest a lead actress. Maybe you could do better, after watching ‘A New Leaf’; if an Indian actress name pops in your head, do let us know.

Yes yes, by this time we hear your collective groans on why a remake? Firstly, original thoughts (and hence scripts) are exceedingly rare and most work is inspired. Secondly, we believe that KH would add a lot more to it- although the movie also features one of his favorite ways to end a film: jump into the water.

And to repeat ourselves, these are not movies done by Kamal, but if he could have done it, it would have been nice. He still can.


For a umm rather dramatic and troubling Kamal Haasan film about a man losing all his riches and supported by a butler type person, see Uyarndha Ullam.

For a different story featuring a rich man losing all his riches and trying to reclaim it, see Sivaji Ganesan’ Enga Ooru Raja

How I chanced about A New Leaf you ask? Ok, here goes

cinema cinema:tamil FRS


This film is strictly reviewed according to the FRS™, for more details on our completely unscientific way of watching movies, do refer to our Irandam Ulagam review.

FRS- Unscientific. Unsympathetic.Unwanted (how’s the tag line buddies?)


A note on noting.

It has come to our notice that the Royal Bengal tiger and the joint family comedy are now endangered, the reason for the tiger’s dwindling population is unknown to us, but the family comedy has surely come to its near end; its proponents have either given up on the genre because the genre’s faithful audience now sit at home and watch TV serials.

And now to the review.


+1: for defying all existing rules and making a film without Santhanam

-2.5: partially misleading title, movie is not about the food served in marriages<possible spoiler>

-10: guy (hero) attends phone call during important meeting thing, first things first, we really hate that. We never get calls during meetings, never, ever.

+5: admirable to see someone attempt a quasi- crazy mohanian film

-34.83: however it isn’t an admirable quasi-crazy mohanian film, if it doesn’t have enough laughs. Definitely not crazy enough; or perhaps we are misreading the film, which is quite possible< the complainant who accuses us of this can write to us, we will duly apologize>

+5: for the heroine not being the daughter or sister of MLA/goonda/main or sub villain( Lekha Washington plays a mechanical engineering graduate who also blogs. We are recruiting such kinds)

+6: actually for all the characters for being simple and rooted and quite likeable

-12: for focussing on stereotypes to provide on humour (not happening buddies) instead of focussing on humour for which situations were rightly setup

-4: thick accents as humour (ok covered in above point, but still we do like to double strike)

+7.89: guy actually doing something do-able (as in real life) to impress girl

-5: what happened to the heroine’s brother????? <No we really want to know, he was there for some time, then went to study for exams?>

-7: subplot (or sub of subplot) based on rumour, again not funny; also the movie takes “the long and winding road” to the end. <Suppressed yawns>

+3: NRI friend who actually is not a threat to your life and will not take away the girl (points given considering the writers have not gone past amjikarai in their whole lives)

-3: hero sidelines Chennai friends when NRI friend appears and saves the day (yes this happens and we take friendships seriously)

-2: Bridesmaids have inherent synchronous giggling quality which they do not find irritating

-1: bajji-sojji based

+10: Delhi Ganesh <as usual a pleasure to watch, but has very little to do>

+5: Crazy Mohan cameo, and that too playing a doc (nth time, still works)

+16: for taking up a subject about which is rarely spoken about in films, also in real life. Well handled.

+1: best use of the phrase “cat is out of the bag”

We really wanted to like this film, but then in life very little things go according to our wants.Maybe a viewing with reduced expectations would have been satisfying.

The title of this review does not mean anything.<Mostly the whole review also>

All numbers are arbitrary and instantaneous.

Review Board, the Lowly Laureate