Crazy Mohan: A Remembrance
Adutha line enna?”
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
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.