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Kamal A2Z: Ellam Inba Mayam

Ellam Inba Mayam, made in 1981 (story, dialogues and lyrics: Panju Arunachalam) was in many ways a precursor to Kamal’s later movies. He dons a multi-character role, speaks different dialects and above all, explores a full-fledged light-hearted comedy for probably the first time. G. Rangarajan, the director, would go on to make another comedy Meendum Kokila with Kamal the same year and Maharasan a decade later. The setting and spirit of “Solla solla..” song (a perfect spoof of ‘disco’ songs of the period, resurrected on YouTube) was taken further in the evergreen “Ilamai itho itho…” in Sakalakala Vallavan, a year later.

The movie follows a hackneyed script but the Kamal takes the situational comedy to a level where we can forget the mindlessness of it all. In fact, the movie seems to have been made with the singular objective of showcasing Kamal’s acting talents with no regard to logic. His scenes with YG Mahendran are some of the best of the period, in terms of comic timing. Two examples: Kamal and YGM have just arrived at Madras, and are visiting the Gandhi statue at the Marina beach. As they remove their slippers and move to the statue, YGM remarks “Aasirvaadham vangippom. Yengayo avasarama poraru pola irukku..” (Let’s get his blessings. He seems to be in a hurry to go somewhere.). Later, when a prospective employer inquires about their competency, Mahendran explains, “Nalla saapiduvom“. The man then demands, “Appuram?”, to which Kamal replies without batting an eyelid, “Kai kazhuviduvom…” (the beauty will be lost in translation) – proving again what it takes to transform an ordinary script into an engaging act.

The Charlie Chaplin influence on Kamal is seen in this one too – probably for the first time on screen. The scene where Kamal and YGM dine at a local restaurant Chaplinesque to the core, especially the sequence where Kamal cannot stop his hiccups. The way he walks in the Basavappa character is again reminiscent of Chaplin’s films.

There are many elements of the village bumpkin character which Kamal seems to have retained in Kameshwaran of MMKR. The naivety, the walk, the awkwardness are all trademark Kameshwaran. Also of note is that for a typical masala movie, with villain and fights intact, there is no gore or even a single murder, much like Michael Madana Kama Rajan. Incidentally, both movies were produced by Panju Arunachalam’s P. A. Arts. Ellam Inba Mayam may not be one of Kamal’s best; but looking back, I am sure it has influenced his career path and his disposition to full-fledged comedies.

Editor’s Note: We’ll continue with ‘E’ for a fortnight as usual. But the next letter is ‘F’, which unfortunately has no movies. So, let’s catch up on what was left out from ‘A’ to ‘E’ during that time. Send in your entries!

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Poi launch photos

Here are some photos from the launch function of Poi in 2005. It was Balachander’s 101st movie, produced by Prakashraj (aka Prakash Rai). The movie starred Uday Kiran and Vimala Raman.

Kamal is seen in Rama Shama Bhama get-up.

Check out more photos featuring Kamal, Rajni, Balachander and Prakashraj.

[Picture courtesy: BehindWoods]

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Dasavatharam: background legend?

Fellow-blogger Hawkeye has come up with a possible mythological (?) background to Dasavatharam, based on what we have heard till now and the recently released stills. Whether it turns out to be true or not, it’s definitely an interesting read.

[Picture courtesy: BehindWoods]

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Kamal A2Z: Devar Magan

Editor’s Note: Okay, the purists might say that the spelling should actually be “Thevar Magan”. But we’re strapped for movies — will you kindly excuse? And is anyone ready to quench our thirst for Daisy, Donga Dora or Dekha Pyar Tumhara?

Hmm, what do I write about a landmark movie that has been analysed in umpteen ways, even on this very blog? I think I’ll look back at the movie, the times and some interesting tidbits.

  • Few shots come to mind when I think of Devar Magan. One of them that is stuck permanently is from the climax. Kamal carries the mega-sickle on his shoulders and walks down, like Jesus with the cross. At that instant, I saw Kamal disappear and the character take over completely. But my wish for a National Award didn’t come true. There were 6 others for the movie though.
  • The movie was talked about for Sivaji Ganesan coming together with his on-screen successor, Kamal. The chemistry was simply memorable. Kamal seemed to have almost reproduced their real-life relationship onto the reel. Sivaji remarked after the movie’s release that Kamal had just asked him to be himself to play that character.
  • When the movie was being shot, Devi, the Tamil magazine had covered it. It featured sound bytes from Sivaji mainly. To one of the questions, he had said that Kamal was still young and could continue acting for another 15 years. The year was 1992.
  • In my mind, this was Sivaji’s best performance along with Mudhal Mariyadhai. He famously refused the Special Jury National Award, as he hadn’t been recognised in all the years.
  • Traces of The Godfather are evident — the local chieftain, the younger son being preferred to take over and so on. Kamal later said that it was indeed a tribute. It was actually a bet amongst friends on who would do the Hollywood classic in Tamil first. Mani Ratnam won with Nayakan, 5 years earlier.
  • Revathi took over the role of Panjavarnam that Meena turned down due to lack of dates. Though a tad old for that role, she went on to add another feather in her cap in the form of a National Award.
  • Vadivelu possibly never did a role like this before or after Devar Magan — sheer casting genius.
  • The songs were very situational and not all of them became big hits. But “Inji iduppazhagaa…” rocked and fetched a National Award for S Janaki.
  • When the movie became a huge success, Kamal underplayed it by saying that it was just a ‘rehearsal’ for Marudhanayagam. We’re still waiting for the real thing.
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Kamal A2Z: Chachi 420

Editor’s Note: While it may not be a good idea to have the Hindi re-make follow the Tamil original, we hope that readers will understand that we are handicapped by the limited number of movies available for ‘C’. Anyone ready to do Chanakyan?

Kamal does not really favour re-makes though he has featured in quite a few on either side of the Vindhyas. Unlike many of his other movies, he quickly took Avvai Shanmughi Northwards. After a public spat with the designated director, Shantanu Sheorey, he took over the reins hesitantly, as he had planned a grand launch for himself with Hey Ram. Unlike his other recent ventures, he struck gold with Chachi 420. With back-to-back successes of Hindustani (dubbed from Indian) and this one, “Kamal Hassan” had returned to Bollywood. The movie endured other controversies too including its earlier names “Chikni Chachi” and “Stree 420“.

When I caught the movie on one of the Zee channels, I was a curious Tamilian who wanted to know what Kamal had done with the hit movie when it was ‘translated’ into Hindi. Overall, the movie managed to retain the commercial essence of the original. Crazy Mohan’s witty dialogues were too native and original to emulate though; they came up with stuff much above average. Also, to cater to a wide market, it took on a tinge of vulgarity with a few close-ups of the old lady’s bosom and a bedroom sequence involving the lead pair.

The more obvious difference was the actors. Kamal, of course, reprised his role, now in the avatar of a Marathi brahmin lady, Lakshmi Godbole. He went through his rigorous prosthetic make-up yet again to surprise the new set of audience with his drag act, while managing to do a Bihari with Jaiprakash Paswan. Moving onto other actors, Tabu played the role of Janki — a cake-walk for an actress of her calibre. She provided her own touch to the character, transitioning from a lover to a separated wife. For the key role played by veteran Gemini Ganesan, Kamal went for Amrish Puri. He fared better than he did in Viraasat (re-make of Thevar Magan), but the comic and romantic angle of Gemini was missing. Om Puri played Delhi Ganesh’s role in his own way and came out trumps. Paresh Rawal played the small role of a landlord, showing a glimpse of what he would unleash in several movies in the future. Nasser repeated his role in Hindi and was just okay. A different girl played the kid adequately while Ayesha Jhulka was nothing much to write about. The real piece of brilliance was bringing Johnny Walker out of retirement. He underplayed the role superbly and brought us back old memories.

The hit combination of Gulzar and Vishal Bharadwaj provided a different kind of music, while maintaining the light nature of the soundtrack. Kamal dared to sing Chachi’s number (”Jaago gori…“)  himself and did well, in the company of Asha Bhonsle. Gulzar also took care of the dialogues.

Looking back, Kamal provided Bollywood a taste of good comedies, which they are still bad at replicating.

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Kamal A2Z: Benkiyalli Aralida Hoovu

Such little information is available on this movie that I’m just going to put down whatever I know and found out. I tried in vain to rent the DVD too. [But it’s not available here in the Bay Area. Maybe, I’d have had better luck in Bangalore.]

Benkiyalli Aralida Hoovu (the flower that bloomed in fire) still remains one of Kamal’s popular ventures into Kannada cinema. It is the remake of Aval Oru Thodarkathai starring Sujatha, which had Kamal in a supporting role. He acted in the Bengali remake Kabita too.

This 1983 Kannada movie had his real-world niece Suhasini in the lead role, being the only movie in which they acted together. Kamal plays the role of a bus conductor, not the same part he played in the Tamil original. The “Mundhe Banni…” song (with playback by SPB) is still an old favourite.

Anyone knows more? Give us all some details in the Comments section.

Editor’s Note:
Unfortunately, this seems to be the only movie for ‘B’. Or does anyone know some other movie Kamal was atleast associated with and not necessarily acted in? Otherwise, let’s continue with more movies starting with ‘A’ for this fortnight. Send in your entries!

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Dasavatharam (stills) unleashed!!!

Yes, something was brewing at the Dasavatharam camp atleast. The first full set of stills and some news was released today.

Not surprisingly, none of the ‘get-ups’ have been revealed. This set of stills just serves as a teaser, marking the start of the publicity in the run-up to the movie’s release.

The stills feature Kamal, Asin and Mallika predominantly. Some of them match with a few released earlier on Mallika’s Web-site.

Some of the rumours that surfaced earlier are now confirmed with the release of these stills.

Other details that have come up:

  • Two more songs are to be picturised. They will cost about 3 crore (30 million) Rupees and sets for the same are being worked upon currently.
  • The audio will be released in October.
  • A fight sequence with Kamal pitted against Kamal himself was shot for 20 days, employing a Hollywood stunt director. Another chase sequence was filmed in Chidambaram.
  • While Asin dubs for herself for the first time, Kamal is supposed to have used a different voice for each character he plays. Meanwhile, 5000 people have dubbed for a scene involving around 10000 people!
  • English and Japanese linguists have been used for the movie.
  • Several directors have acted in the movie.

Today’s news seems to indicate that a Diwali release isn’t likely. We are probably looking at December.

Read detailed reports and enjoy more stills on The Hindu, Sify.com, Behindwoods and IndiaGlitz.

[Picture courtesy: BehindWoods]

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Kamal A2Z: Avargal

Editor’s Note:
Another reader joins the series! Just about a week more left for ‘A’. C’mon folks!

by Mahesh

I confess that this is not the first movie that would come to mind when you think Kamal Haasan, but for me it does. As Janardhanan, Kamal did not impress me much, but as Junior he did. I became a fan then and continue to be one. I do not recall much about the movie as I last watched it about 15 years ago, but a few things stand out till date:

  1. Kamal acts as a third hero (if you can call it that) in the movie! Talks a ton of the man who is used to care more about the role than his presence.
  2. As a Malayalee accountant Janardhanan, Kamal impressed with his ability to converse in a Malayalam-tinged Tamil.
  3. But the most impressive thing about Kamal in Avargal is his role as Junior. Kamal appears as a ventriloquist in the movie and from what I gather, really learnt the art. I still recall the first scene as Junior when one can see Kamal’s throat muscles move as Junior speaks! Kudos to the man, the actor and the artist.

In my opinion, Avargal sums up Kamal’s performance in many a movie. Caring more about the role than his presence or appearance - illustrated in Apoorva Raagangal, Guna, Swathi Muthyam (Sippikkul Muthu), 16 Vayadhinile, Kalyanaraman, Anbe Sivam, etc. His versatility with languages / accents - MMKR, Tenali, Maharasan, Sathi Leelavathi, Chanakyan, Panchathanthiram, Rama Bhama Shyama, Ek Duuje Ke Liye, etc. His dedication in learning the art to become the character depicted — Sagara Sangamam (Salangai Oli), Punnagai Mannan, Apoorva Sagodarargal etc.

The man really deserves A++.

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Forrest Gump based on Swathi Muthyam?

Kamal has often been criticized for “copying” Hollywood movies, be it Avvai Shanmughi (Bhamane Satyabhamane / Chachi 420) or Tenali. In a rare occasion, he provided his take on the controversy in Singapore. Thinnai (a Tamil Webmag?) covered it.

Kamal feels that it’s not wrong to use stories from other language movies. Defending himself, he says that Forrest Gump could have been based on the lead character in Swathi Muthyam (Sippikkul Muthu). The movie starring Tom Hanks in an Oscar-winning role released in 1994 and was based on a book that came out in 1986. Kamal’s movie was out in 1985 itself. There is a piece on Forrest Gump on a Web-site, said to be based on an Wikipedia article, which mentions the original Telugu movie. Similarly, Sigappu Rojakkal was said to have been plagiarised from Visiting Hours, whereas the Hollywood movie actually released 4 years later! In the end, Kamal calls for having belief in and appreciating the talent of fellow Indians.

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Dasavatharam dubbing

Dasavatharam is in the post-production phase, specifically into dubbing. IndiaGlitz reports that one character speaks Telugu in the movie and for that, Kamal has approached Vennelakanti to dub for that role!

I checked with WB on Vennelakanti. Vennelakanti is a Telugu writer (also lyricist?), like Vaali. He usually helps Kamal with dubbing all his movies from Tamil to Telugu, and in rare occassions from Telugu to Tamil.

With interesting tidbits still coming up, we all hope that Dasavatharam will be revealed for Diwali.

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