Tag: Gautam Menon

Calling The Cops

Or what I found when I kept Vettaiyaadu Vilayaadu and Thanga Pathakam side-by-side

Even the meanest of Gautam Menon critics (some of whom, write for this website-gulps) will agree that the “kanna nondi eduthaanga da” opening sequence is among his best. 

It also presents a good template for us to study hero introductions.

Hmm, then I found something, from a 1974 film. 

The Open Challenge

“Bring me the eye of DCP Raghavan!” 

Vettaiyaadu Vilayaadu (VV) begins with Royapuram Mani, who would never appear again in the course of the movie – putting out an open challenge after being pushed to a corner by the police specifically Raghavan. 

He wants to run his ‘business’, but of course he cannot do it with Raghavan giving him the heat around the corner. Mani needs Raghavan dead- no, he wants more, he wants his eyes. 

Good setup, so now we know who our hero is and what his goals are without even showing him- and close. 

“Bring me the head of SP Chowdary!”

25 minutes into 1974’s Thanga Pathakkam (TP- to pronounce it properly go here); director P Madhavan is faced with a challenge- how do I reintroduce the hero? 

As I said 25 mins of the film has already run its course, the usual familial introductions have been made- including the wayward son, the doting wife and the family friend around whom the movie would revolve. 

Probably P Madhavan feels the present state does not give enough ‘weight’ to Sivaji’s character- so I hope he would have asked the writer Mahendran ( who would later make Mullum Malarum, yes that Mahendran) to come up with another introduction. 

Here too there is a character who never appears again in the form of legendary villain actor RS Manohar-but the difference is he wants SP Chowdary’s head. 

The Point Of Entry

Both Madhavan and Menon keep it simple here, just them heroes occupying the frame shot from below- memorable in each case. A point of detail is that Kamal kicks the gate open (which would again allow a nice cycle back to ‘gate a moodra’ later)

Let Them Talk  

The impact is in the action, but the build-up is always in the words. Both our heroes are unarmed when introduced, while Chowdary mentions it, Raghavan hands over the only knife he brought to Royapuram Mani. 

Normally one would expect Sivaji to win this hands down, he is after all the most gifted when it comes to dialogues, but sadly I believe as this could be a hastily written scene- it is more “Aeis and Deis”, which belong more in the cinema of today. But maybe SP Chowdary is more brute force than brain force. 

There is a half hearted attempt at humor and then Manohar gives in immediately but the good thing is, Sivaji gets to slip in a “tholachuruven badava” before the final fight.  

Raghavan on the other hand is shooting bullets like line starting from the just-like-that “en kannu venumnu kettiyam?” then easily evoking one accent from his many to give us “ romba thondru panraan” and pausing to make a lol worthy comment on Royapuram Mani’s arithmetic skills. 

My personal favorite is of course to the other assembled goons, “neengellam vera vela paathukonga pa”

Kamal is in quipping best, the dialogues and the camera always on him, half the screen is Raghavan’s face only- really makes the movie worth watching, although his quipping reduces considerably. 

And Action!

The stuff we have been waiting for, one man against an entire set- in Thanga Pathakkam it becomes a silambam fight while Vetaiyaadu keeps it hand to hand in a contained location before going for an opening song and sets the ball rolling.

Same introduction template. But two completely different movies.

Side by Side

Often we see how new filmmakers take time and pay homage to an earlier film or filmmaker, entire podcast episodes are dedicated to this, but I wouldn’t know if Menon is paying homage to Madhavan. A director cannot cross a tamil cinema police movie list without Thanga Pathakkam- it may have come to his notice or suggested by an assistant with an encyclopedic mind- and there is the question of Kamal being in the movie itself. 

But it is practically the same narrative structure for introducing a cop hero-maybe both Mahendran and Menon borrowed from a common source.

It doesn’t really matter, what matters is that these things strike out or should I say leap out from the screen and what I have left is this confidence of a slight bond. It is a difficult feeling to describe, something like discovering an entire new branch in a family tree. 

Watching movies and seeing other movies in them is by itself a rewarding feeling-makes me feel like a small shareholder in the big scheme of things. 

Enai Noki Paayum Thota

It’s been a week since I saw Gautam Menon’s latest film. I remember almost nothing of it. I take home images of a movie and only then, do I begin to form opinions on it (unlike whatever you might think). 

With ENPT, I can only recollect Dhanush dancing on the edge of the salt pans somewhere on the ECR. I know for sure that this does not directly concern the story- something like Sunaina’s character ( whose name I have to Google), but I guess one of the bad guys described her “gummunu irukka” (not translating due to lack of appropriate word) somewhere in the movie . 

It’s just me, I am getting old. I need to seek help to get this ENPT blog post out. ENPT blog out and ENPT out of my system, so we can really plan what to see and discuss in the coming year. Get the blog out!

So I decided to call up the buddies who put together the FRS, they of course had a good memory, but they said since we have already written the FRS of Achcham Yenbadhu Madamaiyada or AYM, the points would hold good for ENPT. 

The writers were also very smart, they said that if I badly wanted a blog post about ENPT then I could just replace AYM with ENPT, Dhanush with STR, Megha with Manjima and voila, ready. 

Sometimes, I wonder how such smart people write for us. Mostly, I forget that these people are smart people. It’s just me. I am getting old. 

Next I look to the internet, which is a rich in opinion and low on insights medium. Maybe these opinions could help me remember what the movie was all about. After all, I needed to have a memory to form opinions, this seemed a logical option. I had to do it, I had to get into death wish mode and complete this blog post. 

But mostly the internet was talking about how ENPT had a lot of voice overs, hmm they were right, but also this was a Gautham Menon movie, what were they expecting? Maybe they were expecting smart voice-overs. But then again, this is a Gautam Menon film. 

Ah, now I remember; Dhanush’s college senior is Sunaina. But I know for a fact that Dhanush is much older than Sunaina, so maybe I should write about actors playing their appropriate age, that will surely resonate on social media. It is fairly an easy piece to write, almost a low hanging fruit, even our data analytics team in Pune said it would do good for overall website traffic. I rejected the idea, low hanging fruits don’t appeal to me. That’s why I didn’t write about a 30 years old actress playing a 26 year old. 

Another section spoke about how voice overs (i.e VOs) is the modus operandi (i.e MO) of Gautam Menon, they even said like if ‘we’ don’t question shadows in a Hitchcock film, then ‘we’ shouldn’t question GVM too. On the face of it, this seems like a very intelligent argument, our data analytics team also saw such arguments get the much needed traction. 

But is it not about using a method of storytelling but how well it is used and what impact it creates on the audience, the “we” in this case. Of course, if “we” say this, the response would be like, impact is subjective etc. Don’t ask me what I thought about the voice overs, I barely remember this film. It had voice overs. 

Ah! Now I remember, Sunaina’s character name is Mythili and she works in Mumbai. 

With only these minor memories, I was again faced with the question, should I even write about this film? The options before me were clear and they all pointed to one way to escape this misery, I had to. 

Don’t ask me why, you don’t have the right, because you did not ask when Scorsese used voice-overs or when Hitchcock used shadows. 

I should probably make up sentences like “first half was breezy-romantic, second half was action packed” , but honestly, I don’t know what breezy romantic is. But I should write these things, it’s probably what the ‘we’ felt in the theatres according to some critics. 

I know this blogpost will not add anything to discourse, much like Dhanush’s sister character in the movie, much like all GVM’s sister characters. 

So I should just put it out there, get ENPT out of the way and move on. Maybe I should go to Mumbai too, just to think about this movie in detail. But that would be a costly thing to do and my life might cross with gangsters and arms dealers. But I can always stay in Mythili’s place. Damn! I should just publish this blogpost.

“Do it. Do a spelling and grammar check. Now hit publish!” a voice in my head tells.

Don’t ask me why. 

Even if it is mediocre, some critic in the future might compare it to a blog post about a Hitchcock film. 

What’s Music Doc? Mazhai Vara Pogudhe

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No one really shoots songs like Gautham Menon, even folks who don’t like his films will like to sit through the songs, which is the opposite of what they would do for other directors.

In 2015’s Yennai Arindhaal (If you know me), Ajith Kumar plays Satyadev, an honest cop, honest to a fault in fact; explaining this song would need a little bit of context setting because the song itself is placed somewhere midway.

So yes, Satya had just driven out a gangster ‘Golden’ Raj from his house after literally stripping him, yes the price that one has to pay for offering bribes to DCP Satya, this honesty is also emphasized by means of harsh dialogue. Also worth mentioning is that Satya lives alone, naturally a dry life.

Happy and honest but dry.

The song is not a meet-her-the-first-time kindoff song, in fact Hemanika (Trisha) and Satya have met before in not so normal circumstances and a magistrate court is not even a romantic place, but this is where Satya realizes that he actually likes her. So stiff DCP goes and watches mock dance drama and all.

Even if you are Thala, you will find difficulty in getting a girl’ s number and even the usually honest DCP has to resort to other ‘tactics’ to proceed in this matter.

This is where the song starts.

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I really liked it when text in the form of SMS was used to move the narrative in Sherlock, here GVM employs the same technique, it might not add to the character as it does in Sherlock, but surely expresses the uneasy waiting moments that the hero goes through, in fact with every successive text message our hero softens.

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And then it rains.

Dry life and all that washed away. Hence Mazhai Vara Pogudhey.

GVM cuts back and forth between Satya punching goons and Hemanika correcting ‘mudras’ of her disciples, this is not just some love song in Swiss magic backgrounds, this a love song of two professionals going on about their work.

Both hand-to-hand combats, but of a different kind.

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Also notice that the song is used as a catalyst to push time, so it does not seem severely out of place when Satya proposes to her, this is a recurrent GVM theme; single mother who speaks in monosyllable, confident hero who plans far ahead; but look at at the way how it all comes together at the end of the song. Conveys so much five minutes of a song that even after an hour of talkies some directors fail to get.

Satya reaches Hemanika’s house, gives her flowers and there is a hand holding, he is firm/confident but she is unsure, concerned for her daughter perhaps or too shy admit, I dunno it could be anything.

However moments later in the song (almost an evening has passed in their life), there is another hand holding, but this time Hemanika is relaxed, they are alone.

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This tricky relationship is so well carved out in the song, in fact superior to the scene when they actually discuss it out in the open.

This song is story telling.

 

I am not saying this is a perfect song, in fact the Satya and Hemanika walking through malls and Satyam cinemas montage does become repetitive(wink and you will miss a VV reference), but GVM understands songs and where they are placed and their outcome, this one in particular I feel. How much of Hemanika we connect to (which is important for the rest of the film) solely lies in the success of Mazhai vara Pogudhey.

Through her, we see him (yes that is a GVM-ish line, but i’ll risk it) . Superb design.

Songs(in films) are not for relief as some directors would like to say, songs are not even embellishments or travel opportunities to far flung nations, they are very much part of the narrative, when used wisely they could become the director’s greatest ally.

Yes it is a great song to hear, one of my favorite Karthik solos, Harris as usual delivers and one can listen to this number day and night, but taking it with the context of two people coming together within the movie and how it denotes things to come, it is bloody brilliant!

And they say there is no use for song in films.

 

<What’s music doc? is an occasional short column to be put together on the influence of film music or the inability to explain the influence of film music or some such thing>