A few days ago, when I wrote a piece on trains in film climaxes, I planned to go back to it sometime – similar themes of transport. Today is one such day, only that today we discuss buses and everything that it could mean to us.
This post is a list of characters that buses play in Tamil films and what they possibly signify. Please feel free to add new or argue my interpretations in the comments section below.
Buses for romance
Most films set in the urban milieu have a tendency to romanticise the bus journey – culprit number one of course is Mani Ratnam. Mouna Ragam – where he coaxes her to grant him a date, Alaipayuthey the ‘Hey Pondati! Yov!’ scene, Aaytha Ezhuthu where Arjun and Meera travel back and forth in a bus making conversations are a few to elaborate what I mean. The love story in Lingusamy’s Run begins in a bus. Much of middle class love stories have a scene or two in a bus – officially making it the place for the first date!
A culture ride
I thought of beginning with Oorvasi Oorvasi as an example for how culture dances on bus-tops, but then perhaps that’ll dilute the point a little. When I say culture, I mean how buses are part of our identity. Even though it slightly borders on the political, pelting stones at buses as protests, the lemon hanging in the front of a bus, the pink colour magalir mattum bus, stop la niruthaama pogara bus – in essence the way buses, in their own small way, define who we are.
Odi poi bus erradhu, gaaliya irundhaalum footboard adikkardhu, ‘something fundamentally wrong with the ethos, eh?’ nu scene podradhu – buses can not be brushed aside as transportation alone. Also, interesting in this context is the elaborate show of passing the ticket charge from one end of the bus to the other and the ticket back – there is one such scene in JJ, Run (isn’t there?), Khushi also – a classic reflection of the culture of helpfulness in the city, is it?
While we are at it, huge bus stands in big cities are also interesting environments - Vettaiyaadu Vilaiyadu, Samy, Kadhal, Engeyum Eppodhum all have a bus stand scene reflecting of the character of the city!
Social science in a bus
The scene in Tamizhan where the conductor insults an old man and the character played by Vijay takes it up in court – is one of the few serious scenes (apart from the one in Mudhalvan), which makes a political statement about corruption from within a bus. Then there is K S Ravikumar’s Villain where Ajith is a bus conductor – this one you all slice and analyse.
This, to me, is among the most vibrant and cheerful expression in cinema. Much as I’d put myself at a slightly lower position to talk about films in a rural setting, these buses seem far more egalitarian and lively. The scene in Dumm Dumm Dumm, for instance, when the maappillai returns from jail – the bus (and the secluded bus stop in front of such vast vayal) plays the role of the bridge between the urban and the rural (in this particular case it even signifies returning to the ‘good’). Trains serve this purpose too but the visible backdrop of the village behind a bus stop scores an extra point for the buses.
In all, a director may have chosen a bus for logistical reasons, convenience, chance or sheer laziness. But there is no denying the fact that there is a subliminal meaning that buses add to the story we convey.
P.S: In which category would you put this song?