In Tamil Nadu, they go by one of the two simple ways to make a movie these days.
1) Cast a big hero, ensure that he is not Vijay, get the actor to do random things on screen and, this is important especially if it is an Ajith film: Pray to God with utmost sincerity.
2) Set the movie in and around the Madurai city.
The latter has emerged to be the most preferred method simply because when you base a film in Madurai, everything else with regard to plot, characterization, language and black-market sale of tickets take care of themselves. The rest of the trick merely lies in not venturing anywhere near Ajith’s house. For, if you bring Ajith and Madurai together, a movie like Red emerges. (Not many outside Tamil Nadu would have heard of Red, but here in these parts it’s a cult classic of sorts, primarily because Ajith played in Red the role of a dreaded, menace-oozing rowdy/don roughly interpreted to the levels below the Tom and Jerry cartoons).
Anyway, those not tuned into the ways of the Tamil film industry must be wondering what is this Madurai movie. Well, it’s a package, an inviolable DIY kit, a kind of MTR rava idly mix, where everything is pre-done at the shop floor save the excretion part.
Let me breakdown the parts of the Madurai movie for the benefit of those unfortunates born above the Vindhyas, whose idea of village or rustic movies is mostly shaped by the sensibilities that either Salman Khan or Akshay Kumar bring along, which is to say there is no sensibility at all.
The Madurai Hero
The titular character in any movie, by definition, has the ability for something extraordinary. For instance, Kamal Haasan, even if he were cast as a raving mad character given to conversing with cows and sparrows, will quote verbatim Abirami Andhadhi, the recondite Tamil verse that scholars find difficult to read from a book. You don’t question the logic because, in general, understanding the abstruse Andhadhi is lot easier than figuring out what Kamal says about every-day things in every-day language.
Anyway, the redeeming quality of the Madurai Hero is, I believe, to remain unemployed, and along with a similar gaggle of friends, move around the town with the swagger and insouciance that is possible to whip up in real life only if you were Steve Jobs.
The Madurai Hero is also a unique style icon in that he is prone to wear his veshti or lungi hitched high up around the waist or even above as if it were just a belt or cummerbund. This is done with the explicit purpose of giving a full view of his undies, which is usually a striped-shorts that end somewhere around the ankles. I think the soul of Madurai carefully rests in these undies. Investment in these undies take much of the Madurai movie budget.
The Madurai Hero also resents anything English and urban. Such foaming hatred is possibly a revenge on the English heroes for never having the good grace to speak well of Tamil in any of their movies.
The Madurai Heroine
She is a loud-mouthed vixen but deemed demure because she wears, what is locally called, a half-sari. This magical outfit is one of the two that represents the essential ethos of Madurai. The other being the way the Madurai heroine has to wear the sari, which basically is a pillow cover that comes handy with a tail.
The Madurai Heroine painstakingly pines for the hero, apparently overcome by his warmth and sensitivity to use cuss words even when dandling a new-born baby in his arms.
The beauty of Madurai Heroine also lies in her affectionate ability to see the kind heart of the Madurai Hero even when he is butchering people in random profusion.
The Madurai Slang
The Madurai lingo is thought to be unique and flavoursome. But it can be realistically captured by the smart expedience of letting the character speak with the Meenakshi Amman temple shown in the background. This establishes, with an irrefutable logic, that as the scene happens in Madurai, the lingo cannot be anything else.
For the record, if the character is shown to be talking inside a cotton mill, then you can deduce the language to be Coimbatore patois. If the character uses the words electron and neutron, it has to be a top scientist who has made a path-breaking invention.
The Madurai Setting
The inviolable rules of filmmaking are: If it is Bipasha Basu, the cleavage has to be apparent even when she is cast as Presbyterian nun. And so it is with Madurai: a temple tower has to be visible — even from a toilet seat, that is.
The important aspect to Madurai is that you can go back and forth in time. Suppose a filmmaker wants to set his story in Madurai of the 70s or the 60s, all he has to do is to dress up the hero and heroine in clothes that even clowns won’t touch these days, and remove the details of today from the scene —-that is, not show the calendar.
Actually, a filmmaker can even make bold to set the movie in Madurai of 2050, provided he can fore-think up the attires and accessories. He needn’t worry about Madurai much, at least at the sociological level that our movies operate, and the temple tower would still suffice.
The Madurai Story
The Madurai Hero and the Madurai Heroine fall in love because one is unemployed and the other unemployable. They, and their clatter of friends, take on the obstinate parents who so dearly love their progeny that they don’t mind killing them.
The Madurai Hero, rising above all the tribulations, unites the two warring families by butchering most of their members. Alternatively, the violent villain mends his ways by getting eliminated, either by hero-imparted death for which the entire village is ready to take the blame and hence the police cannot pursue the case, or by suicide accomplished usually by showing the film’s rushes.
All is well that ends, well, with Anacin.