EdharkAga thadai ini: Female desire in Thamarai’s lyrics

While talking to @Raaga_Suresh the other day, the near-perfect understanding of female desire in iLaiyaraaja’s music came up. He referred to mudhal murai from Neethaane En Pon Vasantham and asked me to notice how Ilaiyaraja uses sounds to express female desire and want for s3xual companionship in that song (He writes about it in details here). The conversation led me into thinking about expression of a woman’s desire and especially (because my interest is always in the meanings than sounds) in lyrics. I want to begin with a short one on how Thamarai treats female desire and then I’ll aim to look into other song writers as well. I choose Thamarai merely for reasons of popularity, success and gender. I’d like to explore how women write about their own desire before I look into how men think women desire.

Thamarai is said to have’arrived’ in the Tamil film lyrics scene with VaseegarA from MinnalE. She went on to write aNal melE panitthuLi and ondrA rendA AsaigaL for Gautham Vasudev Menon’s female leads. Largely, the profiles of the three women are similar – they are employed, intelligent, self-dependent and this isn’t puppy love. Given that, it’s interesting how Thamarai perceives desire for each (of course given the circumstances).

I’ll begin with Reena from MinnalE. She sings to Rajesh – she’s attracted to him. They are in her kitchen, desire each other and almost act on it when they break into this song. She’s perhaps unsure because she hasn’t known him long enough (though she believes she is going to be married to him) but desires him nonetheless. There is a sense of helplessness in the lines, a boundary she is desperate to cross.

vaseegarA en nenjinikka un pon madiyil thoonginAl pOdhum
adhae kaNam en kaNNuRanga mun jenmangaLin EkkangaL theerum
naan nEsippadhum svAsippadhum un dhayavAl thAnE
EngugiRaen EngugiRaen un ninaivAl nAnE nAn

She subtly implies desire wrapped cleverly in ‘nEsippadhum svAsippadhum’. While I would have gone the stretch to interpret ‘madiyil thoonginAl pOdhum’ as making love, the metaphor recurs in several other songs of Thamarai’s and it definitely does not mean the same in the others – but I’ll get to that later. For now, the next part that’s interesting here is that there is no talk of pleasure or destination in this song. Merely playfulness, friendship and longing.

oru pOrvaikkuL iru thookkam

un AdaikkuLE naan vENdum

kAdhalenum mudiviliyil gadigAra nEram kidaiyAdhae (edit on 29/06/2013: Thanks @vforvadi)

It becomes highly arguable if these lines are indeed about desire. The use of the metaphors (Adai, pOrvai etc.) must be a way to circumvent her inability to convince herself that he is the right guy for her. In fact, she isn’t convinced until the far end of the film.

In contrast, Maya of Kaakka Kaakka is sure. In the scene where she proposes to him (or responds to his question about what she wants), she speaks about making love (ok, most GVM heroines do, but that’s besides the point here) to him and having children with him. So, during the celebratory first night after their wedding where the song ondrA rendA AsaigaL festures, you’d expect passion/ desire. Turns out, it’s not what you get. What begins as ‘ondrA rendA AsaigaL ellAm sollavE Or nAl pOdhumA’ does not discuss anything about desire/ Asai/ want/ wish. She meanders into explaining why she loves him (which was already well established earlier in the film).

The closest that comes to desire is

NathigaLilE neerAdum sooriyanai nAn kaNdEn
VErvaigaLin thuLi vazhiya nee varuvAy ena nindrEn
UnnAl en nenjil ANin manam
Naan un sontham endra eNam tharum
Maghizhchi meeruthE, vaanathai thAnduthey saaga thOnruthey

The imagery created by ‘NathigaLilE neerAdum sooriyan’ and ‘VErvaigaLin thuLi vazhiya nee varuvAy’ is miraculously interesting. Exploring the physical attraction towards a man’s body in this song as against ‘dinamum nee kuLitthadhum ennai thEdi, en sElai nuNiyAl undhan thalai thudaippAye..’ is fresh. But aNal mElE panitthuLi is far more intriguing in exploring physical desire. It’s perhaps important that the woman Priya knows Surya from her childhood and they are well past stages of romance and formalities. What’s here is raw desire  and uninhibited the interest in pleasure. The picturisation of the song takes immense interest in Suriya’s body – apart from Kamal, I don’t recollect seeing so much of a man’s skin (so much to the extent that I can already hear people say ‘don’t objectify men’:))

ANal mele panitthuLi; alaipAyum oru kiLi
maram thEdum mazhaitthuLi; ivaithaane ival ini
Imai irandum thanitthani; urakangaL urai pani
EdarkAga thadai ini

The distraction that desire causes and the wish to break boundaries! It gets better as the song goes.

Unadhu iru vizhi tadaviyathAl amizhnthuvittEn mayakathilE
Uthiradume udalin thirai; Adu thaan ini nilavin karai karai

Iru karaigaLai udaithidavE perugidumA kadal alaiyE; iru iru uyir thathaLikayil vazhi sollumA kalangaraiyE
UnathalaigaL enai adikka; karai sErvathum kanAvil nigazhnthida

It’s the unapologetic, straightforward, not-shy ask for pleasure is what excites me here. But looking deeper into Thamarai’s work, this perhaps does not arise from the lyricist’s approach to a woman’s desire.

Another one of Thamarai’s popular songs of desire must be kaNgaL irandAl from Subramaniapuram. This is a duet and therefore I shouldn’t classify it as entire about female desire. But I’ll look at the lines that the female character sings to bring out some points.

Somehow I am not convinced Thamarai is any (radically) different from male lyricists while writing duet songs. (Let me explain: Expression of s3xual desire for someone a woman may or may not love must be uninhibited, without holding back; perhaps, without seeing the need to hold back). Without accham, madam, naanam – something women have been forced to possess since times immemorial. Given that premise, let’s look at kaNgaL irandAl.

Male: iravum allAdha pagalum allAdha pozhudhugal unnOdu kazhiyumA
thodavum koodAtha padavum koodAtha; idaiveli appOdhu kuraiyumA
Female: madiyinil sAindhida thudikudhE; marupuram nAnamum thadukudhe

The difference in male and female thinking about desire (albeit poetic) is stark there. Also, for all you ladies, when you desire a man, how often do you stop yourself because of your nAnam? (genuine question)

Then Thamarai does the ideal woman drab in oru vetkam varudhE from Pasanga with vetkam and accham intact. Not alone does the song begin with vetkam and discuss accham, it’s interesting how you can read the lines (without listening to the song) and figure out what lines are for the man and what for the woman.

oru vekkam varuthey varuthey; siru acham tharuthey tharuthey
manam indru alai payuthey; ithu enna muthala mudiva
ini enthan uyirum unatha; puthu inbam thalatuthey
Poga cholli kalgal thalla; nirka cholli nenjam killa
ithu muthal anubhavamey; ini ithu thodarnthidumey
ithu tharum tharum thadumatra sugam

Mazhai indru varuma varuma; kulir konjam tharuma tharuma
Kanvennai kalavaduthey; Ithu enna muthala mudiva
ini enthan uyirum unatha; puthu inbam thalatuthey
Ketu vangi kolum thunbam; kooru potu kolum inbam
para para para ena vey; thudi thudithidum manamey
vara vara vara karai thandidumey

It may not be exceptionally important considering our heteronormative understanding of desire and how much of our poetry is written within the confines of the distinct and complimentary boxes of gender roles we assume. The rise of female writers is meant to do precisely this: break open the traditional understanding of gendered behaviour and Thamarai seemed like the sort of writer who will break those boundaries. Perhaps not always.

For instance, there is ‘aanin manathirkulum penmai irukirathey’ in oru vekkam varuthey and ‘aasaiyum naanamum sandaigal podudhe’ (sung by the male) in panithuli from kanda naal mudhal. But the bigger problem could arise from the limited metaphors that Thamarai seems to have. ‘madiyil saayvadhu/ thoonguvadhu’, ‘kaatril vaasam’, ‘kanavu’, ‘sudum panitthuli’ – I’ve listed a handful of songs here and you see all these metaphors repeated in these very songs.

I only wish the women I see on screen desire without inhibitions and apologies. Desire, seek, demand – without having to worry about anything. Why not?

P.S: In fact a good 20 years ago, Vairamuthu called accham & naanam ‘hyder kaala pazhasu‘. I’ll look into the idea of ‘modernising’ and the way women have modernised. But that’s for another post.


Who is a great comedian?

Hi! Today’s piece is by the knowledgeable Drunkenmunk. Munk is a good friend who is happy to beat timezones to discuss cinema. He’s kept me engaged over a lot of issues that I initially thought I had no interest in – including comedy, the topic this post is about.

He writes at http://thedrunkenmonk.wordpress.com/. He has this lovely 365Project about Ilaiyaraja’s music here.

Read on and leave comments.

— Tharkuri

The greatest or the most favorite comedian in Tamil cinema (any language for that matter, Tamil being my mother tongue and so the language I’m comfortable discussing) is more a matter of taste than anything else. You might have come across stories on how fans of Thangavelu never like Goundamani and vice versa. I have personally seen this lead to debates at home. Like SheNbaga PANdiyan says in ThiruviLayAdal, “pulamaikki sarchai thEvai dhAn, adhu saNdaiyAga mArivida koodAdhu.” While this isn’t literature, it is a reference to say how arguments roll, especially online, when it comes to discussing favorites.

I am going to speak for myself in how I rate a comedian and who my most favorite comedian is, who I naturally would think to be the greatest, and why. Trying reason for taste is my aim here. This is of course entirely subjective and quite open to debate. Be my guest.

A great comedian, if one is to have a criterion in judging him/her, would have to tick a few boxes for me. First and most obviously, he has to make us laugh. A comedian who cannot make us laugh ironically becomes the joke. Laughter should ideally not come in fits. He has to make us ROFL consistently and across films. By this mark, there are a number of comedians in Tamil, a language never short of humor in cinema or society, who fill this criterion. Starting from Nagesh and Cho down to Goundamani, Sendhil and Vadivelu, there are a few who have made me ROFL consistently. There a number of comedians who have given good laughs, though not consistently and as well as the legendary ones, like a Manivannan (in a Maman Magal with his mera dill which will make me laugh any day), Venniraadai Murthy (MMKR with his idhu own house aa? to Raju :ROFL:), Thengai Srinivasan (Thillu Mullu), VK Ramaswamy, etc. However, do they tick every box is a question to ponder.

I am not a big fan of Thangavelu who I find unfunny. Why I say this is because his jokes are weak to start with and get diluted with verbose dialogs. Let me give an example. This film has Thangavelu released from prison and when he tackles a bunch of ruffians at around 5 and a half minutes, he goes “chokkAya vudu yA, adhula dhAn mukkA uyir mAttikittu irukku. adha pOi izhukkiriyE.” The joke, already weak, is over in the first sentence. The next sentence (adha pOi izhukkiriyE) makes it verbose and dilutes it. This is one major grouse in appreciating Thangavelu so much so that I often end up with brickbats upon criticizing him for a lack of razor sharp timing (the sobriquet ‘Danaal’ for this so called timing which is absent sits uncomfortably for me). He gives me a laugh at best. Nothing more.

Secondly, a comedian should not become dated. If we watch Charlie Chaplin today, we laugh. A comedian can reflect a society and can parody or satirize it. While satire is a higher art often compared to a surgeon’s scalpel, it might run the risk of being limited by time. Cho’s comedies more or less reflect the political climate and some are extremely effective satires that may even make us ROFL. However, while I might know the context behind the Emergency and his ensuing satire in Mohammad Bin Thuglaq and laugh, a person watching it 50 years hence, and who does not have an idea of who Indira Gandhi is, might go blank and not understand. A parody simply pokes fun. Sarcasm bites and tears to shreds. Satire performs a surgery. A satirist performs because he sees scope for a society to reflect and change. Sarcasm just intends to hurt for laughter. This is precisely why a writer who excels in parody, like a Crazy Mohan, might suck at satire (like he himself confessed after an unfunny satire. The painful irony for a comedian here is he discovers it’s unfunny only when he gets to see the audience react, or in this case, not react). Under this list of being dated, I would also place NS Krishnan. His comedies were a product of his times and do not hold water today. While people might fault time, I still laugh at a Charlie Chaplin whose “The Great Dictator” was a product of its time, raises laughs today and yet makes us think. The sobriquet KalaivANar for NSK was just not for his comedies or social satires. He was a director (who incidentally directed Sivaji’s second film, Pasam, and introduced MSV and TK Ramamurthy as a composing duo in the same film and Sivaji and Padmini as a pair who would go on to star in nearly 60 films together), a producer, philanthropist (to the extent of inspiring MGR to philanthropy), a singer, thinker in addition to being a comedian. All these contribute to a well-deserved title (which might seem slightly uneasy on Vivek when he is called “Chinna KalaivANar” just because he reflects the society in his comedies). But I am not able to laugh at NSK’s comedies today. Similarly, Chandrababu was a multi-faceted artiste who could sing, dance, act, produce, direct, write and think. But I am not able to laugh at his comedies today.

Thirdly, a comedian must be able to rise above the script. What I mean by this is a Kovai Sarala or a Thengai can be funny in a Sadhi Leelavathi or a Thillu Mullu which are funny scripts to start with and can channelize any half decent actor into delivering the laughs. But if we are to look at them outside well written, script driven comedies, they end up rather bland, one dimensional and unfunny most of the times. One can quote a couple of funny scenes. However, a great comedian must be able to evoke a number of hilarious sequences in a flash. More importantly, he can service the script but even when taken out of the script and given a separate track, he must be able to make people laugh on his own just because of his performance.

By all these counts, the only people who clear all the tests and stand tall today in my view are Nagesh, Goundamani and Vadivelu. A Vadivelu might or might not be dated a few decades from now. Only time can answer (However, it is my opinion that he will be relevant. I shall come to that later). For now we can reserve judgments on Vadivelu. That leaves me with Nagesh and Goundamani. Vivek as a comedian has started becoming dated even today, as early as 10 years post his peak. Sure, a few of his comedies are funny and still evoke laughter. But he comes nowhere near the other two I have listed. Be it in voice modulation (where he is Gounder’s pale shadow. Just his faux affection to Mayilsami in Dhool here before thrashing him and GM’s faux admiration to Sendhil the lorry cleaner here before cutting him to size is enough), subtlety or timing, Gounder is miles ahead. Among Nagesh and Gounder, my vote is on Gounder because I can only speak for myself and having seen a big chunk of both their comedies, it is Gounder who has brought me down to my knees laughing more number of times. Also, Nagesh was channeling Jerry Lewis for a better part of his comic career whereas we see Gounder creating his own persona – A Gounder.

Just taking Gounder and dissecting his comedies in one post is an impossible task. Be it brute, sarcastic timing (here; with scant respect for an old man at 10 minutes is sheer mad ROFL), voice modulation (innumerous and I immediately recollect him sympathizing for an old woman as a lorry driver here, நா தழுதழுக்க. This sequence also has his remarkable timing), world play and pun (MAmanidhan’s “four father four mother” is enough) or an awareness in world knowledge and incorporating it in his comedies (Jimbalakidi Bampa was a Telugu film and my own Twitter handle from his phrase, Drunkenmunk, is a Chinese film called The Shaolin Drunkenmonk!). His comedies routinely derive sources and songs from other languages (the popular Ramayya Vasatawayiya coming more easily to the mind). His singing and English deserve a special thread of their own.

Just MAmanidhan reveals an entire array of his humor that one does not need to go anywhere else. It was @dagalti who opened my eyes to this film’s comic genius. Be it using the language to bring in மோனை நயம் (English at that!) to one’s advantage at “America la sonnEn, alright nunAnga, Canada’vula sonnEn congratulations paNNAnga, France’la sonnEn flat aagitaanga”, searing satire at “தமிழ்க்குடி”, puns like I already mentioned or just timing when confronting a group of villagers leaving at 11 minutes and much more, he is unbelievable.

Indeed, a comedian whose repertoire has pretty much the length and breadth of parody, satire and sarcasm coupled with razor sharp timing, body language (rocking his son back and forth and chasing him here), making us laugh for moments where there is no joke (the previous video where he chases his son; there is no joke. Try thinking why you laugh there) and voice modulation makes him a marvel who instantly evokes laughter, makes us think (restricted to a particular time frame but the beauty with Gounder is you can’t just restrict him with this), evokes different languages and cultures (while one must credit the writer Veerapan, Gounder pretty much improvised till the last take and added numerous elements of his own. How can one write the “kApi KELu” moment in Singaravelan?!) has to rank as a phenomenon that cannot be contained in however big a post.
While he remains a limited actor (Nagesh is a far superior actor), he sits up there as a comedian. The greater number of ROFLs he has evoked is never in question for me. That he could service a funny script and take it up several notches in a Karagattakaaran and could do just as equally well in a ThAlAttu KEkkudhammA with a separate comedy track and stand out with just his performance (he could do just as well without Sendhil as Singaravelan showed. However, he was bat-shit-insanely-deadly with a sidekick like Sendhil, who deserves a separate thread, in tow). He has not been dated till now and in my humble opinion, it is impossible to date him. His comedies are as humane as they come, reflecting daily situations we encounter with every possible humor arsenal (a reason we see the gazillion memes with GM dialogs today flooding the Internet).

Vadivelu, along with Gounder, for this very reason will not be dated is my view. Deep philosophies like “summA irukkaradhu evvaLO kashtam nu theriyumA da?”, “innikki keNatha kANOmba, nALaikki onnaiyE kANOmba” and “oNNu indha inga irukku, iNNoNu enga?” (Gounder’s this) will remain eternal. Though just on sheer variety and range, he falls a couple of notches below Gounder.

Like a Groucho Marx said “A black cat crossing your path signifies that the animal is going somewhere” and evoked spontaneous laughter because it was routine, humane and unpredictable at the same time, a great comedian just stands frozen as a symbol irrespective of his era and Gounder is up there as a symbol of the inherent Tamil sarcasm which was never explored on screen till he burst in. Things considered taboo like swearing and using abusive language (Jai Hind, ThAlAttu KEkkudhammA), mocking disabilities (kaNNu theriyAdha nee yellAm yEn cinema pAkka varra?), color (Magudam, Rajakumaran, Jallikattu KALai and many more), gender (appa naanga poNdAttigala ya eppa dhAn ya adikkaradhu?), etc. were broken by him. He was given a license to indulge by the Tamil audience and he made us laugh. As much as Thangavelu is credited for not using profanity, he ridicules the physique of a fellow prisoner and calls a ruffian “sAkkada peRuchALi” to no laughter in the scene I initially linked. By contrast, when Gounder calls Sendhil a “sAkkada naNdu” in VaLLal, we ROFL and he gets censured for abuse.

Hence deprecating his humor for this is ridiculous in my opinion. He, I’d say, was a pioneer who broke rules. We routinely come across all of this tabooed stuff in the society. What would hurt when he depicts it on screen? He does not justify it. He simply depicts it. He need not provide messages (kaRuthu pEsAdha raa) to be appreciated. However, his comedy will have elements of satire if explored. He has just explored the sum total of all possible sub-genres under comedy, not restricting himself due to taboos and so neglecting him for reasons as frivolous as abuse and hitting others is plain lazy appreciation. He need not be a model human on screen. He simply needs to make us laugh.
Gounder is a genius who makes us laugh. With great felicity.


Mind voice in red! 

Oya oyala
Entha naalum oyala
Enna padachavan kodukkum kai oyalaOh. Prayer song pola!
Oya oyala
Enga vala kaayala
Nee sokkum padi siricha(di/nee?) sonapareeyaSonapareeya thaan God(ess) aa?

Sonapareeya sonapareeya
Sonapareeya nee thaana variyaaIdhu pick up line maadhiri irukke!

Pathu kaalu nandu paathathu sonapareeya
Athu surundu sunamba poi otha kaalil nikkuthadiVaali Madras weather punch a inge vechirukaaru!
Muthu kulikkum peter aaaaah sonapareeyaAdhukkulla location change-a?
Avan kaanji karuvaada poi quater la mungi taaneOh, moral science lesson-ukku vandhuttom!
Anthariyee sundariyee sonapareeyaAdhaane paathen! 
Manthiriyee munthiriyee sonapareeyaCashew minister?
Anthamellam sinthuriyee sonapareeyaLike @25Rupees would ask “enaatha?”

Sonapareeya sonapareeya
Sonapareeya nee thaana variyaa

Kannula kappala – Ship in his eyes? kcool.
Nenjula vikkalla – Eh?
Kaiyula nickela (@_curses reckons. Though I think it is nikkala) – Endhiran hang over aa?
Nadaiyila nakkala – Nickel maganingu nakkal nadaipottu arugil arugil van…Ok never mind.

In short, ship in the eyes, hic up in the heart, nickel in the hand, sarcasm in the walk! 

Sippikulla muthuOk
Kappila michamEnna mutha?
Machan vecha muthamMachaan aa? Macham aa? Correcta sollunga
Mutham mutham enakkuOk. Keep it

Chikki chikki ah ahidhu puriyudhu
Mathi sikkikichaHmm?
Nenju vikki kichaNenjula enna man vikkal?!
Machan vacha michamSoru? 

Otha marama ethana kaalam sonapareeya 
Kadalula pona kattu maramellam karaithaan yeririche aamanalla velai!
Atha mavano maama mavano sonapareeyaDefault morapaiyyan
Ivana pola kadalin aalam evanum kandathilla thaaneEnna ketta?
Nenjukulla nikkuriye sonapareeyaItthana neram nejula vikkal thaane saar ninnuchu? Sonapareeya-ngardhu vikkala?
Meenu mulla sikkuriye sonapareeyaOh illiya? Mulla?
Kenjum padi vekiriye sonapareeyaAdhuvum illiya?

Sonapareeya sonapareeya
Sonapareeya nee thaana variyaaYov poya!

This is the lyrics (that I gather from listening to the song) of Sonapareeya from Maryan by Vaali (and Sofia Ashraf for the rap part – here in blue). I hereby invite you to join the meaningful discourse in deconstructing the semiotics of this cultural kalvettu. Please use the comments section to do so. Your mind voice need not necessarily be in red!

Addendum (on 15 May 2013, 9:00 AM):

Udaiyaaga Aniveera?

While beginning study for something slightly longer and academic about the role of (women’s) clothing in establishing identities, something struck me (again): the use of a man’s body as clothing by a woman (or in a few cases, vice versa). Yes, you read that right. Read on, I am elaborating.

un idaiyodu nadamadum udaiyaaga naan maari ennaalum suderevaa
en jenmum edearevaa… (Aazhiyile from Dhaam Dhoom)

That roughly translates to: Shall I grow warm by turning into the piece of clothing that is hanging by your waist? Shall I find my life’s meaning?

thadai thaandum padaiveeraa.. udaiyaaga aniveeraa thamburaa.. meettum kingaraa (Maaya Machindra from Indian)

This translates to: Oh trail blazing soldier, oh tamboora musician, will you wear me as your clothing? (This is very rough translation, please excuse).

Then is this song that is supposed to be among the female liberation songs of our time.

Iravile avanaiye udaiyaay anindhiruppen (Megame megame from Vaanam Vasappadum)

So, I see that there is some sort of a f3tish to wear a man (or a woman as the case may be) as clothing. This could have many meanings (if you can get past trying to imagine a man wrapped around a woman’s waist like a sari). Among the ones that are evident to me are

1) The nud!ty of course – being together in the nude and therefore may mean s3xual companionship.
2) As in the case of aazhiyile, warmth!
3) Closeness? Is this a motif to imply that a man would be as close to a woman as is her clothing? It will be very interesting to see “uduthuna selai maadhiri kazhatti pottuttu poitta” (She discarded one as if one were a piece of clothing) being used.
4) Is there also a layer of protection/ cover/ modesty that is implied in a man playing the role of clothing?

Can you think of another way I must be looking at it? Do let me know.

Sylvianism: An Interview

As a very pleasant surprise, I received from @sylvianism answers to a set of questions I’d sent him several months ago. No time could have been better than today to publish this here.

Please meet @Sylvianism. He blogs here and tweets here.

Why do you blog about films? I mean why ‘films’? And why ‘Tamil’ films?

Two important passions in my life – Reading and movies came from my parents. My mom gave me reading, when I was terribly bored she handed me Ponniyin Selvan and my dad gave me movies.

He was an avid movie watcher. You would not believe he would walk about 10 Kms from his college and travel to Chennai just to watch movies. He used to take me and my brother for weekend movies and introduced us to good English movies. My mom was a great fan of KB. Unlike other households we were not banned from watching movies at any time.

Thus started my movie journey. There were no restrictions on what I used to watch. I think that helped me to appreciate any kind of movie. College has definitive impact on every man’s life. From my second year of college, I could not remember a single Friday afternoon without movies.

College was the initiation for my cinema appreciation. There were few friends who actively argued on which movie is good or bad. When I moved to Chennai for my MBA, my friendship circle widened, the number of movies I watched increased. I also started watching world movies that introduced me to another layer of cinema appreciation.

I started writing only about quizzes. I think my first film based article was about Alaipayuthey and Mouna Raagam. That was the start. I write about movies because I love them. Something I am passionate about.

I write about Tamil movies because that’s what I grew up with and I like to popularize Tamil movies ( The reason why started 50 Tamil movies to watch before you die) to movie buffs from other states/countries. I think there are lot of misconceptions about Tamil movies. I am trying in my own way to change them :)

Do you write with your readers in mind?

Nope I don’t. I write what I feel about the movie. Few of my friends used to argue with me about my reviews. I still remember one of my friends cursing me for giving thumbs up for Vinnaithandi Varuvaya. Memorable readers – I can’t say there is a clan but few of my readers mail or message me to ask what’s my take on a movie even if I haven’t reviewed it.

But I must admit, when I trash a famous actor’s movie, I expect his fans to come and troll me. I expect it and enjoy it thoroughly :)

Can you name one (or a few) films you love and why you love them?

I will stick to Tamil movies. Because if I take world movies, then it would be a long list.

Udhiripookal – According to me this is a master piece that came in the wrong time. Now revered as one of the master pieces and inspired many to take film making.

Server Sundaram – You would not see a heart warming story than this. Written by KB and directed by Krishnan-Panju, this would definitely be one of the best Tamil movies. I also must say that Nagesh is most favourite actor and I have not seen anybody who can match him till now.

Engal Veetu Pillai – The perfect masala and you know how many clones it created.

Mouna Ragam – The movie that defined romance for me.

Oomai Vizhigal – For redefining making.

16 Vayadhinile – For taking Tamil Cinema out of studios.

Puriyadha Puthir – One of the perfect thrillers.

Moondram Pirai – Kamal -Sridevi- Balu Mahendra – Raaja

Vaali – One of those perfect scripts that broke many stereotypes in Tamil Movies.

Aaranya Kaandam – For showing us Neo-Noir is possible in Tamil Cinema with all its glory.

I watch a lot of foriegn language films and Korean movies are my most favourite.

What about a film excites you the most? And what bothers you the most?

I always look for the screenplay in the movie. Screenplays that challenge my intelligence are my favourites. I am more concerned about the plagiarism that runs in all the segments of movie making.

What value does your movie blog add to your life (online or otherwise)?

I don’t know. I write blogs for my own satisfaction. I haven’t monetized my blog as I think it would affect the experience of my readers. Blogging keeps me ticking and somehow I find topics to write about.

Oppression and sexual violence

Among the many things that Paradesi made me ponder over, the one that keeps coming back to me is how oppression of the man is through physical violence while that of a woman is almost always sexual (oh, how typical of me!).

Men who are being oppressed – for whatever the reason – are beaten, amputated, starved. Women, on the other hand are generally raped, groped, stared at (on top of being beaten and starved, if I may add). In most cases, when a man is beaten, his people treat him with compassion. While a woman is raped, she almost always dies.

Paradesi is of course an extreme example, I could bring up even the most accepted films: Mannan for instance, Shanti Devi is made sexually subservient to Krishnan as a way of taming/ oppressing (if I may dare) her. We’ve dealt with rape before, but Paradesi lays bare rape as a way of exercising authority/ power, intercourse with slaves as a duty, extra-marital intercourse (even if it’s rape) as abominable. Interestingly though, in Paradesi the helpless husband does not abandon her, it is Raasa who sits on his moral high horse and refuses to even acknowledge her presence.


Over the last few days, the one thing that has been playing in my head repeatedly is the concept of fear. I’m ophidiophobic. Before we get into how this is relevant to this blog, let me tell you a short story.

A friend, let’s call him V, once told me that his wife finds Bangalore crowded and intimidating. She had refused to try to ‘survive’ in this new place and wanted to go back to where she is from – where she was brought up like a princess. Ah! I judged her a scary little princess in no time! When I was rattling off this judgement to another friend, S, she was visible pissed.

She said, “We are born and brought up in this polluted city full of vehicles and tall buildings. So, we don’t find this a big deal. We know how to navigate through this. Wherever you go – London, Paris, New York – you’ll know to navigate your way through vehicles and tall buildings. But what if you are left alone in a forest full of snakes? Can Bangalore be that forest full of snakes for V’s wife?”

While you are chewing on a life skill lesson I got from S, you see I have an abnormal fear of snakes. But this fear is something I hardly have to deal with everyday. The once in a way article about man biting cobra or the funny scene from a Rajnikanth film or an insensitive friend sending pictures of a yellow cake that looked like a snake is at worst what can happen to me.

That’s not the end of fear as I know it. Recently, I experienced fear of a different kind: a fear of being lonely, cornered and helpless. That perhaps brought back my need to write in this blog (that I started with great enthusiasm and left it midway and promised to do better and left it anyway).

Dhairiyam na enna theriyuma? Bayam illadha madhiri nadikiradhu!

The concept of fear in Tamil cinema is a tricky one to discuss. It’s not obviously not something tangible that I can pull up some references and write up a post. As I attempt a few fears that I have noticed, you are welcome to add your own in the comments box.

The taxist!

Do you remember the villain in the films of the 80s and the 90s? The One who sends goons to collect what he calls taxes from poor vendors at a vegetable market? The one who chews pan, threatens the seemingly helpless vendors and the even more helpless women in his family? Until the hero arrives and puts him in his place, the villain who brings about fear in every person in that village? That person!


Image courtesy: behindwoods.com

Fear of God!

Up until the Ramya Krishnan generation, there were a series of films that had angry Gods in them. I somehow recollect more Ammans than any other angry God, but the understanding that people are devoted to these Gods out of fear of being punished is curious. The protective, angry, revengeful keeper of justice: The angry Amman.

I am also safely adding the fear of astrologers, family saamis and paavadai saamiyars into this category. Quick reference: That astrologer in Sivaji.


@Fibnazi and I had this happy discussion about director Naga last week (after watching Paradesi, ironically). Revathy, the female protagonist ofAnandhapurathu Veedu is claustrophobic. I don’t really have more to say that about the pleasant surprise in having a mainstream (?) protagonist being claustrophobic and the film doesn’t treat her like she is diseased!

There are many other different kinds of fear: fear of being violated, of losing money, of losing respect, of loss in essence, of not being understood, of failing, of helplessness. It’s scary dude!